| By Tench Phillips, co-owner Naro Cinema
In spite of the best efforts of the Obama administration to prosecute leakers and to muzzle journalists, surprising new revelations are made weekly in the press about the national surveillance state and its over-reach into Americans’ private lives. As secret documents leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden continue to be published, our great leaders are exposed for their hypocrisy, deception, and lies.
This vital national conversation could only have been initiated as a result of a few brave insiders like Snowden and Manning who have stood up and spoken out in spite of grave consequences. Our secret government wasn’t going to ever voluntarily let us know what it’s up to. Their covert operations are all justified in the name of national security and in the neverending War on Terror.
All of this “bad news” is fast eroding what little trust many Americans have left in our institutions and leaders, not to mention the feelings of the rest of the world toward the U.S. empire. Fortunately for the administration and the embedded media, the distraction of war with Syria has now turned the nation’s attention toward an outside threat. The incessant battle cry from up on high is so abusive that many of us are just turning off the news.
So what do we now know about how Big Brother is watching us? Advanced computer technology has enabled a corporate-government surveillance partnership that can get away with things that never could have been done in the past. Bruce Schneier, a journalist covering high tech, explains how this unholy alliance works.
“There are two types of law in the U.S., each designed to constrain a different type of power: constitutional law which places limits on government, and regulatory law which governs corporations. Historically, these two areas have largely remained separate, but today each group has learned how to use the other’s laws to bypass their own restrictions. The government uses corporations to get around its limits, and corporations use the government to get around their limits.”
We now know that “Prism” is the moniker used for this previously secret surveillance partnership. The giant telecoms Verizon and AT&T along with Google and Facebook are paid handsomely by our government to be allowed unfettered access to our private information. And more importantly for these corporations, they are ensured that the government will oppose any legislation to limit their lucrative data collecting. Party on, Facebook and Google!
We’ve heard for years that privacy is dead, but we’re just now beginning to understand what that means. With the NSA able to decode any of our attempts to encrypt our information, the massive surveillance state has gained complete domination over its citizens. And you don’t have to have done anything wrong or illegal to be an enemy of this surveillance state; just be in the way when the state limits democratic protest and dissent or muzzles whistleblowers and journalists.
There’s no going back to the pre-digital era. But we can work toward policies where all things, not just private citizens, are transparent. If the government can watch us, then we need to be able to watch the government. Indie media such as Democracy Now! is more important than ever in keeping us informed, along with documentaries playing at your local independent cinema.
In the new documentary Terms and Conditions May Apply showing Tuesday, Sept 18, filmmaker Cullen Hoback informs us of how we willingly agreed to give up our privacy in exchange for the free service, convenience, and connections provided by internet companies. Who really reads all those terms of service (ToS) agreements that pop up on our screens? Knowing that we have nothing bad to hide, we just quickly scroll down the lenghty legalese and click on “I Agree”. But this blind faith in the system has long-term consequences that are revealed in this important film.
Author and journalist Alex Marshall will be speaking after the film. Alex is a Norfolk native and was a former journalist for the Virginian Pilot before leaving our area to continue his studies in urban design. His newest book is a big leap into much larger issues, “The Surprising Design of Market Economies.”
Explaining that there’s no such thing as a “free market”, Alex shows how government legislation has always created and evolved markets. But now that corporate power is so massive, more than just the regulation of corporations is required. He makes a case for the redesign of our market economies, as well as placing limits on the entitlements bestowed upon private property.
Alex is an advocate for stripping corporations of their personhood rights as part of the passing of a National Companies Act to be legislated by Congress. Included in the bill would be the reining in of intellectual property rights and long term patents that stifle both innovation and competition. His vision of a more enlightened world would be a functioning political economy administered by a just and democratic citizens government.
Americans are in desperate need of new ideas and inspiration to guide us in the enormous task ahead of reforming government and scaling back corporate influence. Alex Marshall is providing us with valuable instruction.
Upcoming Film Events at the Naro
“Truly Indie Tuesdays” This new series of independent films is selected from critic and audience choices at Sundance and other festivals. Each title will have a single showing on a Tuesday evening. Upcoming titles will be posted weekly on the Naro website. Titles currently being considered include Europa Report, Computer Chess, Crystal Fairy & The Magical Cactus, Passion, Short Term 12, and others.
Stuck in Love Local boy makes it big in Hollywood! Josh Boone, former Naro Video employee, is making his mark in L.A. He wrote and directed this first-time effort and cast such quality talent as Greg Kinnear, Jennifer Connelly, and Kristen Bell. It’s a fine comic drama about a family of writers dealing with first-time love and second chances. (R, 96 mins) Shows Sat, Sept 21.
Cape Spin! An American Power Struggle This film documents the tragicomic tale about unlikely alliances that formed in the battle for and against the nation's first offshore windfarm near Cape Cod. The story includes such local family dynasties as the Kennedys as well as the lobbying efforts of Mitt Romney and the Koch brothers. The film is a gripping study of eco-capitalism and grassroots democracy, and Virginians for offshore wind power should take heed. (90 mins) Presented with Virginia Chapter of Sierra Club. Speakers and discussion to follow film. Shows Wed, Sept 25.