Monday, December 20, 2010

Are you on the inside or the outside?

Many commentators have been describing the new forms of segregation in American society -- where people are either members of an "in" group with special privileges, or you aren't. Much of the talk has focused on the segregation of workers into "protected" jobs from which they cannot be fired, and the rest who cannot get steady employment, in large part as a side effect of the protection system.

However, we are also seeing increasing segregation of Americans into the group with security clearance, who have access to massive government databases, and the rest of us who are forbidden to access this information. This segregation has troubling similarities to the system of the Chinese Communist Party, which maintains separate media systems for privileged insiders and the ignorant masses.

The Washington Post has taken the lead in exposing the scale of "Top Secret America", first by revealing that hundreds of thousands of Americans have this clearance, indicating that such clearance is increasingly a requirement for a decent job (like Party membership in Communist countries). Now the Post has described a massive database of "suspicious" Americans, which is available to pretty much every law enforcement agent. So next time a cop stops you for some trivial reason, he can check to see if you've ever done anything suspicious, and adjust his behavior accordingly. This is a good reason to use a pseudonym on the Internet.

A summary is here: Monitoring America: How the U.S. Sees You - CBS News

The best quote:
"The old view that 'if we fight the terrorists abroad, we won't have to fight them here' is just that - the old view," Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told police and firefighters recently.

Apparently the mainstream media is finally waking up to what commentators like Kevin Carson have been describing for years:
Technologies and techniques honed for use on the battlefields of Iraq and Afghanistan have migrated into the hands of law enforcement agencies in America.
Anyway, this reminds us that the main resistance to this trend is being attacked by "the authorities" as we speak, and these authorities are called out by John Wilkins in Statism and Wikileaks.
the real lesson is the extent to which the professional political classes of the west are statists. They have no concern for their citizenry. They have no concern for their economies or even for the corporations or big labor organisations they nominally represent. They only care that they are in power, or might get into power, and so the state is what they care about, so they can have that power.
The last thing on my mind today is the fact that the Dream Act failed to pass. It sounded pretty innocuous to me, but there are enough authoritarian nationalists in Congress that even this law couldn't pass. Not a big surprise, but the likely hypocrisy of these nationalists was conveniently illuminated by the contrast against a recent essay describing the pseudo-liberal argument against affirmative action that conservatives trot out so often -- "since we're all equal, all discrimination is wrong". Of course, this ignores the central role of group identity in our society. Sometimes this group identity is implicit (e.g. cultural affinity), sometimes it is explicit (e.g. citizenship, family), but either way it is very important. If a person can't recognize that and consider how this factors into our decisions, then they are pretty naive. If they continue to advocate for group identity in one situation, even as they dismiss its complexities in another, then they are just hypocrites. I don't know what this particular author believes about nationality and migration, but if he's like most conservatives who use terms like "equality" or "individualism", then he's just an opportunist who will use whatever argument he can to secure privileges for himself and his favored identity group.

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