It was about three years ago that Edward Snowden disclosed the extent of surveillance by multiple governments of their own citizens and of others. Reactions ranged from shock to “I told you so” to claims that he did it with the blessing of the deep state in order to throw the public off the track to something greater. Not having any special or insider knowledge of all of this, but having spent most of my life in the computer industry, I was from the beginning completely unsurprised and underwhelmed by the revelations. Now, in the aftermath of the recent election, seems a good time to share my reasoning on this, because I see the events surrounding the election as related to the disclosed information.
Again, as an outsider, I must rely on the words of others, and I must admit that there are many credible theories out there regarding control of the deep state by what has been termed the oligarchy or the elite or the one percent. In similar situations, I’ve always found it wise to remember that, given a choice between assuming malice or stupidity, the latter is usually the better bet. However, I don’t see stupidity, I see genius.
So, after Snowden’s revelations, I began to think, “If I had the resources and were sufficiently sociopathic, how would I do things?” I’m assuming sociopathy because there certainly seems to be little regard in almost every quarter of power and influence for the immense levels of human suffering we find in the world, suffering which ought to be avoidable to a great extent, even if not completely. It doesn’t take a genius to see the ways in which the choices made by the powerful over, say, the last five centuries have directly resulted in much of that suffering, so it’s impossible for me to see it as other than intentional. The choices have been repeated often enough that if they were mistakes they could have served as lessons and they could have been corrected. Note that, in legal terms, intention does not imply malice: any foreseeable consequence of an avoidable action is intentional. You can intentionally torture someone or whatever, and have no malice. That’s why, for example, intent rather than malice is an element of fraud. Sociopaths, from which the system ought to protect us but does not, may have no malice. When someone says that the starvation of half a million children was “worth it”, you must remember that she might have neither conscience nor malice. Such is the mind of a sociopath. As it was said in The Godfather, it’s only business.
Those history books which talk about rebellions, revolutions, and insurrections, usually don’t give them much context. However, it seems fairly clear that such uprisings, though not usually successful, have been a nearly constant fixture in political life since ancient times. There have always been a lot them, a fact which isn’t emphasized in ordinary school history courses. I tend to agree with historians who have concluded that fear of rebellions has probably haunted societies’ rulers more often than not, which goes part way to explain why the most gruesome and cruel punishments a ruler can inflict are usually reserved for those who lead such challenges to authority.
Most of the time that the peasants or slaves or other underclass rise up, they fail. But when they succeed, they often graphically demonstrate the high level of resentment and anger which has been accumulated by the lower strata of the pre-revolutionary society toward their former rulers. It’s easy to imagine that the rulers might, at times, lose a little sleep over this, and might consequently take appropriate actions to avoid these events. The best way to avoid them is to be able to predict them, and to take preventative measures in advance. The panopticon has been submitted as an effective means of social control, and I have no doubt that it is. However, I submit that it is equally effective as a sense organ for what might be called a peasant rebellion early warning system. We peasants are no more than crops or herds or even weeds to the wealth and power farmers of the aristocracy. Just as any farmer would look for signs of blight or disease in his crops or herds so that he might ameliorate the problem, the aristocracy would want to know early if there were a problem with their serfs. Sometimes you have to cull a few animals, sometimes you sacrifice entire herds, or plough under a whole field, to prevent the spread of a noxious parasite. In the end, of course, if you can save the rest of your crops or herds, it’s worth it.
One of the analyses of the failure of the pollsters to accurately predict the outcome of this recent election noted that, in hindsight, the use of Google search terms would have given warning of what was happening. Looking back at the use of such terms, the author concluded that incorporating the search queries into the models could have predicted voter activity patterns better than the polls alone, and would have accurately foreseen the winner. This is an example of the use of metadata.
