When the Wave Rolled Back, Panopticon

by lizard

I’ve been thinking about this excerpt from Hunter S. Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas:

History is hard to know, because of all the hired bullshit, but even without being sure of “history” it seems entirely reasonable to think that every now and then the energy of a whole generation comes to a head in a long fine flash, for reasons nobody really understands at the time–and which never explains in retrospect, what actually happened…

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. If not across the bay, then up the Golden Gate or down 101 to Los Altos or La Honda…You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning…

So now, less than five years later, you can go up a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost SEE the high water mark–that place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

That wave has been rolling back now for nearly half a century.

The high water mark Thompson describes was the result of a collective coming of age for the post-WWII generation, a tumultuous era that saw a shift from fighting fascists and communists to the violent suppression of activists and dissidents here at home as US power brokers sought to capitalize on victory by turning the US into a global empire.

With news today of the Supreme Court gutting the 1965 Voting Rights Act, I wonder how many Boomers are shaking their heads in disbelief. The gains many people fought for, suffered for, and died for have been systemically attacked.

In an effort to remind his readers of the long-known risk of the surveillance state, Glenn Greenwald wrote this today about the Idaho senator, Frank Church. Before getting to that, I’d like to take a quick look at how disgustingly servile the lapdogs of corporate media have become.

Enter, stage right, Andrew Sorkin (this is an actual transcript of what he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box”):

There is speculation [Snowden’s] planning to fly to Havana en route to Ecuador. The government of Ecuador has confirmed it is considering an asylum application for Snowden. He faces American espionage charges now after he admitted to revealing classified documents. I got to say, this is — I feel like, A, we’ve screwed this up to even let him get to Russia. B, clearly the Chinese hate us to even let him out of the country. That says something. Russia hated us and we knew that beforehand but that’s sort of — and now, I don’t know. And my second piece of this…I would arrest him and now I’d almost arrest Glenn Greenwald, the journalist who seems to be out there, he wants to help him get to Ecuador.

This journo-drama is a convenient distraction from the scope of what citizens are being subjected to by their government.

Enter, stage left, Frank Church:

Upon completing his investigation, Church was so shocked to learn what he had discovered – the massive and awesome spying capabilities constructed by the US government with no transparency or accountability – that he issued the following warning, as reported by the New York Times, using language strikingly stark for such a mainstream US politician when speaking about his own government:

“‘That capability at any time could be turned around on the American people, and no American would have any privacy left, such is the capability to monitor everything: telephone conversations, telegrams, it doesn’t matter. There would be no place to hide.’

“He added that if a dictator ever took over, the NSA ‘could enable it to impose total tyranny, and there would be no way to fight back.'”

In what I can only imagine is a desperate attempt at sleight-of-hand pandering, the president apparently said some shit today about climate change.

Here is how he opened his ‘We Need to Act‘ song and dance:

On Christmas Eve, 1968, the astronauts of Apollo 8 did a live broadcast from lunar orbit. So Frank Borman, Jim Lovell, William Anders — the first humans to orbit the moon — described what they saw, and they read Scripture from the Book of Genesis to the rest of us back here. And later that night, they took a photo that would change the way we see and think about our world.

It was an image of Earth — beautiful; breathtaking; a glowing marble of blue oceans, and green forests, and brown mountains brushed with white clouds, rising over the surface of the moon.

And while the sight of our planet from space might seem routine today, imagine what it looked like to those of us seeing our home, our planet, for the first time. Imagine what it looked like to children like me. Even the astronauts were amazed. “It makes you realize,” Lovell would say, “just what you have back there on Earth.”

I should say there is nothing Obama could have said today that would have mattered to me.

Today, George Orwell’s 110th birthday.

The panopticon is here, brothers and sisters.

So behave.


  1. Big Johansson

    From the ruling….

    “The Fifteenth Amendment is not designed to punish for the past; its purpose is to ensure a better future. To serve that purpose, Congress—if it is to divide the States—must identify those jurisdictions to be singled out on a basis that makes sense in light of current conditions.
    (3) Respondents also rely heavily on data from the record compiled by Congress before reauthorizing the Act. Regardless of how
    one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything
    approaching the “pervasive,” “flagrant,” “widespread,” and “rampant”
    discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions
    from the rest of the Nation in 1965. Katzenbach, supra, at 308, 315,
    331. But a more fundamental problem remains: Congress did not use
    that record to fashion a coverage formula grounded in current conditions. It instead re-enacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relation to the present day.”

  2. Great post.

    Thanks in particular for the Frank Church quote.

  3. The Church quote is frightening. Hey, I know! Let’s build a fence around our country so when that dictator takes over, the people will be easy to contain.

  4. Big Johansson

    Quote, “more relevant today”. Really? Didn’t we just elect a black president? Twice?

  5. My contrarian take on the Supreme Court ruling is that maybe African Americans will see clearly how little the Democratic Party has done for them since the 1960s. Their loyalty is not deserved. Martin Luther King Jr. did not organize rallies to elect “better Democrats”. He participated in non-violent direct action. He did not like Dr. Ron Daniels last week have a parade to “give a wake up call” to the president about the war on drugs and mass incarcerations. Obama will just press the snooze button, Ron. MLKJr, the Freedom riders, etc did sit ins, strikes, etc. They were not content to vote. Voting has become a big farce at the national level anyway. I look forward to seeing what Black Agenda Report has to say about this today. They publish every Wednesday.
    As to the NSA scandal, it is revolting to hear these Vichy shills like Sorkin and Gregory spout on about journalism. They wouldn’t know how to investigate a story if it bit them in the butt. And the progressive left is just as bad with their excuses for Obama. What the NSA is doing is unconstitutional. It may be “legal” because Congress passed bad laws. But it sure trashes the 4th Amendment. What Snowden is doing is pointing out the unconstitutionality of listening to everybody’s phone calls and sweeping them up into a huge data base in Utah and keeping them for five years. What could possibly go wrong?

    Americans should not have to avoid making phone calls or worrying about criticizing their officials or taking their shoes off in airports. This is no way to live.

  6. lizard19

    according to another whistleblower, Russ Tice, he saw the order to wiretap Obama when he was a senator:

    A former agent for the National Security Agency claims that back in 2004, he was privy to orders to wiretap the phones of then-Senator Obama, reports Business Insider.

    Appearing last week on the radio program, “The Boiling Frogs Show,” Russ Tice, who worked for the agency from 2002 to 2005, said he was in possession of the order to wiretap Obama’s phones.

    “In the summer of 2004, one of the papers that I held in my hand was to wiretap a bunch of numbers associated with a 40-some-year-old senator from Illinois,” Tice said.

    “You wouldn’t happen to know where that guy lives now would you? It’s a big White House in Washington D.C. That’s who the NSA went after. That’s the President of the United States now.”

    hmmm, I wonder if the NSA found anything worthy of blackmail? is Obama a pedophile? is he an intravenous drug user? is he clinically depressed and on medication?

    like David Gregory, I’m just asking questions here ;)




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