Noam Chomsky: Global Discontents and the Rising Threats to Democracy

Source: The American Empire Project

An excerpt from Noam Chomsky’s book Global Discontents: Conversations on the Rising Threats to Democracy:


Edward Snowden’s revelations of widespread state surveillance of Internet and telephone communications have caused some consternation here in the United States—and around the world. Were you at all surprised by the government’s electronic dragnet?

Somewhat—not a lot. I think we can take for granted that if technology or other means of control and domination are available, then power systems are going to use them. Take the recent revelations about the relationship between the National Security Agency (NSA) and Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley is a synonym for the commercial use of surveillance. The NSA is going to Silicon Valley for help, because the commercial enterprises have been doing this already, on a great scale, and they have the technological expertise. So apparently, a private security officer was brought to the NSA to help them develop sophisticated techniques of surveillance and control.1

The technology is available. You can use it for making money, and you can use it for controlling people’s attitudes and beliefs, directing them toward what you want them to do. So they do.

In fact, anyone who has paid any attention to history should not be in the least surprised. Go back a century to the U.S. war in the Philippines. The United States invaded the Philippines, killed hundreds of thousands of people, and finally suppressed the resistance. But then they had to pacify the population. There are very good studies about this, particularly by Al McCoy, a Philippines historian. He shows that the U.S. was very successful in pacifying the population, using the most advanced intelligence-gathering and surveillance techniques of the day—not our technology but what you had a century ago—to sow distrust, confusion, and antagonisms, standard devices of counterinsurgency. He also points out that it was just a few years before these techniques were used back home. The Woodrow Wilson administration used them in their Red Scare. That’s how it works.2

Just like with drones. Another recent admission, hardly a surprise, is that the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has been using drones for surveillance. You use them against those you designate as enemies, and you very quickly adapt the same technology at home. And there’s more to come. For years, the military and the security system in general have been trying to develop fly-sized drones, which can get into your living room to see and record everything that’s happening. The robotics labs have gotten to the point where they’re about ready to deliver this technology.

If you look abroad, drones were at first used for surveillance. Later, they were used for murder. And we can expect that domestically, too. If there is a suspect, maybe a person with the wrong idea, maybe someone like Fred Hampton, instead of sending the Chicago police in to murder him, maybe you can murder him with a drone. We can expect that.

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