Pardon me for getting “meta,” but the developments of the last week have me so flummoxed I just feel the need to share.
I’ll share a little something with you: last week I participated in a conference call with representatives of some major civil liberties organizations. These representatives promised to do what they could to get the Senate Judiciary Committee to pass the JUSTICE Act’s warrantless surveillance reforms, but they also made a prediction. They said that Democratic and left-of-center Americans were probably not going to get active on the subject. They said that with Barack Obama in office as President, Democrats and left-of-center Americans didn’t seem to care about government surveillance as they used to. They said Democrats and left-of-center Americans were so preoccupied these days with health care reform and the economy that efforts by the U.S. Government to spy on them without warrants probably wouldn’t register like they once did.
I’ll share little something else with you: I was taken aback by these statements, and was frankly a bit miffed by them. But over the past week, the articles and transcripts we’ve offered regarding the JUSTICE Act and warrantless surveillance have been among the least popular we’ve written in months, at least in terms of the number of readers. Maybe those folks were on to something.
Now, it’s not as though we’d change what we write here at Irregular Times according to its popularity; if we were the only people left on Earth who thought it a problem for governments to spy on their people without constitutional process, we’d still be raising the issue. Still, it’s disconcerting to see the umbrage of progressives at Big Brother tactics during the Bush administration sink into no more than an “ahem” when the name at the top is Obama.
There’s something else that gives me pause, really in the other direction. It’s something I remember from my days as a student: those teachers who would drone on and on about the importance of attendance to those students who were, um, already attending class. If I complain about the lack of activism on warrantless surveillance, it’s possible I’m complaining to the very people who are actually quite engaged and active on the issue. Maybe you’re actually doing quite a lot, even though there aren’t that many people out there who seem to be.
What it all boils down to is this crazy feeling I’ve got bordering the personal and the political. I remember this set of people who called themselves liberals or progressives or Democrats, and I remembered how upset they were from 2001-2008 about government intrusion into personal affairs through warrantless surveillance and the ballooning of Big Brother under Total Information Awareness and the Patriot Act and the Protect America Act and the FISA Amendments Act, not to mention countless other programs that had no name or legal authority. Now we’re in 2009 and so many of the problems are still with us, but talking about it now is like shouting in the wind. So few people seem to care about it nowadays. Or maybe people care, maybe they’ve been doing a whole lot, but they’re quiet, so quiet that it looks like there’s nothing going on. I have no idea what’s going on. All I know is that it’s a fog to me. I can’t see clearly what you’re doing and why.
So I guess what I want to know is where you are as a person on this. Have you been active on the issue of the round of warrantless surveillance reform bubbling up in the Senate? If so, what have you been up to?
Tell me why you’ve been doing what you have, and why you haven’t been doing what you haven’t. Explain to me your feelings about this. I’ll shut up and listen as best I’m able.