Tag Archives: edward snowden

The Politics of Surveillance and the Self

big-brother

by Guy Walker

We want too much. We want to read every email and analyze every dick pic every politician ever sent. But we also want the petrified banality of our own daily online routines to be kept private. We want our intellectual stratum of Pornhub, Snapchat, naked photos of celebrities, drunken text messages, emails to our grandmothers, to be our sacred guilty pleasures. But then we also shove our personalities into the public stratosphere, yelling “Look at this goat cheese salad! Look at my face! Look at my cute doggy!” until somebody nods some vague acknowledgement from across the world and likes our most recent online post.

It’s a matter of torment and contrast. Privacy is one of the truly meaningful comforts, one that we take for granted. You’re granted privacy in the womb, bobbing in warm gelatin for nine months until you are shoved into the screaming florescent chaos of day 1 of the rest of your life. When you die, you’re packed neatly into a plush mahogany box you have all to yourself, and are lain deep in the cold dank earth until the bugs and worms make their way in and spread you across the field. There’s something perverse and orgiastic to mass graves—even when we understand ontologically that it doesn’t actually matter if we are thrown in a pit with the rest of them, we prefer a more private decay. In just the several short decades between the beginnings and endings of true privacy, we can only scramble for moments of it, cherishing them like small glowing gems in the night. Usually, we just heave along with the rest of the herd.

It’s the State, we say. It’s their fault we’re all paranoid. The State has always been an encroachingly over-curious uncle who wants to know the sum of our banalities, one that only grows more huge and overbearing the older he gets, with more tools of this queer invisible surveillance available to him. He wants to know how we actually dance like no one’s watching, and justifies his gross desire in the name of protecting his home.

But state surveillance is nothing new. Chinese general Sun Tzu wrote in his lionized paper The Art of War: “Enlightened rulers and good generals who are able to obtain intelligent agents as spies are certain for great achievements.” And from spies bred suspicion. In ancient Rome, politician and orator Cicero wrote to his friend, “I cannot find a faithful message-bearer. How few are they who are able to carry a rather weighty letter without lightening it by reading.” East Germany of course had the Stasi, one of the most notoriously repressive secret police agencies in history.

In the United States, the real expansiveness of state surveillance began immediately after WWII with Project SHAMROCK and its sister project, Project MINARET. They were espionage operations responsible for the largest collection of intelligence on US citizens in the nation’s history. The Armed Forces Security Agency (AFSA) and its successor, the NSA, were given access to all telegraph data passing across American borders, analyzing up to 150,000 messages a month. The NSA shuffled off whatever information-of-interest to the government law enforcement or intelligence agency most applicable: the FBI, CIA, Secret Service, Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs (BNDD), and the Department of Defense.

SHAMROCK and MINARET operated without warrants and under no approval from any court until May of 1975, when the NSA terminated the two projects because of Congressional pressure and investigation. The intentions of the program were obvious: to seek out any traitors within the nation’s borders, to discover them invisibly, hidden behind the curtain of data, to rid the country of threat bred at home.

1978 saw the creation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which required a process of warrants and judicial reviews if the NSA sought to intercept certain data from a civilian. The Patriot Act of 2001 corrupted this, especially through its Titles I and II: ‘Enhancing domestic security against terrorism’ and ‘Surveillance procedures,’ respectively. So when Edward Snowden exposed the NSA’s warrantless wiretapping of millions of Americans, everybody more or less shit themselves.

Oliver Stone just released the biopic Snowden, animating the human element to the story we know so well by now. In an interview with Vice News, investigative journalist Jason Leopold explains that when Stone made JFK back in 1991, it influenced the creation of the JFK Records Act, which consequently taught us about programs such as Operation Northwoods—the proposed operation signed off by the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Department of Defense in 1962 to commit acts of terror on American citizens and blame it on the Cuban government. Does Stone have an interest in creating a dialogue that will possibly pardon Snowden?

