AlterNet
By John Knefel
April 22, 2013

Authoritarianism Has Quietly Enveloped Every Part of American Life — We Must Fight Back
Privacy, not surveillance, is what must be justified now. We must make sure not to draw the wrong lessons from Boston.

Observing the media frenzy that surrounded last week’s Boston marathon bombing and the eventual capture of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, one thing became immediately clear: the attack gave media elites an opportunity to fully embrace their generally latent authoritarianism. Finally, they could openly and unapologetically align themselves with law enforcement officials, sham “counter-terrorism experts,” and whoever else bravely suggested that total surveillance is good and inevitable. (See Tom Brokaw telling viewers that they must now submit to increasingly invasive searches, or Andrea Mitchell uncritically amplifying Tom Ridge’s policies when he was head of the Department of Homeland Security as but two of the countless examples.) They could once again act as spokespeople for the government, uniting the country under the banner of American Exceptionalism.

The country’s foremost jingoist, Thomas Friedman – the NYT columnist who once indelicately suggested that the Muslim world suck the United States’ collective phallus – wrote in his column on April 17th that “cave dwelling is for terrorists.” Americans, he countered, live in freedom. The “cave” line’s Islamophobia is as obvious as it is repugnant, and should be a reminder that not-so-subtle bigotry towards Muslims is acceptable and rewarded in polite society in this country. His larger point, that the United States will respond to this apparent terrorist attack by remaining a fully open society is either willfully delusional or a product of his privilege; he won’t be profiled because of his name or religion.

Privacy, not surveillance, is what must be justified now, though that was true before Boston. The elites either don’t see it or simply pretend not to, but the authoritarianism unleashed by 9/11 has become institutionalized, normalized, and ubiquitous. The surveillance state didn’t need Boston to implement its policies, though the bombing will certainly be used to accelerate them and further marginalize dissent.

That domestic surveillance will continue to increase – especially with the arrival of drones – was true before Boston. Miranda rights had already been significantly weakened by the Obama DOJ in 2010. US officials already had the ability to wiretap certain Americans without a warrant. Prior to the Boston bombing, US attorneys were fully capable of over-charging activists in computer-based cases as full-on enemies of the state. The FBI and DHS didn’t need the Boston bombing to treat Occupy like a terrorist organization.

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