Home opinion-and-analysis Open Sauce The land of the free and the brave. And 24-hour snooping

The land of the free and the brave. And 24-hour snooping

Young Americans who drive souped-up cars had better watch their tongues when discussing their four-wheeled wonders with friends. Just one sentence, "My car is a bomb" will ensure that a NSA man lands up to try and defuse a terror plot.

Randy Americans who are prone to indulge in banter about their girlfriends or their most recent one-night stand had better be on the alert too. All you need is one line on the phone - "my chick is a bomb" - and Uncle Obama will be on the road to your house to check you out. And he will bring his cattle prod with him so he can check all your cavities to see if that bomb is secreted anywhere.

The paranoia evident in the US is the result of one attack - on September 11, 2001. Despite the killing of Osama bin Laden, the financier of the attack, Americans have never found closure.

When one network, ABC, tried to screen a docudrama in 2006 that would explain the attack to all and sundry, politics got in the way. The Path to 9/11, which in the end had a low-key screening worldwide, was attacked by the Clintons and the left-leaning media because it showed that Slick Willie had had the chance to put bin Laden away but failed to do so. Finally, ABC and its parent Disney was so spooked that it even gave up on a massive money-making opportunity and quietly did not bring out the DVD of the series.

The degree of ignorance about this attack runs fairly deep as a result. After ABC, nobody has tried to produce anything rational on the most serious attack on the mainland in the country's history.

Ignorance helps to breed fear. Practically every so-called security measure taken since then has only ratcheted up the fear index and just provided what well-known security guru Bruce Schneier calls "security theatre".

You only have to travel through the US to see how silly the measures are. You have half-educated people at airport barriers who know little but to feel up people to see if they are carrying this or that.

Yet despite the expenditure of trillions, Boston still happened. All the phone tapping, email reading, and examination of tweets failed.

But fear is what politicians thrive on. You only have to watch British filmmaker Adam Curtis' documentary The Power of Nightmares to realise how much nations have been manipulated by the fear of terrorism.

As rocker Marilyn Manson explained in Bowling for Columbine, fear drives everything. Young girls are driven to buy the latest cosmetics and fashion because they are made to fear that else they will not land a boy. And boys are driven to buy this, that and the other - else they are made to fear that they will not be regarded well by girls. The media does fear very well in the US.

When the people are in a state of fear, they will swallow any bulldust the politicians throw at them. That's how clowns like Mitch McConnell, John McCain and Michelle Bachmann have survived in US politics for decades. There is no rational reason for putting them in power, yet they continue to win elections.

The extent of fear prevalent in America is evidenced by the fact that polls taken after the NSA snooping scandal was uncovered show that more than half of the youth population supports the PRISM program. Yes, youth, who are supposed to be progressive and educated, support 24-hour snooping and violation of privacy.

It's a sad commentary on a country that has always touted itself as a beacon of freedom. Saudi Arabia is beginning to look more welcoming by the day.


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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.