Julian Assange blames Snowden for trying to cozy up to the likes of Obama and Clinton in the hope of being pardoned. But there’s no reason to consider why Obama would do this—under his administration, more whistleblowers have been prosecuted under the 1917 Espionage Act than all previous presidents combined. Introduced by President Woodrow Wilson shortly after the US entry into World War I, the Espionage Act was designed for spies—agents giving intel to the enemy, those who Wilson declared were “born under other flags.”

In May of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, in Manhattan, ruled that the mass collection of phone records of millions of Americans was illegal, that the Patriot Act does not in fact authorize the unwarranted collection of calling records in bulk.

So what about this election? At the first Presidential debate, there was no discussion around the more recent war on whistleblowers. At the Democratic Primary debate, when asked if Edward Snowden should do jail time, Hillary Clinton responded by saying, “In addition—in addition, he stole very important information that has unfortunately fallen into a lot of the wrong hands. So I don’t think he should be brought home without facing the music.” Donald Trump has previously grunted that he should be killed. Then he coughed, and a cloud of Cheeto dust burst from his smutty mouth.

Lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee signed a bipartisan letter to President Obama urging him not to pardon or grant clemency to Snowden, because he “perpetrated the largest and most damaging public disclosure of classified information in our nation’s history.” Daniel Ellsberg is certainly in support of a pardon, but added, “As things stand, I think the chance that this or any president will pardon Snowden is zero.”

It’s a sinister feeling to know you’re always being quietly monitored. All the hipsters favorite namedrop, Slavoj Žižek, disagrees. He apparently loves being watched. In an interview at the International Authors’ Stage, he crudely admitted that he doesn’t care if a government is reading through his emails because he has nothing to hide, because “people are stupid,” and if someone did read through his emails it would be the comparative of showing a newspaper of Hegel’s Logic to a cow. “This is where they feel most horrified, you know, when they learn that you don’t care.” This is an old brittle position to say I don’t care if they watch me, I have nothing to hide. It’s something Snowden himself said is the equivalent of I don’t care about the first amendment because I don’t have much to say. It’s insane and inapplicable to the argument.

But indeed the surveillance system reaches beyond the NSA’s unwarranted wiretapping or its mass collection of metadata. Michel Foucault said much of Freudian psychoanalysis was guilty in its contribution to what he called “disciplinary society,” keeping the whole of the citizenry under constant surveillance, through the institutional and structural design of schools, prisons, hospitals, and work places. Even the buildings themselves are constructed in a way to best keep watch over the people within, consequently keeping them in a constant state of submission. The Orwellian comparisons have become cliche for a reason: the desire to watch over a people is only becoming more desperate and gruesome, until every post-it note and dark hole has an HD camera monitoring it.

Surveillance isn’t a secondary issue in this presidential election cycle. There is a serious dialogue to be had, one that debates a more wholesome and trustworthy approach to our national security, one that doesn’t end in more paranoia, more secrets, more prosecution of whistleblowers. Surveillance on the scale of a nation is the gross simulation of a scripted buttered hell—everyone fucking with the lights off, everyone pooping silently in the dark.

Iggy Azalea and the Death of Freedom

aeonflux

“The high pool is always steaming. What witch will rise up on the white sunset? What purple foliage will descend? …While public funds flow into fraternal holidays, a clock of pink fire strikes in the clouds.” Rimbaud

