I have been considering just how freely a person should speak on the internet, given the latest disclosures concerning the degree of monitoring our government is doing. Private communications seem to be their primary concern. Their programs and computers are gobbling up vast quantities of emails, phone calls, and blog postings among other medium.
I recently read that the government now scans all social media . If so, they must have one heck of a backlog to get through. If there are about 256 million people living in the country, most of whom are texting or typing or talking away, somebody has to be doing a lot of reviewing, even if the programs vet most of it. Even if only a fraction of them say something the government doesn't like, where are they going to jail them? They're already letting rapists and killers go in California for lack of jail space. Mustn't overcrowd them, that would be inhumane.
Three times in the past week, this spontaneously came up as the topic of conversation on emails with friends. Not in conjunction with one another. These were all separate emails, to different people, on different subjects, and they brought the subject up. I can't say I blame them for being worried. You can't turn on the news without hearing some new disclosure about illegal or "it's legal because we say it is" mode of surveillance that the government and its bureaucrats have vigorously denied and are now saying "well, yeah, but so what?" about.
For me, I think this. One, I don't think I've ever said anything on my blog that I haven't said much more starkly in letters to my Senators or Representative or the President over the last 30 years. If it makes me mad, I write to them and tell them what is bothering me and why, and I don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings. So, I'm not tipping off the Gestapo to anything they don't already know.My brother tells me this is a waste of time but it makes me feel better, so I do it anyway. Ever so often you see a news report about some Senator turning in a writer whose missive the Grand Potentate didn't like, but I can't recall one ever being successfully prosecuted unless they mailed anthrax or made some dire threats. Not many people go that far to express their dissatisfaction with the system.
It's like not worrying about mentioning my guns on line. I've had a federal firearms license and a concealed carry permit for decades. It's a little late to start trying to hide the fact that I'm a gun owner now.
One caveat to this thought though. When I was young, you couldn't be arrested for what you said. You might get people mad, but just saying something was not a crime. There were exceptions, like calling in false fire alarms, but in general if you said "old so and so is a such and such and ought to be taken out and shot" you might get low marks for tact but they couldn't fling you into the dungeon for it.
Not today. There are things you can't even articulate. If they are associated with violent action of some type, especially violent resistance to the government or against government functionaries, merely giving voice to those thoughts is a crime. If you get arrested for that, you may spend six months in a jail and then be released for "lack of evidence" but by then your job is gone, your home is gone, your savings are gone, and the feds feel like that's probably punishment enough. Besides, by then they've already gotten the face time they needed in the press and don't care about you anymore anyway. After all, the bigger the bust, the bigger the boost at budget and promotion time. There were four old men drinking coffee in a McDonald's in Georgia. They were complaining about Obama and one made an indiscreet remark about the situation. Sitting in a booth on the other side of them was one of Obama's minions. She called the FBI. The FBI didn't have any trouble apprehending the desperate criminals, since they had coffee there every day at the same time. Those four got hauled off to prison about a year ago. The last I heard, they were still there. That's what a big mouth and a dangerous thought combined can get you, today.
So be careful, little lips, what you say. It's a judgment call. Each individual has to decide just how afraid of Big Brother they are (and people are justified in that, don't get me wrong.) Then they have to decide if being shut up by intimidation is a bigger burden than worrying about the door being smashed down in the middle of the night by the federal ninja. Nothing is simple anymore, and this issue certainly isn't. Everybody has to decide for themselves on this one. Anyone who decides discretion is the better part of valor won't get any flak from me.