I don’t often write about current events, but I thought I should say something about this whole NSA-spying-on-us scandal.
Here’s what I have to say: “big deal.”
As a child of the 60’s, I feel as though I should be much more upset about this than I am. After all, I spent my formative, Nixon-era years building up a baseline mistrust of the government, and I remember being thoroughly outraged at the revelation that J. Edgar Hoover had secret files on influential Americans hidden beneath his panty drawer.
But this new thing about the National Security Agency collecting our phone records and tracking our Internet activities? Meh.
I’ve done some soul-searching in an attempt to discover why I’m so unperturbed about this obvious invasion of privacy. I think there are three reasons:
- I’m at the age now where I’m confident that I’m never going to do anything radical enough to attract the government’s attention. Going to the movies on a weeknight is about as radical as I get these days.
- While as a younger man I was concerned about the government taking away my freedoms, now I’m more concerned about the government taking away my Medicare. As long as I’ll get Medicare and Social Security in a few years, they can pretty much do whatever the hell else they want.
- Americans today deserve to have the government poking around in their personal lives. We’ve made it way too easy. Americans broadcast their personal lives for everyone to see, no surveillance equipment necessary.
I mean, come on, no one knows how to keep a secret anymore. If someone is thinking of joining the Communist party, they’ll put it up as a Facebook status. (“Mood: Marxist.”) Terrorists probably recruit other terrorists on Linked In. “Mohammed invites you to join his Al Qaeda cell. Accept? Decline?”
The government doesn’t really have to snoop; it can just subscribe to everyone’s Twitter feed. “Going to mail my ricin letter now. BRB.”
Apparently, the NSA is building a million-square-foot data-mining complex in Bluffdale, Utah (motto: “Home to the new NSA Data-Mining Complex”) that will be capable of storing five zettabytes of data. To give you an idea of how much that is, if your laptop had one zettabyte of storage…well, let’s just say I’m pretty sure you would not be allowed to hang around Starbucks pretending to write a novel. Also, you’d need a heck of a big lap.
Seriously, a zettabyte (from the ancient Greek word meaning “a friggin’ boatload”) is one trillion gigabytes, or probably enough floppy disks to make a walkway to the next galaxy. It’s easily enough storage to hold every word Stephen King has ever written, including letters home from camp when he was a child. (“Honey, it’s a letter from Stephen. Come hold my hand while I read it.”)
I’ll tell you who really gets my sympathy in this story. It’s not all of us spied-on Americans, and it’s not Edward Snowden, the whistle-blower/leaker/traitor/patriot who broke the story. It’s the poor NSA employee who has to sort through all that data. Here’s this well-educated person, let’s call him Duane. He probably had to have all the minutia of his life examined with a microscope just to get the job, and he likely told his mother “Don’t tell anyone, but I’m working on a highly-classified government project that will be the basis for our national security for years to come,” a secret she proudly passed along to all “the girls,” particularly that bitch Phyllis Dunleavy with her son, the surgeon, who she’s always squawking about.
But now Duane finds himself in the boondocks of Utah (otherwise known as “The Boondocks of the Boondocks”), reading that 17-year-old Buffy Singfroid of Wilmington, Delaware just broke up with her boyfriend and changed her status to “single” but isn’t all that depressed about it because, anyway, she’s had her eye on Ali Ak-rev, which is a vaguely Arab-sounding name, which is why it showed up on poor Duane’s screen, even though Ali Ak-rev is in no way a terrorist or even an Arab, but, rather, a drummer in a Star Wars tribute band who took his moniker from Ak-rev, the Weequay drummer in Jabba the Hutt’s house band in Return of the Jedi.* Ali Ak-rev’s real name is Allan Goldfarb, and he poses no immediate threat to national security, although his band, Ewok & Roll, is really awful, as Duane finds out because he has to watch Ewok & Roll’s homemade music video on YouTube.
You really have to feel for Duane, don’t you?
See you soon.
*I very much want you to know that I scanned a list of Star Wars characters to find one with a vaguely Arab-sounding name and did not know all this stuff off the top of my head.