An ambrosial heaving sun made the four men sweat, standing and talking amongst themselves on the asphalt atop the Santa Monica stairs. The insignificant veins of shade cast from the many manicured palm trees did not provide any reprieve for the men, but they were strong men so they were tougher than the sun. Their shaven chests were immaculate, perfectly glistened with diamonds of sweat, their iPods velcroed around their biceps, their headphones draped around their necks like loosened neckties. Beside them, a young black guy wearing a headband was playing Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y on his boom box as loud as it would go as he hopped around on work-out cones. “Pussy, pussy, pussy” Iggy repeated. One of the four men adjusted his cock, just a useless reposition, as if to make certain it was still there. Another uncrossed his arms and then crossed them again. The man wearing Adidas striped basketball shorts cleared his throat and then said “There’s no way they’re real. No fucking way, dude. She’s a tease anyways. I’d let her suck my cock, but that’s it bro.” “I guaranfuckintee they are,” the blonde crewcut one said, “and no, I’d definitely fuck her, I’d just maybe slap her as well.” They argued like this as various libidinal types ascended the stairs, usually moderately young men and women reaching the top of the stairs and then turning back again, returning to the bottom. Everyone repeated this awful hopeless routine like Botoxed automatons, walking up and down again and again until everything was clenched and taut, until their tiny unctuous assholes pulsed in and out with stair-walking fatigue. Hundreds of people here do this every day, pacing back and forth in a way, like a Smerdyakov character lost on a displaced treadmill, kicking the modish dust back towards a desert. A tragedy of adventure, a drunken childhood that never explored a cave. In front, lined $10 million homes, all pruned and maintained by Mexicans—that’s what the owners of the houses called all of them anyways—their lawnmowers and blowers trimming everything into tidy slavish lawns, neat rose bushes that waited like old ladies sitting with clotted lipstick and heavy jewelry, geraniums tired of beauty, a few remaining bees fading away. A chihuahua barked obsessively at a Mexican man digging in the soil around a freshly planted birds-of-paradise. A woman in a purple bathrobe and perfectly combed hair and grossly thin lips opened the stained-glass front door and stepped outside. “Jeremy! Jeremy! Get back in here you adorable little monster!” And the chihuahua turned and ran into the house, and then barked again at the Mexican as the woman closed the door.

The egodystonic fuckery of our banal modern existence did not just appear out of nowhere. The utter triteness of affluent America isn’t merely the temporary prima donnian resolve of an ill-fated Big Bang, nor is it an ontological mess of countless evolutionary fuckups  .  .  .  yes, the four men standing around proud of their sweat are in some ways the horrid face of billions of years of cosmological occurrence, of various colliding supernovae and pulsars, but still, there is more complexity here. There is a demon at work, a heautontimoroumenos of a trite undertaking. Iggy Azalea’s Pu$$y—presumably the dollar bill signs represent ’S’ in the English alphabet, as Iggy repeats ‘pussy’ over and over again—signifies something close to the culmination of universal Self-Torment. In the music video, Iggy licks a few different popsicles, holds an umbrella on a normal dry day, and lays her head in the crotch of a little black boy who was previously riding on a plastic electric horse as he slaps the inanimate object’s ass. The video itself is not anything new or especially provocative—merely a blonde Australian girl with a huge ass supposedly rapping about pussy. But it is difficult to determine exactly what Iggy Azalea is trying to communicate to us—is she in fact rapping about the condition of her pussy, or is she stating that men spend egregious amounts of money and thought on getting any pussy they can, or is she actually claiming that the nomological determinists were correct about Laplace’s Demon, that in fact we have no moral responsibility today because the laws of the universe previous to our birth determined everything that is and everything that ever will be? Let us examine:

It is rumored that if you play the song backwards at the same time you play the audio of Kim Kardashian’s moanings in her sex video, you can hear Kamikaze war planes exploding. I tried it when I was alone and particularly bored, and the rumors lack any serious evidence of such. But the banality of her music video, as well as Kim’s as she imitates a donkey, as well as countless other spectacles of our sexuality in popular culture, represents something of a higher order. Iggy’s song and video is interesting because it is so uninteresting. Perhaps we are desensitized to the mountains of cock and tits that swell over us, but perhaps it is more than this. Aldous Huxley, author of the dystopian classic Brave New World, made the claim that the rise of our sexual freedom coincides directly with our political enslavement: “As political and economic freedom diminishes, sexual freedom tends compensatingly to increase. And the dictator  .  .  .  will do well to encourage that freedom  .  .  .  It will help to reconcile his subjects to the servitude which is their fate.” Now, the religious folk will predictably applaud such a claim; they still protest that we should not have threesomes, that we should wait until marriage before falling asleep in the same room, that we should wear full-legged knickers over our bathing suits, that women’s panties should be huge. As a child attending Sunday school, I once had a teacher who told me we should all be striving to be like Mother Mary, to give birth to a child without any fornication whatsoever. Here we are caught between two worlds: one that popularizes sex until it becomes an indistinct fustian hunchback of dick, and another that is so afraid of anatomy and pleasure. And even though marriage as a societal institution predates all known recorded history, its original role was obviously never meant as a declaration of love, but as a banal alliance between families  .  .  .  and monogamy wasn’t mandated until the 9th century, when the Catholic Church could declare and enforce law.

