Glenn Greenwald: From Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the State Targets Dissenters Not Just ‘Bad Guys’

Disinfonauts, do you consider yourselves dissenters? Well if you dissent loudly enough you’ll become a state target, per Glenn Greenwald at The Guardian.

Glenn Greenwald. Photo: Photo: David dos Santos (CC)

Glenn Greenwald. Photo: Photo: David dos Santos (CC)

A prime justification for surveillance – that it’s for the benefit of the population – relies on projecting a view of the world that divides citizens into categories of good people and bad people. In that view, the authorities use their surveillance powers only against bad people, those who are “doing something wrong”, and only they have anything to fear from the invasion of their privacy. This is an old tactic. In a 1969 Time magazine article about Americans’ growing concerns over the US government’s surveillance powers, Nixon’s attorney general, John Mitchell, assured readers that “any citizen of the United States who is not involved in some illegal activity has nothing to fear whatsoever”.

The point was made again by a White House spokesman, responding to the 2005 controversy over Bush’s illegal eavesdropping programme: “This is not about monitoring phone calls designed to arrange Little League practice or what to bring to a potluck dinner. These are designed to monitor calls from very bad people to very bad people.” And when Barack Obama appeared on The Tonight Show in August 2013 and was asked by Jay Leno about NSA revelations, he said: “We don’t have a domestic spying programme. What we do have is some mechanisms that can track a phone number or an email address that is connected to a terrorist attack.”

For many, the argument works. The perception that invasive surveillance is confined only to a marginalised and deserving group of those “doing wrong” – the bad people – ensures that the majority acquiesces to the abuse of power or even cheers it on. But that view radically misunderstands what goals drive all institutions of authority. “Doing something wrong” in the eyes of such institutions encompasses far more than illegal acts, violent behaviour and terrorist plots. It typically extends to meaningful dissent and any genuine challenge. It is the nature of authority to equate dissent with wrongdoing, or at least with a threat…

[continues at The Guardian]


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21 Comments on "Glenn Greenwald: From Martin Luther King to Anonymous, the State Targets Dissenters Not Just ‘Bad Guys’"

  1. Liam_McGonagle | May 13, 2014 at 12:22 pm |

    The world is a tinder box just waiting to go up in flames, so the government can’t just sit idly by while drug-addled, would-be Bakunins saw the very supports out from under the citizens’ feet. [Nice mixed metaphor, no?]

    Even the idea of minimal “let’s save prevailing paradigm” type of reform is impossible, because the underlying ethos is inherently inimical to moderation. The type of informed public consensus that would be required to enact the reforms is not even theoretically achievable. Seriously, we’re still arguing about whether the earth is 5,000 years old.

    What else CAN government do but jail dissenters and hope they themselves are dead before sh*t finally hits the fan? They say they’re doing you a favor, and in a pathetic way they really mean it.

  2. BuzzCoastin | May 13, 2014 at 12:42 pm |

    all governments spy on their subjects
    all the time & as much as possible and
    anyone who objects is even more suspect

    I think the confussion in Duh Homeland about this
    (if there is any)
    is that some aMerkins actually believe
    they live in “free” kuntery & that there’s a Bill of Rights

  3. Gjallarbru | May 13, 2014 at 1:37 pm |

    Come to disinfo, we’ll help you to get government attention…

    But seriously, since when anyone representing a problem to those in power aren’t getting the wrong kind of attention? What would be news to me is if the state doesn’t get interested in those that would disrupt (if not threaten) the status quo.

    I don’t know where this is going, the world is getting stranger by the minute. But, if I’m being entirely open, I find this sort of thing entirely irritating, a bit scary, and fascinating. I can’t wait to see how all this crap is going to blow. I’m betting it’s going to blow on its own, because I think this world we built is just too stupid to go on. Now that will make for a hell of show.

  4. IN OTHER BREAKING NEWS: Water is wet….

    The government has been spying on us for a long long time now.

    In a world where the truth is the biggest enemy of the state then doing something like spreading the truth will get you the attention of big brother reaaaaalllly quickly. Then if you end up still doing it and get too vocal or too many people actually listening to you then you might end up discredited or evidence planted on you to imprison you or you might end up in a car “accident” or end up “commiting suicide”…and now a days they can just easily label you as a “terrorist” and then you are completely discredited and thrown in jail.

    • misinformation | May 13, 2014 at 11:43 pm |


      Greenwald is really bringing it with these ‘revelations’.

      To paraphrase Bill Hicks…if anyone is startled by this, my finger is not on the pulse of America.

  5. Ted Heistman | May 13, 2014 at 2:17 pm |

    I can no longer relate to my fellow Americans enmasse I am afraid. I can’t watch reality shows, or listen to Katy Perry or shop at Walmart. Whatever the mainstream is, it just seems like a monocrop of dolts to me. I’ve ceased caring. That makes me a misanthrope in some sense, but I can’t help it. pop=stupid to me.

