Lessig: NSA Revelations Won’t Change Anything


I have a lot of respect for Larry Lessig of Harvard Law School and I agree with him completely when he tells Bill Moyers that Edward Snowden’s fear that his leaks about the NSA’s illegal data mining won’t really change anything. He’s right, they won’t.

Harvard professor Laurence Lessig told Bill Moyers on Friday that former defense contractor Edward Snowden’s concerns about popular apathy regarding his revelations of government data gathering are well-founded.

“I think the thing he most fears is the most likely outcome,” Lessig said on Moyers & Company, citing the relative lack of attention given to matters like the Wall Street bailout or Occupy Wall Street.

“I think ordinary people have lost the sense that there’s a reason to try to engage politically because in the end they know how the cards will be dealt,” Lessig continued. “And the cards will be dealt not according to what makes sense or what people actually believe, but where the power is. And here the power is both the literal power of the most powerful security state in the history of the world and also the power of enormous interests to support and continue that state.”…

“People will see in the media all of these disclosures,” Snowden said to the Guardian. “They’ll know the lengths that the government is going to grant themselves powers unilaterally to create greater control over American society and global society. But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”

No, they won’t. Most people won’t give a damn about it for the same reason they don’t give a damn about our racist and incredibly corrupt criminal justice system or about the horrible results of the wars we wage — because they think it doesn’t really affect them, that it’s only happening to other people. We don’t care what happens to people who don’t look like us or talk like us or go to Little League games with our kids. We have the ability to otherize the problem so we can shut it out. It is our greatest downfall as a species.

Comments

  1. doublereed says

    Well it’s hard to care when everybody knows our politics is so horribly corrupt. Money in politics is to blame for the massive amount of apathy we’re seeing everywhere.

  2. mhester332 says

    But they won’t be willing to take the risks necessary to stand up and fight to change things to force their representatives to actually take a stand in their interests.”

  3. says

    I know the feeling. I’m more interested in politics now than I have been in my life, and yet this is when I feel the most disenfranchised. The mainstream apathy means that we can’t exert influence on the major parties to change.

  4. Don Williams says

    Re doublereed at 1: “Money in politics is to blame for the massive amount of apathy we’re seeing everywhere.”

    1) I think the apathy is because we made an enormous effort in 2008 to overthrow the Republicans and give the Democrats a once-in-30-years aggregation of massive political power: Control of the White House, Supermajority in the House, and a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.

    And what did we get in return? Nothing. 5 years of massive unemployment and counting — with nothing done to address the problem. A small group of corrupt Republican Senators continuing to run the country.

    What did the Richest 2 percent get? A massive bailout that preserved their wealth, ensured they would continue to grab 25 percent (and climbing) share of the national income –paid for by $7 Trillion more in debt dumped onto the common citizen.

    And did anyone ever hold Dick Cheney and George W Bush accountable? After all, the Democrats now have total access to every archive in the Intelligence Community — so how did we end up in Iraq? How did 4500+ of our soldiers end up dead and thousands more crippled for life? Or should I ask
    Haim Saban ?(see Wikipedia).

    2) Maybe we are apathetic because the message from the Democratic Caucus is: “The Republicans will
    screw you 95%. We will screw you only 93%. So we deserve your total commitment, unquestioningly loyalty,
    and continual support. Because , as Nancy Pelosi laughingly noted, you have no other options. So sign up for GOTV and send that donation in before midnight tomorrow.”

  5. Don Williams says

    Of course, maybe “money in politics” is the explanation for all I noted in post 5.

    So how is that campaign finance reform coming?

  6. slc1 says

    Re Don Williams @ #5

    Ole Don once again refers to his favorite bete noir, Haim Saban as the putative author of the Iraq adventure. His favorite conspiracy theory, right next to blaming the Civil War on the desire of the Northern States for the coal mines in West Virginia. Just for the information of readers here, ole Don used to blame Arial Sharon, unfortunately glossing over the testimony of Lawrence Wilkerson that Sharon advised him and Secretary of State Colin Powell that the invasion of Iraq was a bad idea and would lead to the ascendancy of Iran in the Middle East.