The Church has always fucked everything up for us sexually. Dildos for example existed in the Upper Palaeolithic period 30,000 years ago, made of stone, tar, and wood, found in the Hohle Fels Cave in Germany. Didlo-like breadsticks existed in Greece prior to the fifth century. Today, American Baptist preacher Dan Ireland has spoken out against all fake dicks, stating “There are moral ways and immoral ways to use a firearm  .  .  .  There are no moral ways to use [a dildo]. They entice improper and potentially deadly behavior.” It is an interesting argument he makes: guns are good, but dildos can kill people. In some ways he’s right. I know a firefighter very well who found an obese dead guy prone on the bed, with a mechanized dildo still penetrating his ass after at least a couple days of laying dead. I wish I was making this shit up. Dildos are deadly. But then so are Bibles and toothbrushes and catnip. So why is Dan Ireland so afraid of dildos? Was he beaten with one as a child? Did he walk in on his father? In 1998, the Anti-Obscenity Enforcement Act prohibited the sale of sex toys in Alabama, and it still stands today. Dildos are only black market material in Alabama. Condoms are another example. They were used at least as far back as 11,000 years ago. In China, in the 1400’s A.D., they would wrap it in sheep intestines, and then pack it into their lover like a marshmallow into a keyhole. The Catholic Church has always been outspoken against the use of condoms, but they are great at covering up child molestation. Religion prospers during war and economic strife, but when exactly does it fade, consequently opening room for further sexual liberation? French philosopher Michel Foucault agreed with Huxley, in that furthering sexual liberation also ushered in “devious and discreet form[s] of power.” But one must remain skeptical of the intellectuals, because yes, Foucault and Huxley are considered by most as smart men, but Foucault was bald and Huxley had a terribly dull love life, and a man is still a man, no matter how strict and revered an academic he is, meaning they were both likely bitter non-alpha types. Wilhelm Reich on the other hand ushered in the sexual liberation to the United States immediately following the second World War, and he did so as a psychoanalyst, and he fucked more women than the most pernicious Lotharios today. So where are we today? Yes, Iggy Azalea does rap about her albino vagina freely, but rates of sex-slavery are also higher today than any point in human history, something not so representative of an era’s sexual freedom. Benjamin Netanyahu, Prime Minister of Israel, illustrates this perfectly  .  .  .  he spent £11,300 on his wife’s hair and make-up in a single year, and she is still fat and repulsive. So we are left wondering: does force-fed improvement actually improve anything? Does the popularization of sex actually make us more liberated? Edward Snowden even admitted the NSA can see all of your dickpics, something terrifying for modern man.

I slept with a Hungarian woman last night. It was fine and all, but I couldn’t help but wonder if we were only fucking because there is drone warfare spread throughout the Middle East, killing innocents who will never receive their justice. Does our gasping from a particularly sordid 69 originate as a direct way of coping with the NSA’s Prism program? Is reverse cowgirl in fact a testament of the disparity of wealth across the country and the world? Aldous Huxley thinks so. So does Michel Foucault. I spend a fair amount of my time and money staring at women in their lingerie as they twirl around a metal pole at Jumbo’s Clown Room, a burlesque bar in Los Angeles, and the dancers’ coquettish physiognomy that follows. Some people prefer to walk up and down stairs in the sun. Some attend church, handing money into baskets as they go by. I sit as the dancers twirl, throwing my money on the stage, drinking beer as California dries up.

