Now that the PRISM cat has been let out of the bag, the spies and former spies are coming out of the cupboards to do damage management. (I wrote a post about some of this last week). What’s interesting is that they give us an insight into how these discussions go on behind closed doors. For one of the saddest aspect of security services work is that smart people are diverted into work that is essentially self-generating and recursive; in that respect it’s like investment banking. Think what might be achieved if those resources and intellect were turned instead to solving, say, problems of hunger or poverty. But I digress.
Anyway, when it comes to damage control, there is a couple of contrasting approaches. But both sidestep the main issue: that public secrecy is a form of political corruption. (more…)
I spotted this in a review by the critic Terry Eagleton:
Bertolt Brecht tells the tale of a king in the East who was pained by all the suffering in the world. So he called his wise men together and asked them to inquire into its cause. The wise men duly looked into the matter, and returned with the news that the cause of the world’s suffering was the king.
Even if you’re not doing anything wrong you’re being watched and recorded. … You simply have to eventually fall under suspicion from somebody even by a wrong call. And then they can use this system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you’ve ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with. And attack you on that basis to sort to derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.
It pulled me up short because it reminded me of The Crucible, Arthur Miller’s play set against the backdrop of the 1692 Salem witch trials. Of course, The Crucible was an allegory about America’s domestic Cold War politics, of McCarthy, HUAC and “Are you now or have you ever been…?”.
So, suddenly the whole thing laid itself out for me. Let me try to explain. (more…)