More and more revelations have come to light in the wake of the initial June NSA revelations on Verizon’s metadata monitoring. These revelations in many instances have been much more serious, including Project X-Keyscore, which allows the NSA to monitor and store specific language used in private online communications. Yet, following Congresses failed attempt to reform loopholes that have allowed the NSA to exceed its Constitutional authority, most Americans have stopped paying attention to the program.
The media has more recently focused on vague al-Qaeda threats than Project X-Keyscore. More often, the media seems to use subtle language to suggest support for the Obama administration’s use of surveillance as a tool for counter-terrorism. When the debate is framed according to counter-terrorism, there is more support for the NSA. The problem is the media fails to adequately cover NSA stories where the vast majority of instances include monitoring that has no specific counter-terrorism purpose. When the debate is framed without the terrorism moniker, the public’s support has been shown to dwindle substantially.
Largely a result of media negligence, the public is poorly informed on the NSA issue. Controversial products like Microsoft’s Xbox One, which has grave privacy concerns, sold out of its pre-sale quantities. The American public largely has no clue just how serious the NSA issue is. And so most Congresspersons who failed to vote in favor of reforming the Patriot Act will likely be re-elected as Americans forget the NSA as a serious election issue come 2014.
Further compounding the ignorance issue is the Grass-Tops versus the Grass-Roots of political lobbying. In the words of my cousin, a top political consultant, and owner of a major advocacy company on the Hill which specializes in “Grass-Tops” lobbying: “my 20 guys will out-do your 20,000 on any issue.” What does he mean? He means that getting 20 people a particular Congressperson will no doubt listen to will trump 20,000 people shouting for that Congressperson to act. Companies pay my cousin up to $15,000 just to get a single person of influence (think a former campaign manager) to talk to a Congressperson into voting NO on reform. My cousin’s paid persons of interest $15,000 just for breakfast, at the Whitehouse none-the-less. HOW CAN YOU COMPETE WITH THAT?!
You can’t. So how do we effectively protest the NSA, when most people are ignorant of its operations; the media isn’t keeping a watch over its harmful actions; our Congresspersons are bought; and grass roots is political bull shit…
We have to make a grass-tops organization that will fight the NSA. What do I mean? I mean getting people of influence and money to be on our side. Who? Think Silicon Valley types who do not want to turn over this data (Steve Jobs refused back door to NSA). Think people in creative industries, like Hollywood, that can invest in films on the topic and drive a major creative campaign against this behemoth of an organization. If Hollywood could change public opinion on homosexuality and Aids, think what it could do with the NSA. On the campaign side, make and fund creative fear-based ads that scare the populous against voting for anyone who would support ‘1984’ by voting against reform of the NSA. Fear-based and negative ads work, that’s why there’s so many. On the lobbying side, donate to organizations like the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which is a highly respectable niche-lobbying effort that has challenged the NSA in Federal Court.
We need to outspend our adversaries on this issue. We who seriously fear the NSA do not have the mainstream media on our side, we have a simple majority that voted NO to reform. We need to understand the way politics works, and stop believing that encouraging debate from the grass roots alone is going to change a thing – its not.
We need to continue to work from the grass roots, but not exclusively. Its time for Google and similar companies to support their ethics and protest. Stop turning over data, continue to obstruct in the name of civil disobedience. Companies and wealthy tech-titans and individuals need to start using their cash to support lobbying efforts that support Patriot Act reform. Hollywood needs to start making films about this issue (I have 5 projects with fully developed themes on the issue, I’m sure other writers do too).
Just like the Civil Rights Movement, we need to get mad as f***ing hell about this state of affiars — our RIGHTS are being abused. Right now we’re not nearly mad enough.
So how do we effectively protest the NSA? By creating a Grass-Tops advocacy campaign, and convincing those 20 influential people to speak for US not the NSA. It’s the only way. We need to start seriously putting money and influence into this issue, grass roots isn’t going to get it done alone. And while my cousin’s firm won’t lobby for NSA on principle, others will. So start supporting firms that will lobby against the NSA, like the Electronic Frontier Foundation. They’re out there and ready for business, desperate for financial resources. It’s time to start fighting back. And I know there’s folks out there who are big enough to turn the grass-roots into the grass-tops. Keep talking about the NSA, and why its bad, but its time for institutions and individuals to put their money where their mouth is.