In Grid We Trust: The Mad Activist and the Worm in the NSA

Dear Peace Blog —

Fuck you to hell.  I thought I was giving peace a chance when I spent all those years writing in you.  About the dreams and schemes of a brave little peace activist standing up against state repression!  I wrote with a sense of hope — hope that society was making progress toward a more equal and just tomorrow.  Then KERBLAM!  I read in the Guardian that the National Security Agency has been carrying out massive domestic surveillance, collecting the phone records of Verizon’s 100,000,000 customers, one of whom includes ME:

For the first time under the Obama administration the communication records of millions of U.S. citizens are being collected indiscriminately and in bulk — regardless of whether they are suspected of any wrongdoing.

Two days later, Edward Snowden revealed to reporter Glenn Greenwald a gi-normous U.S. cyber-spy campaign involving nine Internet companies like Facebook, Google, Skype, Apple, and YouTube.  Greenwald neatly summarized how the NSA can grab and store whatever personal data it wants: “There are no checks.  This is how the world communicates, and the NSA is monitoring it at all times.”

O Blog of Peace!  Why didn’t you fight back?  Why did you just lie there, close your eyes, and think of Homeland Security?  Even as I type, here in the ersatz bohemia of this Eighth Avenue Starbucks, historic moments from years of protest are being sucked into a cyber-vortex with the 2.5 quintillion bytes of data that, according to the New York Times, pour DAILY into the NSA’s vaults.  Soon all our heroic strivings against war, imperialism, racism, homophobia — and government eavesdropping — will be trapped inside that one-million-square-foot storage barn the government is building in the Utah mountains.

Worse: according to the Gallup website, most Americans “tend to disapprove” of being monitored, yet “find it acceptable in order to fight terrorism.”  I feel like Dorothy, my ruby slippers tap-tapping in terror down the Yellow Puke Road.  The Tin Man, Scarecrow, and Lion have morphed into zombies and are staggering after me, hungry for my brains.  I’m screaming, Peace Blog.  Screaming: Shouldn’t somebody somewhere pay attention to that man behind the curtain?

Dear Peace Blog —

I’m glad Starbucks kicked us out.  Fucking neoliberal baristas.  Capitalists just don’t understand how screaming while typing improves your politics.  I’m happier here in this bar; it’s more of “The People.”  Those salt-of-the-earth, surveillance-complacent knuckleheads.

I’m sorry I was abusive to you, Peace Blog.  It’s just that it hurts to find out the NSA has been reading you, and now knows what an idiot I am.  Or do I flatter myself that the NSA is at all interested in or threatened by my obsessive scribbling for radical change?  I can just see some government hacktivist rolling his (or her!) eyes in derisive condescension at the pathetic grandiosity with which I am even now typing in you.

Let’s get drunk.

WHOA Peace Blog —

I must’ve stared for two hours at that dead worm at the bottom of that tequila bottle.  At first, I couldn’t believe what Wormy was telling me to do: that I had to go buy an iPad.  But I did.  And I feel so much better!

You look so pretty on this iPad, Peace Blog!  See how your “pages” “flip,” just like the pages of that $5.95 paper diary I tossed out in 1992 when I bought my first computer?  I mean, if Marshall McLuhan was right and the medium really is the message, who cares what I write — as long as nifty media like this let me write on them!

See, all my life, Peace Blog, I’ve been addicted to the idea that: (a) if people would only listen to me; (b) I could stop injustice.  So untrue.  Now I see that: (a) largely because people have been listening to me; (b) I have absolutely no control over anything.  But it’s OK!  I shall surrender myself to my higher power. The NSA.

I have gone to the mountain and returned with this glowing iPad of Truth.  I now declare the National Security Agency to be One with the millennia-old Judeo-Christian deity commonly known as God.  God has domain names, IP addresses, and a terrible, swift carbon footprint.  Henceforth, I shall write “God” and “NSA” interchangeably; I shall worship them as One.  It just makes sense, Peace Blog, in that they both do so much monitoring.  But that’s good, since they want to save us from the malware of terrorism.

I feel blessed, Peace Blog.  Blessed that the NSA watches over me, unworthy wretch though I be.  It’s all part of God’s plan that I must accept.  Because, like any good person, I have nothing to hide.  And because everything God does is legal.

It’s like I’m downloading and installing a free update of moral software for Western Culture.  There’s only one Commandment: Thou Shalt Stay Logged On.  Yes, much like theologian Paul Tillich‘s belief that “sin is separation,” with the NSA, the only real transgression is being off the Grid.

Privacy, schmivacy, Peace Blog.  Who cares if the NSA knows I’m standing in line at the needle exchange?  If I’m a documented American, I’m free!  So I forgive you, Peace Blog.  Because, like that worm in the tequila bottle, ultimately we’re all going to end up transparent, inert, and just lying there.  I know I am.

Why?  Because I’m afraid to fight the power?  No.  Because I have a new iPad.  And as long as there’s another electronic miracle to buy on credit, my life will be an open book.

Susie Day is a writer.

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