THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 388, October 8, 2006
"Why Don't They Get It?"
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
That great conceptualizer and genuine security expert Bruce Schneier likes to point out that the fedgov is fighting the war for terrorism as if it were scripting a Hollywood blockbuster. They plan for a terrorist gang armed with suitcase nukes descending on the Empire State Building in helicopters in broad daylight taking the beautiful young wife of the nation's most powerful senator hostage.
Despite all their talk, they really don't plan all that well for less film-worthy, but perhaps more likely, attacks. They go for the Harrison Ford/Bruce Willis approach.
It's understandable. After all, the 9/11 hijackers picked the most Hollywood method they could think of. And besides, there's no doubt an appeal to "goin' for the glory" in your planning. You, too, might get the Harrison Ford role in real life, Mr. Homeland (Achtung!) Security 'crat.
But that got me thinking. If they're such big movie fans, how come they're not also learning from science fiction movies?
I'm talking about those "control the people through total surveillance" movies. Or "total surveillance plus mood-controlling drugs" or "control the people through censorship" or "control the people through whatever" movies. Movies like Equilibrium or 1984 or The Matrix or V for Vendetta.
Don't they see what happens? Don't they see that someone always gets out of control? Then the whole system is exposed for the barbarity it is. There may be torture and repression and death to follow after the initial breakout. But once the control starts to break, the system is Humpty Dumpty. It can never be put back together again.
True, the first people to break out take huge risks, often suffer horribly, and are even defeated (like Winston Smith at the end of 1984. But you know that if the story of 1984 went on from there in real life, at some point Big Brother would overreach. He wouldn't be able to provide for all the people. Someone would find a way of consistently keeping the ever-changing propaganda "facts" out of the memory hole. There would be an underground, an Internet, a mass monkeywrenching. Big Brother would fall.
Neither the worst dictators of earth nor film have yet found a way to maintain perfect control over us. And they never will. Human beings just don't work that way. Force us to take deadening drugs, and some will take placebos and see the reality. Deny us information and the Samizdat will provide. Chip us and chip-screwing technologies will soon follow. Kill us and you just piss off a whole bunch more others. Try to control through placating and feeding everybody (and monitoring every bite they take) and eventually you can't print enough monopoly money or hire enough armed agents to keep all your promises or carry out all your threats.
You collapse in a stinking heap of lack-of-credulity.
So why don't these big movie fans, up there in the Great White Temples of Our Glorious Fatherland, get that? What hubris enables them to believe that, for the first time in all history, they will be the ones to impose total control on a populationespecially a historically individualistic, rebellious American population?
Do they really believe that their databases, their RFID chips, their datamining, their xray machines, and their surveillance cameras will magically give them the power no Stalin or Napoleon had to spy on his subjects and keep them in line?
Why do they not understand that, ultimately, smart, free people on the controlled side will find ways of turning those very things against them? And meanwhile the less technically inclined will use plan old non-tech methods to monkey the works?
I can see the surveillance goons ignoring the message of movies like V for Vendetta. Alas, we don't have any superheroes hanging around with millions of dollars in resources and miraculous physical powers. But the message of so many of those other movies is that Ordinary Joe, or Ordinary Jill can be the one to break the hold. Neo, a screw-up hacker; Winston Smith, a petty bureaucrat; Vincent Freeman in Gattaca, supposedly a genetic sub-normal, who games the system every which way to achieve his dream of going into space despite his "inferior" DNA.
Why don't they get it?
Another kind of movie our present crop should watch are some of the German films I've been catching lately, films like Downfall and After the Fall which expose the nature of the people very similar to the ones who now fancy themselves our Homeland Heroes.