Ed Snowden and the New Colossus

The techno-corporate state is the New Colossus. It is Eisenhower’s “military-industrial-government complex” on steroids. But it is also a state without a nation, much like an ego consciousness without roots.

Welcome to Dystopia.

Today’s Globe and Mail had a re-report from Germany’s Der Spiegel citing an interview the German magazine did with Ed Snowden in which Snowden charged that the governments of Germany, France, and Britain were in cahoots with the NSA on mass surveillance. Snowden made the surprising suggestion, according to the report, that the protests by European governments about UK and US spying might be disingenuous.

That Globe and Mail original report entitled “NSA ‘in bed with Germany’ and others, Snowden tells magazine”, has since been replaced by another entitled “Brazil seeks U.S. clarification on reports of NSA spying“, and the original article has apparently been deleted with no explanation. You will note, however, that the URL still points to the article with the original title.

The Guardian, however, still carries the original Reuters report, “Ed Snowden tells Der Spiegel NSA is ‘in bed with the Germans‘”, so I’m not sure what’s going on here.

For me, the most significant quote from the article is this,

“Other agencies don’t ask us where we got the information from and we don’t ask them. That way they can protect their top politicians from the backlash in case it emerges how massively people’s privacy is abused worldwide,” [Snowden] said.

It also suggests a rogue state and a secret government, assuming that the expressions of outrage and surprise by Merkel and others were authentic. And if this rogue state-within-a- state can act to keep their top politicians in the dark, supposedly in order to protect them from public backlash, it also means the puppet-masters can conceivably do just the opposite to undermine them. But given that the British government apparently knew full well the scope of the NSA operation, and of its own “Tempora” programme, but kept it hidden from public knowledge, oversight, and insight, it seems remarkably strange that Merkel or Hollande were not aware of the sheer massiveness of these surveillance programmes themselves, which Snowden attests are linked into each other.

Really, it makes the mass surveillance operations of the Norsefire Party dictatorship in the dystopian movie V for Vendetta look quite primitive already — even though the movie was released only 8 years ago. We may be living through the West’s Golden Twilight of free-thinking, free-speech, free association and, essentially, the free development of the personality as the core value of the democratic experiment.

Some have concluded that the experiment was a failure (and they may be right, but for the wrong reasons).

Mr. Obama (Mr. Hague in the UK) has uttered consoling words about how the exposures of Julian Assange, Bradley Manning or Ed Snowden (amongst others lesser known) have not injured or harmed the national security or state apparatus. The New Colossus of the techno-corporate state, and the “secret government”, appear to be impervious to public exposure, it would appear. Consequently also, impervious to amendment by the democratic will too.. It is the voice of the New Colossus secure and confident of its position regardless of exposure, backlash, or the public will.

But if they were nothing to the New Colossus but mosquito bites, the ferocity with which the state has gone after these mosquitoes, and the shameful temerity with which other states have followed along or acquiesced in the persecution and prosecution of them, seems to belie the soothing rhetoric. It seems disproportionate. Obama, as noted earlier, begins to look like the usurper Prince John, John Kerry like the loyal Sheriff of Nottingham, the compliant states like their fawning and obsequious lick-spittles and boot-lickers, and the whistleblowers now, correspondingly, look like Robin Hood and his band of green. If not injurious, then why the disproportion and dissonance between the rhetoric and the action?

The State, it appears, must not come to be seen as being no longer an outgrowth of the popular will, with its legitimate roots in the soil of the demos, and as such as being no longer ‘representative’ of the public sovereign. The New Colossus, and not the nation, is the sovereign. But this must not be admitted or allowed to be perceived. The democratic myth that the State and Nation are one, that the State is the express will of the Nation, must be maintained, even if the truth is that the State, as “embodied Reason”, has become a giant “Ego” and the Nation a massive “It” in relation to this Ego. The State has become all Subject, the Nation all Object. The State has become uprooted, and the fiction of the unity of State and Nation cannot be maintained.

“State security” and “national security” cannot pretend to be one and the same. That is the essence of the shock that is still being digested by the media and the public, even if they haven’t articulated it as yet, and are still searching for its real meaning. Obama is telling the truth, therefore, when he says that the “national security” has not been injured or harmed by the whistleblowers. But the “state security” has been injured. It has been exposed that state security and national security are not the same. And the New Colossus will not be mocked. Whistleblowers are mockers and the often tragic trickster figures of legend and myth. The discrepancy and dissonance between Obama’s words and his actions corresponds to the discrepancy and dissonance that now exists between the meanings of “state security” and “national security”.

“As above, so below”. I hope I am understood. The State, as “castle in the air”, no longer rooted in the popular will, which treats the popular will or “nation” as its own contradiction, but was long conceived in the Modern Era as “embodied Reason” or principle of rationality itself, corresponds to the ego consciousness which has lost its roots. “You create the reality you know”, and reality is an honest reflection. But the divorce between State and Nation must not be permitted to be seen or understood, and that’s the problem the whistleblower presents to the state.

