Snowden’s Leaks and the Liberal Illusion of Control

James Bamford (New York Review of Books, 8/15/13), begins his discussion of Edward Snowden’s leaks of National Security Agency documents with comments about George Orwell’s 1984, a novel of a fictitious totalitarian society where the population is controlled through invasive surveillance.  “Of course”, Bamford continues, “the US is not a totalitarian society, . . . as the widespread reporting of Snowden’s information shows (emphasis added)”.  That’s the liberal illusion of control, viz., that control goes down as reportage of it, as well as opposition and dissent to it, goes up.  What Bamford and other believers in democracy, freedom, and the Easter Bunny fail to acknowledge is that widespread reporting of invasive surveillance (and all other control procedures) only shows that effective, extensive (total is not possible) control in the US (and in other liberal societies) is maintained while tolerating exposure of “invasive surveillance” (as well as dissent and opposition).  The US, like other liberal societies, is tolerant but does not, “of course”, relinquish its control.  Actually (and as every behaviorist knows), liberal control, because it rewards compliance, is much more effective than “totalitarian” control which penalizes lack of compliance.  See also, Herbert Marcuse, One-Dimensional Man, and Repressive Tolerance and, more recently in the same vein, Sheldon Wolin, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism.  Rousseau also affirms the reality of control in every circumstance, (“man is . . . everywhere in chains”) even while sometimes babbling about freedom (“man is born free”).

About georgebeam

George Beam is an educator and author. The perspectives that inform his interpretations of the topics of this blog–-as well as his other writings and university courses -–are system analysis, behaviorism, and Internet effects. Specific interests include quality management, methodology, and politics. He is Associate Professor Emeritus, Department of Public Administration; Affiliated Faculty, Department of Political Science; and, previously, Head, Department of Public Administration, University of Illinois at Chicago
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s