God is dead. Iggy Azalea is dead. We are nearly there. The Chihuahua barks one last time then curls next to the woman and closes its eyes. Iggy’s fat ass wasn’t enough to keep the awful night away. She never had the guts to stay alive. Ferdinand Louis Celine said it best: “So many vaginas, stomachs, cocks, snouts, and flies you don’t know what to do with them … shovelsfull! … but hearts? … very rare! in the last five hundred million years too many cocks and gastric tubes to count … but hearts? … on your fingers! …”

Chancroidial Proof that Seth Rogen is Kim Jong Un

by Guy Walker

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The image is always the same. A squalid, yet verdurous Bethlehem, gentle and peaceful in its scenery, peasants pulling creaking wooden carts full of hardened breads, dead birds, and sinless obedient children covered in the mire of prayer and utter boredom. The town bells ring. A dove farts, then flies away under the parting clouds. Everyone is preparing in their forgetful timid ways, for another Jewish baby to be born. But this isn’t just any Jewish baby. This baby’s mother swears her and her husband don’t fuck. Rumors spread throughout the country that indeed she is quite prudish, and so the lonely oligarchs come with presents, and the stars shine a little brighter for us this night.

The birth of Jesus was indeed significant for many reasons. For instance, time began. For another, centuries of war and hatred and overall misery began not in the name of healthy animalistic impulse, but rather in the name of love. Another: Starbucks, Best Buy, K Mart, and many other doloric laboratories of perpetual grief sell several times their regular numbers around the time of his designated birth, as if to say, Another country peasant was born. Let’s buy stuff! Christmas is good for us. Many 16-year-old girls in Calabasas were just gifted their first of many BMW’s. Many women in Newport Beach were given new tits. My cat ate a special dinner of wet food instead of his regular dry food. But as important as all this is, the birth of Jesus is still a secondary abstract peroration in the line of a happy and free society; it’s a trifling stroke in the historic strength of the first world. America’s freedom has recently been jeopardized—North Korea has tried to take our movies away. Prominent leaders in the first world have been recently seen chanting in the streets of Hollywood, throwing crumpled napkins at the clouds, protesting the trauma caused to them by Kim Jong Un and the alleged Guardians of Peace—the cyberhackers who compromised the private information of thousands of Sony Corporation employees. Jesus can’t save us! they chant, but Seth Rogen sure can! I toured the famous avenues today, as I do everyday, hopping on every star on the Walk of Fame like it was happy celebrity hopscotch. Then I took a photo with Superman and giggled with all the cute Japanese girls as we took three thousand selfies with an extended pole. And all the stars were out. Not Jesus’s guiding stars, and not the Walk of Fame stars—the real movie stars, in their naked morbid flesh. They were having an event, waving a tremendous banner that read, “Freedom of Speech Against Kim Jong Un and his Little Dick.” Everyone was there, sucking each other, smiling, never not smiling, waving at the flashing cameras. It was a chancroidial fetid nightmare—thousands of assholes and armpits and tongues intermingling. Everyone quite literally had a very brown nose. Brett Ratner had his face plunged into Spielberg’s graying butt hair, licking it ferociously, Spielberg giggling uncontrollably, clawing at the piss-stained gum-matted sidewalk. Ro-gen! the masses of groping famous bodies chanted. Ro-gen! We’re just women and men, and we love Seth Ro-gen!

Seth Rogen is the writer, director, and star of the feature film The Interview, currently amidst much international controversy around the issues of censorship and freedom of speech. A national outcry has erupted over whether or not the Canadian high school dropout can release his movie, something even President Obama has expressed much concern over, even considering whether or not to return North Korea to the terror watch list. But Rogen is one of those strange diabolically misshapen lackeys of life who cannot actually summon enough comedy to be controversial. He’s a lightweight comedian at best, but he is still very much overweight. When you see him speak and then make the grunting gestures of laughter at his own jokes, you can almost taste his lonely nihilism pushing out with the tears of his sweat. Seth Rogen has the ugliest laugh in the history of the world. I want to pee on him. We laugh because he’s the fat kid in school we don’t want to go on a rampage because he didn’t get enough attention, a dismal L’Heautontimoroumenos who masturbated too many times to feel anything anymore.

The wry irony in the outcry over Rogen’s movie is that while we Americans refuse to be censored by another overweight imperious Korean man, we don’t stir much dour opposition over Edward Snowden’s compulsory expatriation for exposing the NSA’s massive domestic spying program, or Chelsea Manning’s thirty-five year imprisonment for his release of American military warcrimes, or Julian Assange’s indefinite asylum for his evangelical testament for freedom of the press.