The point I’m making is that, while many have been justifiably angered by the collection of individually identifiable data, the use of metadata as a tool for social control has been almost ignored. Of course, it’s useful to know that some specific person is converting his associates to an undesirable cause. It’s the metadata that gets you that information. I’m sure there is a peasant rebellion early warning system, because I’d do it that way. Of course, no one who knew about it would ever speak of it in those terms, because it would draw attention to the dichotomy between the peasants and the aristocracy, a most undesirable focus. Instead, we say the mechanism is for finding terrorists or criminals or whatever, and everyone, being thrown off the track, argues about those uses.
Americans are rightly proud, most of them anyway, that the 1776 Revolution successfully challenged the divine right of kings. One of the first courses I took when I went to university was U.S. Constitution and Government. The professor was awesome, and he made me aware of something that in high school I had no idea existed: there is a body of writings including letters and meeting minutes from the creators of the Constitution. I still, decades later, go back and read from them at times. Many of those who created the Constitution and abolished royalty also had a fear of future revolution, for a different reason. They feared that the lower classes might challenge what we might call “the divine right of wealth”, although they didn’t speak in those terms. They were concerned that the new ruling classes, whom they represented, would have their wealth taken by the lower orders of society. It is my belief that talk of “life, liberty, and property” was changed to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” for the same reason that Bush II changed “Operation Iraqi Liberation (OIL)” to “Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF)”. We wouldn’t want to make the actual point too obvious, would we?
It was for a long time difficult for me to understand, just why usury – charging any interest whatsoever for the lending of money – was considered immoral. I finally realized that charging interest is like bullying: the stronger take from the weak. It’s the same if a big guy goes and beats up a little guy and takes his money, or a smart guy out-smarts a slower fellow and cheats him out of something by means of cleverness. Rich guys are financially stronger than poorer ones. For millennia, people were bullied into believing that some people, such as kings, had a “right” to rule over them. Since then, wealth has replaced royal lineage as a justification for one person to exercise control over another. It has been drilled into our minds for so long and so consistently that almost no American ever questions it: it’s taken for granted that the wealthy have a right to the surplus, and, in a capitalist system, to make the decisions about how we are governed. Moreover, the right to accumulate wealth without limit, while others die of starvation, is unquestioned.
That divine right of wealth is the elephant in the room. Any groups, such as communists, who question that right, are punished and silenced with extreme prejudice.
After reading days of post mortems on this 2016 election, I’ve been treated to explanation after explanation of what went wrong or right for whom, how we should have known what was going to happen, how to rebuild after defeat or make the most of victory, and so on. Only in a very few places have I seen a sincere plea that we all might work together, and it was in no instance associated with any hint that a second revolution, a revolution by a majority, might be possible.
There is a line of thinking that Trump’s victory is the first step toward taking back the country from the bad guys. But I don’t buy it, for several reasons. For one, like it or not, an essential component of Trump’s base is demographically shrinking, an inexorable trend, so that support will only last for a while. For another, the anger of his followers is diffuse, and they don’t seem to be focused on the denizens of the F.I.R.E. sector, which would be the obvious target for those having the beginning of a clue. Sorry, but Clinton’s followers were more educated, and even they didn’t see her thralldom to the rich and powerful as that big a deal.
No, I think the explanation of what happened is different. If I were pulling the strings, I’d never forget Julius Caesar’s successful policy: divide and conquer. Or, in more modern terms, a house divided cannot stand. Those guys in charge, at the top, are pretty smart cookies: it’s hard to see the country more divided without it sinking into chaos. Who knows? After all, I don’t have all that metadata and armies of analysts to make sense of it, nor do I have the ability to operate behind the scenes and above the law to take appropriate action. But I think, regardless of who got the votes, the aristocracy is safe, for now, from a peasant rebellion. The people have been played like musical instruments. I’m waiting for someone to congratulate the real winners.
Meanwhile, as for the damage this might have done to the economy or to America’s position in the world or to the Republic or especially to the less fortunate – well, it was worth it.
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