On 17 September 2014, three days before the New Zealand general election, Pulitzer-Prize winning journalist Glenn Greenwald gave an interview that, were it properly analyzed and circulated globally, should turn geopolitics on its head and destroy the critics who claimed he was taking a political “side” in his appearance at ‘The Moment of Truth.‘
Greenwald’s answers to leading Kiwi political commentator and new media aficionado Russell Brown gets to the heart of the largest conceivable electoral issue: one that makes it clear our politicians are little more than reality TV stars in a projected fantasy; an illusion of democracy and governance that masks our true rulers.
The resulting conversation gives further context to the revelations of the warrant-less spying and mass-surveillance activities of the GCSB, New Zealand’s equivalent of the NSA:
Brown: … it’s not as if these activities have only taken place under governments of the right.
Greenwald: That’s a really important point. The GCSB is a long-standing agency, it’s a lot like the NSA. The NSA has grown more or less steadily regardless of whether there’s a Democratic or Republican administration, and of course currently in the United States there is a Democratic President who is perceived as more on the left than the right, and yet the NSA has grown dramatically over the last six years. These agencies really do exist outside the democratic process. They are in a sense their own autonomous beasts and election outcomes really don’t determine the extent to which they continue to grow, unfortunately. That’s part of the problem.
In pointing out that the surveillance/police state has continued to grow under the ruling parties of both political wings of most nations, Greenwald and Brown smash the left-right paradigm that divides us in one fell swoop, and soon move on to the crux of the mattter;
Brown: So what drives that growth?
Greenwald: I think that one of the things that has happened is that military structures in general have insulated themselves from the political process. And the kinds of claims that are made to justify their growth, whether putting people in fear of terrorism or other kinds of threats, are very powerful tools. No politician wants to be seen as making the country less safe, or to be vulnerable to claims that they stood in the way of the security of citizens. And these agencies are very good at manipulating public discourse to make sure that they’re continually fed greater authority and greater budgetary support – and just generally allowed to operate without much interference from political officials.
If the above were all there were to it, we could easily conclude that politicians are inept and more concerned by their own image than in performing effective oversight, and that this is evident in both the left and right political spheres.
Greenwald’s words, while enlightened and enlightening, are often written off as just being the opinion of one man.
But it doesn’t end there. Greenwald soon references disclosures made by Edward Snowden – specifically, documents containing the words of NSA officials themselves.
Greenwald: There is a document that we published maybe four or five months ago. It was an interview that was done internally at the NSA with the official in charge of foreign partnerships. And they asked him, why is it that for example in Europe, where you have wildly disparate swings in the election outcomes, from the right to the left, it doesn’t really affect the partnerships that we have with these countries’ intelligence agencies?
And he said, that’s because virtually nobody in the political process, anyone outside of the military structure, even knows these partnerships exist.
More conclusions: politicians aren’t just vain and inept, they’re in the dark and most are ostensibly happy to stay there.
Although Greenwald’s next reference is to New Zealand Green Party co-leader Russel Norman, a man who has repeatedly pressed the issue of illegal spying and mass surveillance and is the opposite of the caricature of a stereo-typical obtuse, morally-disengaged parliamentary representative, it further corroborates our theories;
Greenwald: You had the Green Party leader here in New Zealand say in an interview that I watched that he was on the committee that oversees the GCSB and yet he learned far more about what the agency does by reading our stories than he did in briefings. They really have insulated themselves from the political process and have a lot of tools to ensure that they continue to grow and their power is never questioned.
Conclusion: if not already willfully blinded by their own greed, ego, ambition, our politicians are blinded by lack of access to information required in order to make conscientious governance decisions and effectively pursue the oversight duties to which they are supposedly tasked.
The net effect for the intelligence agencies is a general immunity from political processes and from oversight; and therefore an immunity from the entire principle of democracy that, especially in the so-called “First World,” we are raised to believe is not only our societal framework and environment but an inalienable right.
Ironically the document Greenwald referenced is also an interview – not by one man with a perceived agenda, but by the NSA themselves.
In it, the “Deputy Assistant for SIGINT Operations” is asked if “foreign intelligence relationships” are “usually insulated from short-term political ups and downs.”
The Deputy Assistant answers:
NSA: For a variety of reasons, our intelligence relationships are rarely disrupted by foreign political perturbations, international or domestic.
Perturbations is a hell of a word. But what on earth does it mean?
So it means aggravations. Disturbances. But it also means;
Anxieties. Deviations. That lead to…
…discoveries! Knowledge. Evolution.
And how does this occur? What is the impetus, what are the tell-tale signs?
So it all comes down to physics and the laws of attraction. Physics is a hell of a thing to fear, or to try and avoid. Should we really want to? If new planets and solar systems can be discovered by perturbances, why are perturbances undesirable? Why are they something to be “insulated from?”
Sounds a lot like “business risk” language – for in commerce and industry, innovation can be perceived as a threat to profitability, for its ability to disrupt the status quo. This is what spawned ”Risk Management” and “Change Management” as managerial pathways.
Thus it seems our intelligence agencies, always pitched in public as critically-important mechanisms that exist to defend the rights of citizens and protect their countries, are in fact commercial enterprises motivated not by moral principles but by business “risk.”
There is undeniable environmental evidence all around us that the interests of traditional business and the interests of the planet and humanity as a whole are not in alignment.
With chaos and war all around the globe, we are left to wonder how important money or the economy will be, if our lack of innovation means there are no environmental resources left to sustain us.
The entire concept of money being more important or valuable than humanity is oxymoronical – without humanity or the planet there can be no money, no economy.
Greenwald shedding light on the utter subversion of our electoral process and the irrelevance of our politicians, is the start of a conversation that desperately needs to be had.
For while promises of political change can be so alluring – as we saw with the rise of Obama and even with attempts by smaller, new paradigm efforts like The Internet Party – if the systems they aspire to and operate in prevent them from ever achieving the core objectives of democracy then they are rendered utterly irrelevant.
As I write this, Twitter has inserted an ad into my timeline from the Bank of New Zealand. “Success as an adult hinges on being good with money” it begins.
Success as an adult hinges upon, when required, acting against your own immediate interests to ensure that your planet and future generations of your race – the human race – can continue and survive.
The ability to evolve, to learn, to grow, to live and to sustain life within our natural environment is more important than the ability to earn money within a manufactured construct.
Acting democratically is not about one vote every three or four years, or aspiring to enter a system which has been fundamentally corrupted.
It is about a true commitment to the consent of the governed; one which requires them to be informed and actively involved in achieving their own outcomes.
The greatest risk to electoral politics appears to be business and the greatest risk to business is not “perturbations” – it is itself.
For in its obsession to protect itself from perceived “risk,” the system is itself exacerbating the size of its own existential threat, every single day.
Crossposted from Contraspin.
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