Inside the United States

Inside the United States June 12, 2013

Hilarious and darkly funny piece on what it would be like if journalists covered the US the way they cover other countries.  What I love is that they have to have a disclaimer at the beginning explaining that it’s satire since our devolution in a Kremlinesque puzzle box makes it so believable that some foreign paper might right this way about our burgeoning police/surveillance state.

Meanwhile, in ongoing confirmation that this is not a matter of Left vs. Right but of our Ruling Class vs. the Rest of us, we have America’s Prettiest Fascist, Lindsey  Graham, offering to read and censor your mail to keep you safe from The Terrorists[TM], while long ago we have Joe Biden telling you why he opposes precisely the surveillance state tactics he now totally supports:

These people are not our friends. They lie.

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  • Imp the Vladaler

    Mark, I agree with both your visceral and reasoned responses to this NSA program. But since you’re a Catholic apologist, I’m curious: does the Church offer any guidance here?

    I’d like to be able to make a fierce defense of individual liberty and privacy from the power of the all-seeing state. But then I remember that the Church teaches that I have to put away some of my individualism for the common good. And certainly neither Scripture nor Tradition mandate limited government or the Fourth Amendment; those are modern, post-Enlightenment inventions.

    To put it another way, you are fond of saying that “Libertarianism is for selfish people without children.” Perhaps that’s true. But you sound like a Libertarian these days. So should you and I be more open to the idea that – for the common good – the government has to keep an eye on us?

    • Rachel

      I don’t know what Mark will say about this but I think that the Church’s emphasis on the common good would be against unnecessary intrusion into other people’s lives, contrary to popular belief. It used to be that there needed to be probable cause to conduct surveillance on suspected criminals. Spying on millions of citizens in the name of “security” doesn’t keep anyone safe and there is very little of the public good here. Such power can be and possibly is being abused. The word terrorist has been so watered down to mean anyone. We forget that terrorism is a tactic, not an ideology, not an identity. I can offer many examples through history of resistance movements and others who used what we call terrorism tactics to get what they want. Terrorism is a complicated situation. Its not very clear since anyone can commit terrorism. It is not right to infringe on the general public’s privacy but unfortunately, this is nothing new. We have allowed our government to do this for over a decade from the Patriot act to the TSA, etc. None of this has honestly kept us safe. Instead its just dulled our senses into complacency while the government becomes increasingly intrusive and tyrannical

    • John Schaefer

      2498 “Civil authorities
      have particular responsibilities in this field because of the common
      good. . . . It is for the civil authority . . . to defend and
      safeguard a true and just freedom of information.”288 By
      promulgating laws and overseeing their application, public authorities
      should ensure that “public morality and social progress are not gravely
      endangered” through misuse of the media.289 Civil authorities
      should punish any violation of the rights of individuals to their
      reputation and privacy. They should give timely and reliable reports
      concerning the general good or respond to the well-founded concerns of
      the people. Nothing can justify recourse to disinformation for
      manipulating public opinion through the media. Interventions by public
      authority should avoid injuring the freedom of individuals or groups.

      • Marthe Lépine

        Thank you, John, for the quote. I assume that it comes from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but I am not absolutely certain, and I assume many other people also need to know, since the readers to this blog are not necessarily all Catholic. Would you mind to confirm, just for the sake of clarity?

      • Rosemarie


        The context of that quote from the Catechism relates to the news media. The paragraph right before it mentions journalists, and the next paragraph decries totalitarian states that “exercise political control of opinion through the media.” Here is the full context:

        How does a section of the Catechism on dissemination of information by the news media relate to the gathering of private data on individuals by the NSA?

        • John Schaefer

          Not sure that it does, Rosemarie. It seemed to be a starting point to a conversation about sharing information and privacy. I didn’t have time to find something better.

          • Rosemarie


            Oh, okay.

          • ivan_the_mad

            The Catechism is always a good starting point!

    • chezami

      I think the best place to start is to look at the way in which the Church teaches about solidarity and subsidiarity. The state exists for the person and the family, not the person and the family for the state. The state is a mechanism for restraining evil and for providing for the common good. When it begins to harm the person made in the image of God or to assume the role of God or parent, it’s authority ends and it is merely asserting raw power. So the Church has long taught that we have a right to overthrow tyrannical rules since “an unjust law is no law at all”. Not that I think the state needs to be overthrown (yet). But knowing where we stand with the state is the first step in navigating.

    • tedseeber

      I’m not Mark and I don’t play him on TV, but:

      1. I pretty much gave up on online privacy well over 20 years ago now. It’s a nice thought, but the technology makes it impossible.

      2. I’m against libertarianism for many of the same reasons Mark is, but one doesn’t even have to be a small government person to know that *transparency is good for government but bad for individuals* and *our current US Government is exactly the opposite*.

  • Clare Krishan

    ICYMI here’s the statistical odds re: fear-mongering
    so you can price your chances for lost opportunities from various encounters with hazards to human life when making your insurance purchase decisions (or contemplating who to vote for and what civil rights and taxes they want you to sacrifice to sustain our national security). For example compared to a 1-in-a-million risk* for death by terrorism in a given year, your chance of dying:
    being accidentally electrocuted in your home… is equal
    while riding a bicycle… 3 x
    from a natural disaster, all causes… 4 x
    —->where’s the outrage re: abyssmal shelter-in-place for those poor Oklahoma school children?)
    due to medical accidents and complications… 10 x
    in an auto accident… or in the first year of life… 50 x
    to commit suicide… 100 x (!!!)
    of a woman and give birth this year… 200 x

    —->don’t even look at the numbers for places such as Asia and Africa (hint: It’s 10,000 times as likely in Africa!) Still afraid of the hype?

    (* actually in since 9/11 US only 1% of that, i.e. a 1-in-100 million chance.
    Factor by 100 to get a ‘real’ feel as Catholics for how vast our attention deficit is to real human suffering we can actually do something about ourselves, no government surveillance necessary)

    • tedseeber

      “:where’s the outrage re: abyssmal shelter-in-place for those poor Oklahoma school children?)”

      I think I posted some of that over in Rebecca Hamilton’s blog. To her credit, she’s not only taking personal action on this within her own household, but legislative action in the Oklahoma State Legislature.

  • Rosemarie


    I guess the one difference between the US and other countries that get that kind of coverage is that we do have folks like Rand Paul and some organizations that are trying to challenge this. That gives me as least some hope, howbeit weak, that America’s self-reform mechanism might just kick in once again and reverse at least some of this. But I’m quickly losing all hope for my country.

  • Joseph

    Sometimes it’s a bit hard to laugh when satire cuts too close to the bone.