From Ellsberg onwards — the whistleblower is the actual symbol of “national security” and represents it. The contest between Obama and Snowden, which seems so personal but is not — it is archetypal — is the discrepancy between “state security” and “national security”, and the drama proves the point that State and Nation no longer coincide.

Too many foolish pundits, however, confuse the two as being the same, and they use the term “national security” when they really mean “state security” because they merely assume state and nation to have identical interests. And from this confusion, fascism is created.

Dumb, foolish, ignorant pundits.


6 responses to “Ed Snowden and the New Colossus”

  1. Scott Preston says :

    From this morning’s Guardian, Privacy International to launch legal challenge against mass surveillance. http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk-news/2013/jul/08/nsa-gchq-spy-programmes-legal-challenge

    It will be an interesting legal test of the extent to which we still have the shreds and vestiges of a democracy. Even if the challenge prevails in court, that’s not to say it will be respected. The US Congress supposedly killed off the Total Information Awareness (TIA) project, but it’s quite clear that PRISM and “Boundless Informant” are just TIA by another name.

    So, that’s the other test of whether we still have a democracy or not. Does the rule of law mean anything? Or, for that matter, do we as a society even still want democracy? Because it’s not clear to me that we do.

    • Thinking Green says :

      According to Craig Murray: “To the US and its allies, international law is no longer of any consequence.” More here: http://www.craigmurray.org.uk/archives/2013/07/all-law-is-gone-naked-power-remains/

      His post also references another curious case of a news article “disappearing.”

      Great blog, thank you Scott. And increasingly important in times like these.

      • Scott Preston says :

        Thanks, Thinking. Thanks too for the link to Craig Murray’s blog. I realised we had entered a “new normal” after reading Philippe Sands’ great book Lawless World, and his attack on the kind of neo-imperialism promoted by the likes of Niall Ferguson, Robert Kaplan and the neo-cons/neo-libs/neo-socialists (or “New Labour”). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philippe_Sands

        I’m beginning to see these kinds of developments are part of that ‘disintegration” anticipated by Jean Gebser in 1949, and that this disintegration of the Modern Era along with its premises and foundations is manifest correlate to a disintegration of the ego consciousness — the symptoms of which I’ve named our “four riders” of double-talk, double-think, double-standard, and ultimately double-bind (this latter is what psychiatrist R.D. Laing identified as the roots of schizophrenia, significantly).

        I also want to explore how far this disintegration is also an “essential restructuration” — the paradoxical double-movement of nihilism and genesis. Governments everywhere, including here in Canada, are attempting to get around the constraints of constitutionalism, even as they pay lip-service to it. I think you are in Canada, and you probably have seen the concentration of power in the PMO, the contempt Harper has expressed for democracy, the erosion of boundaries between the PMO and the PCO, and between the State and the RCMP, amongst other things. Lkewise, the Bush Administration attempted to concentrate power in the executive. Bush reputedly dismissing the US Constitution as “a god-damned piece of paper” — a ‘piece of paper’ that apparently frustrated the Bush/Cheney/Rumsfeld effort to undermine the authority of Congress and concentrate power in the executive.

        So, the Brits are undermining their own constitutional basis in the Magna Carta, the Americans in their Constitution, and the Canadians also. What is being subverted is the idea (and practice) of constitutionalism itself. We seem headed for a bout of fascism, and I’m not sure how long it can last.

        But I’ll be posting more on this in relation to Seth’s remarks on the breakdown of the ego-consciousness, which is Nietzsche’s “nihilism”, Gebser’s “disintegration”, and Erich Kahler’s “destruction of the human form”.

  2. alex jay says :

    Yes Scott, “democracy” is a great idea, provided the demos are capable of informed thinking. I’ll try and make the point by contrasting the rise of poitical awareness in these two videos from a 12 year old from a country that is going through the birth pains of the democratic ideal to the sad hedonistic zombies of an university in a country that no longer can identify with the meaning of the term.

    • Scott Preston says :

      Yes… quite the brainy and articulate young man for his age. Pity, because it sounds like he might be headed for an early martyrdom. Whether he’s right that Morsi represented “facist theocracy” or not, he was certainly aware of the contradictions in the new constitution. Actually, he probably wasn’t right that the new government in Egypt was a fascist theocracy. He was probably right in thinking that those self-contradictions in the constitution would lead effectively lead there, though.

      Impressive reasoning process for such a young boy.

  3. Scott Preston says :

    After Snowden’s revelations, I quipped that people might revert to handwritten notes and letters, and communicating by paper might be come the norm again — ironically, the self-destruction of the internet.

    Turns out that this is the response of some, indeed, as this article in The Guardian suggests — typewriters are back in style and Russia reverts to paper


    “Any information can be taken from computers. Of course there exists means of protection, but there is no 100% guarantee that they will work. So from the point of view of keeping secrets, the most primitive method is preferred: a human hand with a pen or a typewriter.”

    Or just protecting your privacy. But the New Colossus seems to think that protecting your privacy is hiding and concealment and keeping secrets. Apparently, “concealment” is the new definition of “private”.

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