President Barack Obama has delivered a carefully deliberated, characteristically technocratic announcement demonstrating how attentive he is to the concerns of the public. He has also delivered a carefully deliberated, characteristically technocratic litany of bullshit. Those familiar with the president expect the two to coincide with one another closely. Last month, the president’s handpicked panel came up with 46 recommendations for reforming the Orwellian nightmare that is the National Security Agency, and of those reforms, the president will be going with the bare minimum to satisfy his milquetoast critics. Preliminary reports suggest somewhere in the neighborhood of three, maybe four. So it goes. The most zealous of the surveillance state’s guardians and children continue to shake their fists, warning that even the most superficial adjustments will hamper the effectiveness of the system. None of this will mean anything whatsoever to the machinery of voyeurism, which is on a constant run cycle. That’s the beauty of the modern surveillance state. It has become so complex that it has no time to sit breathlessly through a presidential press conference.
The reluctant theater work of Obama does nothing to disguise the fact that the framework of what we have traditionally referred to as democracy has become disfigured, if not erased, by the sheer width and depth of the surveillance state. Along with the greater national security apparatus, it has embedded itself in the sad, brittle husk of free society. It feeds on fear and private contracts caked in secrecy five layers thick. It justifies its own existence by throwing up shadows on the wall, twisting them into wild shapes that outdo the most creative slumber parties.
Our financial and corporate plutocrats have a kindred spirit in those shadow puppeteers. They both thrive on accumulation, the accumulation of wealth and the accumulation of information and terror. Capital and the police state unite in their quest for control: control of the economy, of government, of private and public life. They both enjoy long walks on the beach, embroidery, and the total dominance of society. They complement each other in their exploitative inventiveness. They are, in short, the perfect power couple, and they do their finest work on the sly.
Edward Teller, father of the hydrogen bomb, once said that “secrecy, once accepted, becomes an addiction.” Well ladies and gentlemen, we are monitored and governed by high-class junkies, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Welcome to the opium den.