Sunday, August 05, 2007

Hollywood's Crystal Ball

My wife had a very long phone call with her parents last night, leaving me trapped on the couch with a big knitting project (really) and no remote in reach. So I watched a good portion of the Will Smith action flick Enemy of the State, which is really a fairly fun movie. Smith has remarkable comic timing, and I'm a huge Gene Hackman fan.

One of the opening scenes features Larry King interviewing a Congress-Critter about the balance of security vs freedom. Of course, we've been having this discussion (or screaming match, really) about this topic for six years now, and I'm delighted to see that we're moving back toward the "freedom" side of the debate. Things were really scary there for a few years, when to even suggest that the US had perhaps overreacted to a few thousand dead and destruction of some prime real estate with hundreds of thousands dead and the destruction of an entire country's infrastructure (and Iraq isn't doing too well either) could have resulted in rocks through my front window by "patriots". The interviewee even talked about how all it would take would be one prominent building coming down before Americans would start gladly trading in their freedoms for security, in this case the government watching people all of the time.

So it was with a bit of a shock that it occurred to me that this movie pre-dated 9/11. By three years.

So it is with great thanks that I toss to my own Congress-Critter, Ron Wyden, for having the balls to vote against extending Bush's wiretapping authorization. At any other time, the revelations that have come from this single program alone would have been enough to sink any president since the end of WWII, but in these frighteningly close to Fascism times in the US, we extend them. Well done, sir. My other Congress-Critter, Gordon Smith, famous for accurately calling our invasion of Iraq "criminal" more than four years after the act, voted for the bill.

Me, I think that I would like to have every person who thought this was a good idea monitored 24/7, with all of their activities thoughout the day (and night) recorded and available on the web. Because some of them are, you know, bought and sold. Because we clearly can't trust the dozen or so Federal legislators who are already up on ethics charges. While it's possible there are actual legitimate national security issues surrounding George Bush's life, I suggest we instead monitor his daughters, who clearly need the supervision. Plus there's probably a revenue stream there.

Because you can put bars on your windows, you can install a safe in your wall, you can buy a ferocious dog to guard your house, you can buy handguns to protect your family, but the fact remains that if someone really wants to take something from you or do you harm and has the means and skills to do so, they will. All the wiretapping in the world won't make a bit of difference, and all it does is trade our freedom for security. It's so sad that Hollywood figured this out nearly ten years ago, and even predicted how the crisis would come, and we thought it was just entertainment.


Tim said...


Interesting post - if you haven't read it already, you should see if you can't find a copy of David Brin's _The Transparent Society_ (non-fiction). He takes the ideas in there and does fiction in his novel Kiln People, which is also interesting. Well worth a read, in either case.

But yes, these are scary, proto-fascist times . . . that's for sure! I'm sure you and I will be amongst the first up against the wall when the revolution comes ;).


Eric said...

For a long time, the signature line on my gmail account was:

"Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." - Benjamin Franklin.

(actually, my signature line was somewhat of a paraphrase - the quote above is more accurate.)

There was also a rather prominent article published exposing the failings of the "But I've got nothing to hide" argument in favor of reducing privacy.


1/20/09 can't come soon enough. Nobody currently in the race can be this destructive, can they?