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Geeks missing the point

Posted on June 11th, by tac in Social Issues. 5 comments

Found on Slashdot:

Most people fear things that are very unlikely to happen:

-Death from terrorism
-Death from oppressive government

We rant and shout with each other over which one is the bigger threat.

Meanwhile, most of us die from lack of proper personal health (diet, exercise, etc) or automobile wrecks, all of which are 100% within our ability to control.

This comment was posted as part of the discussion of a Pew poll showing that a slim majority of Americans support programs such as PRISM in order to combat terrorism.  It was ranked as insightful by the geeky community of Slashdot.  Thus proving once again that geeks are just a fucking stupid as everyone else on these subjects.

The commenter completely fails to comprehend that these fears are a question of individual agency, as opposed to an absolute fear of death itself.  Dying because one has chosen to enjoy an unhealthy, but pleasurable, lifestyle is a choice one makes.  Dying to a terrorist attack or government oppression is a choice someone else makes for you.

Such matters are not about the twisted utilitarian world the commenting geek inhabits, where every decision should be made in order to lower the chance of death.  It is about the individual’s right to choose the manner in which he or she pursues happiness.  For some of us, the fear of death is not the greatest fear.  Fifty years of bacon cheeseburgers and cigarettes and whiskey may well be more desirable to some than 80 years without those things.  This person fails to grasp that.

5 thoughts on “Geeks missing the point

  1. Very well said.

    I’ve had an interesting afternoon of catching up on all this Snowden chaos, and I found myself trying to figure out what he leaked. When I found this information, I started thinking, “Wait. This all started only in 2007?” Somewhere in my youth, I had gained the impression that the government has been data mining to prevent terrorism all my life, particularly discussions via the Internet, which was rapidly becoming more available.

    Gee willikers… I could have had more than a whole additional decade of peace, a youth without fear of being labeled a 15-year-old terrorist because I said a party was going to be “the bomb” in an email, had I known that PRISM only started up in 2007.


    So I kind of have an interesting take on this, since I’ve lived the majority with the assumption that my e-communications have been monitored just as a matter of practice.

    On one hand, I suppose I fail to understand that people are shocked by this or why the government would try to hide this. In my eyes, the government would have a lot less egg on its face right now if it said, “Oh, PRISM and FISA? You didn’t know about those? Well, now you do, and Edward Snowden, honey, just come back home. Uncle Sam ain’t mad at ya; you didn’t leak anything that the good citizens of the US weren’t allowed to know.” I just fail to see why the government is scrambling to nail Snowden so hard. Like I said, I have lived more half my life believing all e-communication was monitored. Of course, my brother also told me when I was about seven that my parents had video cameras all over the house and in the car so that I was always being watched. I didn’t pick my nose again for a very, very long time.

    Because that’s the thing – on the other hand – just because it’s what I’ve believed for so long, it doesn’t make it less of a problem if it’s true. I don’t want all my randomness being tracked. I also don’t want to die at the hands of a terrorist. I’ll eat less fast food. I promise.

    I grew up believing that my Internet communiques were monitored, but that it would all be okay because I could put my faith in the government and trust it not to make mistakes.

    Now, well, I’m not so sure.

    Every time you eat at Wendy’s, the terrorists win. Or lose, I suppose, if you throw capitalism back into the mix. Heh.

    • Electronic communications have been intercepted since long before 2007 certainly; it’s the scope and capability of PRISM that terrifies. Considering the FISA courts have only rejected 11 out of 30000+ government requests since FISA was implemented, I think it’s safe to say that there is no significant judicial oversight of programs going through FISA courts.

      Frankly the casual assumption that the government has access to one’s private thoughts and communication ought to disturb people. It’s not just about the Constitution – which really… is clear that this sort of shit is disallowed; it’s about the dignity lost when one is living in a fishbowl. It is about the fundamental disparity of power between the State and the People. It’s about the implicit threat faced by those who have unusual, aberrant, or groundbreaking ideas. It’s about the petty abuses made possible for individual agents, and the grand abuses available to future tyrants. And in an era when almost everyone commits at least a felony a day, it’s about the neccessity of preventing the government from knowing all one’s misdeeds – this is a social necessity, not an individual one; because we have criminalized almost everything, most of us are unaware of the crimes we commit, and no good comes of locking up the entire populace.

      Anyone who has experienced what is commonly called “office politics” ought to know better than to trust the government. That alone, in my opinion, should be enough – even without a study of history and the great government abuses and terrors that have been unleashed over the years.

      I have labored throughout my adult life to insert the idea of Liberty into the minds of those around me. Although I’ve probably never convinced anyone to agree with me 100%, I like to think I’ve at least I’ve led them to question a bit more often the dictates of the State – and hopefully their own urge to control their fellows.

      • In re: office politics. I hadn’t thought of it that way. Good point. I think you make pretty convincing arguments. I have another friend who has made similar arguments, but I find them annoying and poorly structured, or perhaps annoying because they are poorly structured. You, however, rely on more cogent rhetorical structures to make your points. Where he is annoying and pushy, you are informative and inoffensive.

        • Haha! It’s not often I’m called inoffensive. Alot of it has to do with the forum. Put me in a coffee shop with a 4 shots of delicious espresso in hand, and I’ll rant your ear off. It’s practically one of my favorite activities. Here however, I try to think it all through – at least enough to be worth reading anyway.

          • Ha. There will come a time for such coffee shop ramblings again.

            In writing, I still see a lot of people not thinking things through. Some simply don’t have the critical thinking skills or understanding of rhetoric to create well structured arguments, and some are just too lazy to care.

            In the digital age, it’s sometimes difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff.

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