We go to the movies to spend an hour and a half watching someone with a more fantastic life than ours. The very act of going to the movies is a fervent inveigling drama that we are blue miasmic animals, so tired of this life of ours. It’s the ultimate nihilism. But it’s not all that different from laying on your back in the dirt, staring at the stars, wondering what this life is all about. It’s beautiful in a way, until you realize you’re not the attractive man winning on the huge screen. Even writing is a contentious business—I have created far more enemies than friends through the written word—and of all the inflammatory nightmares I have dreamt up, my mom finally said I need to start being a man of grace. Last night I had a dream about Rimbaud, but he was such aggravating company, he just drank and threw bottles at me. I don’t know what that’s supposed to mean, but I do know that writers are the worst of hypocrites—they don’t actually live. Every twenty-something year old with a stupid hat standing in line for an art opening with a title of something like “Illegal Paradise is Upon Us,” will mechanically quote their Nietzsche, so desperately trying to convince us they might be something of a serious intellectual themselves. Live Dangerously! Nietzsche declared, as he literally chained himself to his desk, forcing himself not to live, but to write. He slept with one woman in his whole flaccid desolate life—a whore, who he contracted syphilis from. Writers are awful creatures. That’s why Seth Rogen is a writer.

Hollywood’s own hypocrisy is beyond measure. They happily mock North Korea for their poor Orwellian idealism, representing the entire society as having not a single independent thought, no passionate loves, no heartbreak or tragic wonder, no lonely squalid nights that send us to the edge of life. But they refuse to discuss it in interviews, or sign petitions, just as they refuse to recognize the iniquitous genocide of the Palestinians, afraid their own pallid lachrymose careers will end in a cold wind. But we’re all guilty. We’ve all snorted too much horse tranquilizer in too many cold florescent bathrooms, that our smiles become weak fixtures of happiness—we stand under the buzzing city lights in the middle of the night, frantic for some fried chicken, not knowing that eventually we’re going to screw it all up.

In 1945, when Korea was liberated from decades of Japanese rule, there was overwhelming support from within Korea itself to be unified and self-governed. Russia came down from the north, the United States came from the south, and they met roughly at the 45th parallel with ensuing violence and almost a million and a half dead. Dropping 800 tons of bombs a day, the United States dropped more napalm and bombs on North Korea than they did in all of the Pacific during WWII. U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay stated, “we went over there and fought the war and eventually burned down every town in North Korea anyway, some way or another, and some in South Korea too.” In the later stages of the war, because the United States had destroyed every meaningful military and communication target in North Korea, they began bombing a series of hydroelectric dams—which is a serious warcrime in itself—killing unnumbered Korean peasants, flooding and destroying all food crops, and wiping out the entire power grid in North Korea for two weeks.

The Interview may just be another routine comedy, another gilded masturbation that will be completely forgotten in a few years. But it might not be. If we look deep into the bilious heart of it, we can unlock Seth Rogen’s fustian contention. In Ludwig Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus, he highlights that the world itself cannot be a collection of things, but rather of facts. Our day-to-day is one great fetid orgy, interacting with laws and effects. I desire a woman’s marvelous body not because of her breasts and curves and sensual drama as things of themselves, but rather because the erotic fact of beauty makes it so. If we read deep enough into his Philosophicus, we realize the frightening truth about Seth Rogen: “The specification of all true elementary propositions describes the world completely. The world is completely described by the specification of all elementary propositions plus the specification, which of them are true and which are false…With regard to the existence to n atomic facts there are Kn = SUMMATION(v=0 to n, binom-coeff(n over v))  possibilities.” Meaning Seth Rogen could be anything, any queer monster we were too afraid dream of. If we plug “Seth Rogen” into n atomic facts, we find our definitive answer: Seth Rogen is in fact Kim Jong Un himself—fat and relishing and always laughing at his own traumatic existence.

After its first week after release, The Interview is the highest grossing online movie of all time. The despondent calamity of Kim Jong Un spreads throughout the terrible bleak countryside, and Seth Rogen picks his nose and chuckles.