According to the driving force behind Big Sis’ creepy Wal-Mart spy campaign, if the state encouraging Americans to report each other to the authorities causes you unease, you’re insane, similar to how critics of informant programs were also branded mentally ill and persecuted in the former Soviet Union.
In what has been dubbed “the battle of Wal-Mart” by The New York Observer, the controversy over Big Sis Janet Napolitano’s announcement that Homeland Security messages encouraging shoppers to “report suspicious activity,” without telling them what constitutes suspicious activity, will play at Wal-Mart checkouts, has “set off a rebellion among the conspiracy-theory crowd, a number of whom are among the store’s core customers,” writes Aaron Gell.
But the man behind the creepy slogan, “If you see something, say something,” claims that the likes of Matt Drudge and Alex Jones’ opposition to the campaign is “ridiculous”.
“That’s absurd. The whole reason for doing it was to save lives, and I think the sane people of the world see it as a positive slogan,” said Allen Kay, of Korey Kay & Partners, implying that anyone who perceives the state encouraging citizens to report on each other as a negative move towards an authoritarian society is insane.
Kay’s glib justification that the campaign is about saving lives can be demolished from two angles.
Firstly, even if you believe that Muslim terrorists are creeping around every street corner with bombs in their underpants, and it’s a legitimate concern given the fact that the FBI is so keen on providing such dimwits with all the explosives they need, then why has the federal government and Homeland Security instead labeled politically aware, patriotic Americans to be the number one domestic terror threat?
As we have seen from the MIAC report, DHS spying on tea Party and second amendment activists in Pennsylvania and a host of other examples in recent years, the federal government has little interest in Muslim extremists and has instead targeted Americans knowledgeable of their rights and critical of big government as the primary domestic terror threat. The feds have defined “terrorist propaganda” as any material critical of the state. The Department of Defense characterizes peaceful protest as “low level terrorism” in its own report.
Given the fact that rhetoric identifying conservative and libertarian Americans as domestic extremists has saturated the news media, don’t be surprised when ignorant Wal-Mart shoppers begin to report people who wear t-shirts with political slogans or ones that carry an image of the upside-down American flag, or merely individuals who talk about the Constitution, since federal authorities have identified all these as examples of terrorism in numerous cases over the last several years.
Secondly, no matter where you look, from East Germany, to Communist Russia, to Nazi Germany, historically governments who encourage their own citizens to report on each other do so not for any genuine safety concerns or presumed benefits to security, but in order to create an authoritarian police state that coerces the people into policing each other’s behavior and thoughts.
As Robert Gellately of Florida State University has highlighted, Germans under Hitler denounced their neighbors and friends not because they genuinely believed them to be a security threat, but because they expected to selfishly benefit from doing so, both financially, socially and psychologically via a pavlovian need to be rewarded by their masters for their obedience.
At the height of its influence around one in seven of the East German population was an informant for the Stasi. As in Nazi Germany, the creation of an informant system was wholly centered around identifying political dissidents and those with grievances against the state, and had little or nothing to do with genuine security concerns.
Even if you subscribe to the notion that Americans should be spied on, which is completely unconstitutional in and of itself, should that role be entrusted to untrained Wal-Mart shoppers?
If Americans are going to be policed by a 21st century KGB, can the watchers at least be professionally recruited and trained? No, because having fat slobs report on “suspicious activity” that is defined by what they were told on ABC News last night or what they saw in a plot of 24 or CSI Miami makes it a lot easier for Big Sis to chill free speech and frighten Americans away from exercising their rights.
Every example in recent history of a government enlisting its population as a swarming army of spies leads to, at the bare minimum, the evisceration of freedom and the creation of an autocratic dictatorship, and in the worst case, mass political oppression, assassination of political dissidents or outright genocide.
And Allen Kay has the temerity to imply that anyone expressing concern about a similar program arriving in America is insane and that their worries are “ridiculous,” ironically echoing how critics of the state were also branded mentally ill and sent to psikhushkas – mental hospitals – in the former Soviet Union.
Judging by Wal-Mart’s response in refusing to acknowledge the scale of the backlash they have received in reaction to the announcement on Monday, and their slavish repetition of the glib Orwellian rhetoric that the spy campaign is about safety and security, Americans are outraged, and until Wal-Mart kills this un-American insult to everything that the country stands for, their Christmas is going to be a lot less profitable than expected, with numerous boycotts already on the horizon.