  7. baal says

    @#6
    Money is speech.
    Political speech must be protected over all else.
    Dispirit ability to speech (effective silencing via buy up of venues) is not a valid complaint.

    So spake the SCROTU SCOTUS.

  8. says

    I agree that nothing will likely change. But not because of anything specific here.

    Nothing will change because of the constant realty of every government system getting heaped with little exceptions carved out by people with the connections to the powerful. All the little exceptions and tweaks that turn into a confusing morass that the average voter has no hope of following. So every several hundred years or so everything shatters and you get the “fun” of creating a new blank slate to start heaping exceptions on.

    Nothing will change because most of us mirror the top ape of our in-group, and his underlings. Out-groups are the worst possible thing imaginable, the in-group is devoid of flaws and perfect. It looks like we are already in the process of separating, projecting, conveniently forgetting, and building the purely positive narrative that most of us seem to need to get anything done as a group.

    Nothing will change because the wheel turns and national pride becomes a flaw-building exercise. We are the world’s “Jersy Shore”.

    To solve it we need to learn to construct psychological “ear worms” if you don’t mind me borrowing a term for a new context.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earworm

    Little snips of information relevant to them and irresistible to whatever curiosity they have, that ultimately lead to information that makes the damage they are doing to the social structures they care about unavoidably obvious. That takes active outreach efforts to places where they are, and active efforts at communication. If they let you communicate since they instinctively know they have to prevent Catharsis.

    But I think we are too late for the US unless internet and multimedia will have a greater effect that I think now. The top dog has been eating all the compliments and letting himself go for far too long. I just hope that China and India figure out how to do a better job (the people, not necessarily the systems existing there now) than we have. Something involving increasing penalties for individuals with political and economic power who cause harm through incompetent use of that power. Or utterly draining a persons material wealth when they harm people through misuse of same political/economic power would be nice.

    I really have no desire to support the system in the US as it exists anymore except as best as I can to make it leave me alone while it snaps into pieces from the enormous numbers of people straining in what looks like a futile social lock-up. I almost just want to get it over with so the rebuilding can begin. I hate that I feel that way.

  9. Don Williams says

    Re Baal at 8: “Money is speech. Political speech must be protected over all else.”

    So the only people whose views matter are the 400 or so billionaires who either own the TV networks, major
    newspapers and Congress — or can rent them for a while.

    Meanwhile the complaints and problems of the remaining 310 Million Americans have no more relevance than squirrels chattering in forest.

    Look at the Declaration of Independence and tell me why the American People should support that system.
    Tell me why we should not exterminate it– just as we did in 1776.

  10. slc1 says

    Re Don William s @ #10

    Wouldn’t it be simpler to give those 400 billionaires the bump?

  11. Don Williams says

    Re SLC at 11:

    1) No. I said “exterminate” — as in “destroy completely”. Knocking off the billionaires would simply
    lead to them being replaced by their spoiled, greedy, irresponsible, incompetent snot-nosed brats. Wait until James Murdoch runs Fox to see what I mean.

    2) No — you have to confiscate their wealth via taxes and give it back to the people. And ensure they never get it back. To do that You have to take over the government and , as your buddy Adolf noted, that can’t be done with violence. You must have the support of the people.

  12. Michael Heath says

    Ed writes:

    Most people won’t give a damn about it for the same reason they don’t give a damn about our racist and incredibly corrupt criminal justice system or about the horrible results of the wars we wage — because they think it doesn’t really affect them, that it’s only happening to other people. We don’t care what happens to people who don’t look like us or talk like us or go to Little League games with our kids. We have the ability to otherize the problem so we can shut it out. It is our greatest downfall as a species.

    Well, it’s far worse than that. Conservatives and libertarians, especially religious ones and authoritarians, don’t give a fuck about their own progeny. They gladly risk their wellbeing by denying what grows economies, what stifles them, indoctrinating them into beliefs which restricts their children’s career opportunities, and assures future suffering due to their denial of climate change.

  13. slc1 says

    Re Don Williams @ #12

    My buddy Adolf? You mean Adolf Menjou?

    Actually, Frankenberger controlled considerably less then 50% of the vote in 1932.

    Sounds like ole Don should be referring to his buddies Vladimir, Josef, and Mao.

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