Friday, July 5, 2013

snowden and the terror state

Trevor Paglen, They Watch the Moon, 2010.

Turnkey Tyranny, Surveillance and the Terror State

By Trevor Paglen

By exposing NSA programs like PRISM and Boundless Informant, Edward Snowden has revealed that we are not moving toward a surveillance state: we live in the heart of one. The 30-year-old whistleblower told The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald that the NSA’s data collection created the possibility of a “turnkey tyranny,” whereby a malevolent future government could create an authoritarian state with the flick of a switch. The truth is actually worse. Within the context of current economic, political and environmental trends, the existence of a surveillance state doesn’t just create a theoretical possibility of tyranny with the turn of a key—it virtually guarantees it.

For more than a decade, we’ve seen the rise of what we might call a “Terror State,” of which the NSA’s surveillance capabilities represent just one part. Its rise occurs at a historical moment when state agencies and programs designed to enable social mobility, provide economic security and enhance civic life have been targeted for significant cuts. The last three decades, in fact, have seen serious and consistent attacks on social security, food assistance programs, unemployment benefits and education and health programs. As the social safety net has shrunk, the prison system has grown. The United States now imprisons its own citizens at a higher rate than any other country in the world.

While civic parts of the state have been in retreat, institutions of the Terror State have grown dramatically. In the name of an amorphous and never-ending “war on terror,” the Department of Homeland Security was created, while institutions such as the CIA, FBI and NSA, and darker parts of the military like the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) have expanded considerably in size and political influence. The world has become a battlefield—a stage for extralegal renditions, indefinite detentions without trial, drone assassination programs and cyberwarfare. We have entered an era of secret laws, classified interpretations of laws and the retroactive “legalization” of classified programs that were clearly illegal when they began. Funding for the secret parts of the state comes from a “black budget” hidden from Congress—not to mention the people—that now tops $100 billion annually. Finally, to ensure that only government-approved “leaks” appear in the media, the Terror State has waged an unprecedented war on whistleblowers, leakers and journalists. All of these state programs and capacities would have been considered aberrant only a short time ago. Now, they are the norm.

Monday, July 1, 2013

on the new phase in greece

Brutal Nihilism

by Yannis Stavrakakis

The recent decision to shut down ERT, the Greek public radio and television, has shocked the international community due to its brutal symbolism. However, although it constitutes a serious escalation of the ‘shock and awe’ strategy unfolding in Greece during the last three years, it should not cause surprise. The thoroughly unexpected and violent blackening of the screens has only highlighted the nihilism characteristic of the dominant policies already implemented under the auspices of European and international institutions.

While in the first stages of the crisis the imposition of the austerity avalanche involved and relied on its meaningful packaging, its embellishment with an ideological meaning able to secure a minimum of hegemonic consent – even one based on fear, blame, moralism and demonization – during the last period a variety of indications signal the passage into a new phase. Decision-making has gradually stopped claiming any concretely meaningful foundation, it lost any interest in winning consent – even through fear and extortion. What remains is, thus, its brutal imposition. It is not an illness, anymore, that justifies the (bitter) medication; it is not guilt that justifies the (harsh) punishment. Medication and punishment are autonomised and affect severely and equally the ill and the healthy, those who are guilty and those who are not-guilty, very often without the articulation of any persuasive justification. As a result, politics and policy is detached from any reasonable content and domination is reduced to repression. Distanced from any real argumentative support, the measures implemented openly reveal their functioning in favor of establishing a nihilistic system of domination through cruelty, which reduces citizens to ‘serfs’. This seems to be their only meaning and purpose.