    So whenever I find that the mainstream has some troubling attitude or false assumption about something, it never registers. I can’t imagine that changing the public’s attitude is rewarding in any way. Its not a prize I would ever covet. There seems to be some critical mass, beyond which only stupid ideas can be held in common.

    My only hope for humanity is that some small city states or communities will be able to form which put a premium on freedom creativity and reverence for life.

    I have lost faith that hundreds of millions of people can be held together by anything good or true.

    • I can totally relate to this sentiment.
      In order to keep from getting too bitter and angry, I remind myself that most people, the bulk of humanity, are pretty much deluded, terrified children. Once I realized that, it became much easier to keep cool and be patient.

    • Gjallarbru | May 13, 2014 at 2:46 pm |

      I often wonder if we haven’t exceeded our social organisation capabilities, hence the current state of things. City states, or smaller communities, might exactly be what we need.

      • I agree. I think it was Joe Rogan I heard say it but he was like our country is basically like a tribe, the problem is you cant have a tribe with 300million people in it. Its so impersonal and people cant actually even picture 300million that they stop caring when randomly people here and there are killed or something happens to them.

        • Gjallarbru | May 13, 2014 at 3:17 pm |

          I also wonder if social media, if there is such a thing, is not an expression of the problem. In times past, humans needed no damn media to socialize.

          Mind you, the web allows me to discuss ideas with people I would have never met otherwise. Yet, I can’t help but to think that unless we are physically in proximity, we aren’t socializing. We do communicate, but we don’t actually socialize.

          • I agree. I think social media and text messaging is completely destroying human social abilities. I read about a study being done on people that were born after these things went mainstream and it was showing that kids and teens these days are not near as good at reading body language and facial expressions of people because these are things that must be done through face to face experiences, even skype doesnt fully give the same effect as a face to face communication with eye contact and stuff like that.

          • Actually, if you google “socialize”, you get a pretty good definition that I think applies:

            1. mix socially with others.
            “he didn’t mind socializing with his staff”
            synonyms:interact, converse, be sociable, mix, mingle, get together, meet,fraternize, consort

            2. make (someone) behave in a way that is acceptable to their society.
            “newcomers are socialized into orthodox ways”

            Obviously, there is qualitative data that shows a difference between interactions in meat space vs. cyber space. But regardless of space matrix, the isolation, impersonality, etc. we perceive while interacting with technology is just another part of the human condition. Only we’ve enabled this one in a big way thanks to industrialism.

            We’re too immature for our toys, and most have failed to learn how to play nice with others. It’s been that way going on 300 years, give or take. Just a lot harder to ignore now.

          • Gjallarbru | May 14, 2014 at 6:58 am |

            You’ve presented an interesting perspective…

    • People are a product of their environment and in this country and others they are indoctrinated and victims of social engineering through mass propaganda campaigns and the school system . They are exactly how they are supposed to be by design. They worship petty tangible bullshit and are distracted by it and place its value above human life, they are decenctizied to death and suffering of other people not directly associated with them, they unquestionably believe anything the government says or what mainstream media says, they are never taught how to use critical thinking skills or be a free thinker, and they are completely shielded from anything that would cause dissent or might spark revolution. Its all done on purpose, they are prisoners of their own minds and have no idea its happening.

      • I agree totally. Yet, here we are. And if we are aware of the bullshit (propaganda, mind control, indoctrination, social engineering) then there must be millions of others who are aware of it as well.

        • Oh i agree others are aware of it and I think a large part of the reason the movement is gaining so many people is solely based on the fact the internet gives you access to information and people can easily exchange opinions and information amongst each other. Before the internet there were no real ways to access information that wasnt controlled except by word of mouth or by some random independent book publishers or something.

        • You can’t free the serfs. Many have tried. All have failed.

    • mannyfurious | May 13, 2014 at 5:00 pm |

      I’m not a religious fellow in any sense of the word, but one of the most helpful things for myself is the “5-percenter” ideology. I don’t believe in any of it in a literal sense. But they have this idea that 85-percent of the Earth’s population are simply ignorant about the truth of reality, 10-percent know the truth, but use it against the 85-percent for evil means, and then there are 5-percent who know the truth and use it for good. The thing about it is that this number will never change. It’s a fact of life on this planet. This ratio will always be the same and that’s part of the lesson of life. It’s part of the test, and you either love it or leave it.

      As I said, I don’t believe that literally, but it helps me get through the day to believe there’s some truth to that idea, and that it’s up to me to find the other “5-percent” to feel like I’m a part of something.

  6. Ted Heistman | May 14, 2014 at 10:08 pm |


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