Late Night: It Was Better Than “Cats”
It’s been a dizzying week in the world of NSA scandals, but a theme is developing, in the same ham-handed way an Andrew Lloyd Weber musical puts forth its catchy jingle. (Cue mournful, spooky overture) You see, the terrorists are trying to kill us in our recliners, so we must let our guardians listen to us sit on hold with the cable company and whatnot. In fact, we’ve already foiled 300, (or was it 54, or was it several, or was it half of one), dastardly terrorist plot(s) with this Vital Program To Keep You Safe. Anyway we may have once done that one thing we were just caught doing, but we would never do that other thing of which we are now so unfairly accused.
Then, a few days (or hours) later, Glenn Greenwald or someone else at the Guardian slaps those documents in their faces and they have to lie again, about the other lies, both before, current, and future. And as a cherry on top of this banana split of lies, their essential arguments all boil down to that we should trust them. The proven, repeated liars. It would be hilarious if it weren’t so insulting.
But if lying is a feature, not a bug, for these principled men (and they all seem to be men, natch…) as they go about putting a whupping on the Terrorists, wouldn’t it be nice if they had the slightest idea what that meant? While the hecklers that greeted Four Star General (!) Keith Alexander at Black Hat were widely reported, the real news was what the Fox-addled teabagger actually said to an understandably stupefied audience. He darkly conjured up a Worldwide Caliphate dedicated to imposing Sharia Law, right here in Sin City, rather than, say, people from countries we’re always bombing and invading, or supporting their brutal dictators, seeking revenge.
Unless Pamela Geller was there, looking really hot and seeming interested, there is no other explanation for Alexander’s bizarre, Islamophobic ravings than that he is a blithering idiot. Worse, a blithering idiot with seemingly inexhaustible support from all of official Washington. Real, tangible threats are waved away (just like 9/11, coincidentally…), as the top spooks waste time and untold billions chasing the demons in their own minds. Just today they caught a gal on Long Island with an unseemly interest in cooking lentils. I feel safer already.
Of course, just because idiots are running it (and some really smart people are pursuing it), doesn’t mean that our runaway Surveillance State is any less frightening. For every one Edward Snowden who is horrified at the excessive snooping, there are certainly dozens, or even hundreds, of NSA employees and contractors who think it’s the greatest thing ever to spy on everybody; it’s what lured them there in the first place. Just as studies found that guards monitoring London’s infamous Panopticon CCTV system spent most of their time looking at pretty girls on the street, you may be assured that as you are reading this, some low-level NSA operative is snooping on an ex-wife, business rival, political opponent, or sexual conquest. There’s this thing called Human Nature, you see.
And that isn’t the worst of it, not by far. The Surveillance State, for all its rather glaring shortcomings at achieving its stated purpose, seemed until now to be doing a little better at its actual purpose, which is criminalizing dissent and further empowering an unaccountable elite to work its will against the rest of us. But that infectious tune is beginning to reach a discordant crescendo as the NSA’s musical dissolves into farce. As each lie is exposed, the audience is already humming the tune of the next lie, and sure enough, there it is.
Unfortunately for the NSA, the song is decidedly not entitled, “Memory.”