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Data Mining for a New American World
Posted on Apr 4, 2012
By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch
It’s an understandable description for someone who has emerged from the labyrinth, but I doubt it’s on target. Ours is unlikely to ever be a Soviet-style system, even if it exhibits a striking urge toward totality; towards, that is, engulfing everything, including every trace you’ve left anywhere in the world. It’s probably not a Soviet-style state in the making, even if traditional legal boundaries and prohibitions against spying upon and surveilling Americans are of remarkably little interest to it.
Its urge is to data mine and decode the planet in an eternal search for enemies who are imagined to lurk everywhere, ready to strike at any moment. Anyone might be a terrorist or, wittingly or not, in touch with one, even perfectly innocent-seeming Americans whose data must be held until the moment when the true pattern of eneminess comes into view and everything is revealed.
In the new world of the National Security Complex, no one can be trusted—except the officials working within it, who in their eternal bureaucratic vigilance clearly consider themselves above any law. The system that they are constructing (or that, perhaps, is constructing them) has no more to do with democracy or an American republic or the Constitution than it does with a Soviet-style state. Think of it as a phenomenon for which we have no name. Like the yottabyte, it’s something new under the sun, still awaiting its own strange and ugly moniker.
For now, it remains as anonymous as Joseph K. and so, conveniently enough, continues to expand right before our eyes, strangely unseen.
If you don’t believe me, leave the country for nine days and just see if, in that brief span of time, something else isn’t drawn within its orbit. After all, it’s inexorable, this rough beast slouching through Washington to be born.
Welcome, in the meantime, to our nameless new world. One thing is guaranteed: it has a byte.
Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s as well as The End of Victory Culture, runs the Nation Institute’s TomDispatch.com. His latest book, The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books), has just been published. To listen to Timothy MacBain’s latest Tomcast audio interview in which Engelhardt reflects on the unnatural growth of the U.S. national security state, click here, or download it to your iPod here.
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© 2012 Tom Engelhardt
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