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
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One Response to Snowden’s Leaks and the Liberal Illusion of Control

  1. Pingback: Internet+ Effects: Control/Regulation | George Beam's Blog

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