Friday, February 14, 2014

Day 44: My Digital Self and the Illusion of Privacy

 "Today, alongside each one of us, there exists a second, electronic self, created in part by us, in part by others. This other self has become de facto public property, owned chiefly by immense data-crunching corporations, which use it for commercial purposes. Now government is reaching its hand into those corporations for its own purposes, creating a brand-new domain of the state-corporate complex." [1]

It is a Brave New World, at least, it is a brave, new digital world where we as a race have given birth to what Jean Baudrilliard would have termed the hyperreality (that emergent dysfunctional and handicap where one's consciousness cannot distinguish between this physical reality and the simulation of reality). Of course, nobody reads Baudrilliard, so let's just say I'm speaking about that alternate version of ourselves that exists in that strange dimension called, the surveillance net... errr, I mean, the Internet!

The world's most famous whistle blower, Edward Snowden, has revealed that the United States is far more advanced in its electronic capability of societal destruction through government control, surveillance, misinformation and media manipulation than any Commie - flavored sinister police state fiction that George Orwell could have ever dreamt up. Snowden pulled open the drapes wide and revealed, probably for all time, that the conceits of our collective "benefits" and "rights" of the institutions Americans believe we enjoy that has been proudly enshrined in such quaint and curious documents like the Bill of Rights and the United States Constitution - no longer apply and in all likelihood, will never be reinstated. [2]

I find myself caught in the horns of a dilemna. The more I participate in the various social networks like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and the like, the more it seems to me that through engaging within this brave new world and its digital, electronic dimension of relationships, information, sights and sounds - this electronic, digital, hyperreal version of myself in attempting to create a space of sanity for myself and others, I am convinced that the powers that be are quietly working behind the digital scenes instituting even more draconian and super - secret methods in establishing its controls even more completely. 

What is contributing my online paranoia are the memories I have of my life before the Digital Age -  that soon - to - be - forgotten era of rotary phones, phone booths, audio cassettes, VCRs and a world where there existed only 3 or 4 channels on television. Once my baby - boom generation becomes swallowed into that cultural/historical amnesia vortex, destined to be forgotten forever, nobody will recall what it was really like to live in an age where there was some semblance of privacy. That sense of privacy may have always been an illusion, and it is infinitely more so these days with our participation on the  social networks, where our digital selves are tracked, traced, bought and sold to nameless corporate interests. Privacy no longer exists except for the mysterious brains who pull the levers of survielliance and spying. Nobody knows what the hell they're up to. Must be nice to live in the shadows like that. Then again, maybe privacy is overrated. It really only exists so people can do their shameful deeds hidden from the views of others. That's why nobody talks to their neighbors anymore. It's none of their business if I beat my kids or cheat on my wife, is it?

Kinda ironic (thanks Mr. Snowden) the biggest secret in the world was the titanic extent of the reach our governments have into our every corner of our lives. We already knew that our smart phones could track our movements much more efficiently than any microchip, but we had no inkling at how much information about our daily lives is available to certain parties that are only interested in making a buck and keeping the seats of power safe from the unruly, uneducated and easily - programmable mob.

I'm sure you've heard (I'm taking it for granted that my faithful readers are hip to most of the curious legislative bullshit that passes for settled law in this country) about the concept of corporate personhood. Let me refresh: sometime during the 1800s in America, corporate interests even then bought enough lawyers and judges to agree on the legal principle that corporations (a fictional organization typically defined as a group of people acting together as a single entity in order to conduct business) are entitled to enjoy the same legal status and protection of living, breathing human beings. Fast forward 200 years and you can see how that brainstorm worked out for the American People. People make such a big deal about separation between Church and State and they think nothing about how better off this democracy would be with separation between Corporation and State. The corporate interests have long controlled the seats of power in this country and granting the corporations personhood status went a long way in establishing the corporation's ascendancy to power. Indeed, the Corporation's interests and that of the State are indistinguishable. 

I brought up corporate personhood to bring up this point: what rights does my electronic self enjoy (Jeez, talk about your First World Problems!)? Is it time to draw up a Bill of Rights for our electronic selves that exist on the surveillance net... I mean, the Internet? How can my digital self can be traded, traced, tracked and in all ways treated like a commodity without my permission, and more important, without me getting my cut??? Hell, my digital self must be worth a few 100, 000 bucks at least! 

People, we need to get together and assert our electronic liberty and our digital personhood rights, before it is too late! 

Oh, and please Like and Share this blog. Thanks! 

[1]Jonathan Schell, "America's Surveillance Net," The Nation, (June 19, 2013)

[2] President Obama, that nice, handsome man who promised change and hope, openly confesses to murdering and imprisoning fellow American citizens without due process. Ah, yes, political repression and the destruction of our democratic process, there's your "change," folks.