Crossing the Digital Rubicon
For an easy laugh at a party, pull out a Nokia candy-bar phone. “What is that…a phone?” “Does it actually work?” “Oh! Do you have to hit buttons three times and stuff?” “Can you get Facebook on it?” And so forth. Then, follow up with examples of the pitfalls of smartphone ‘privacy.’ Reliably observe nods of agreement and disturbed faces. Generally, people know how their lives are invasively monitored, their most intimate details packaged and sold as a commodity on markets they have little to no control over. Fatalistic shrugs of ‘what can you do’ and declarations of ‘I can’t live without my phone’ ensue.
Perhaps it is a fair trade. Detailed personal profiles are exchanged for handheld convenience along with dogged artificial intelligence analyzing what product or service will successfully secure our money — or even our loyalty. Brand loyalty is a highly-prized substance as franchise owners around the world attest. Other forms of allegiance are also highly-prized. Consider if your private personal details, even intimate psychological profiles, are instead exploited for coercion to an ideology.
Behold the technological behemoths Apple, Google and Amazon flexing their monopolistic powers fatally crippling a competitive forum for public discourse in the form of a plucky app called Parler. The leader of the most powerful nation on Earth was summarily ejected by Twitter, et al. — with no accountability and no recourse — severing communications with millions of followers. Leaders of the world express dismay at the brazen display. The corporate technological overlords claim the moral high ground.
In 2016, Apple defied federal investigators' requests for ‘back door’ access to a dead terrorist’s iPhone. Apple’s flapping flag on Public Relations Hill was roundly praised by privacy advocates and civil libertarians. Yet Apple’s flag meekly bowed to the Chinese Communist Party, denying Hong Kong protestors safety of virtual private networks, or exposing overseas Chinese citizen’s data to CCP inspection, or cutting off access to news and information beyond the Great Firewall. Apple’s obedience to Beijing is joined by none other than the sanctimonious Google and Amazon, whose hypocrisy facilitates the genocide of the Uighurs.
Politicians and partisans in the U.S. called for the social media ban of the President and the corporations finally complied. Employees of the very same corporations are joining the government, the very same employees that approve of Parler’s crippling, and that overwhelmingly financially support one political party. Some journalists perpetuate the blissful irony, praising censorship of the President but fretting over exertion of such monopolistic powers. Others pithily observe the handwriting on the wall:
“The new corporate authoritarian liberal-left monoculture is going to be absolutely ruthless — and in 12 days it is merging with the state.” Michael Tracey, 9 Jan 2020.
Meanwhile, the infrastructure for a monstrous surveillance state glows in commodified hands. Portrayed by the leftist New Republic as another tendril of the ‘military-industrial complex,’ shadowy data tracking companies such as Factual identify not only app usage patterns, but physical locations for profiling consumer behavior. They state on their website that U.S. users may ‘opt-out’ of data collection, but nevertheless they will “continue to collect, use, and transfer mobile app data for purposes other than interest-based advertising or ad delivery/reporting.” Expect commandeering of this data for political policing of compliance with the authoritarian liberal-left monoculture. Soon, even emotional responses and the technology to manipulate them will enable ensuring fervid belief in Big-Tech Benevolence.
Brace for a Ministry of Information amassing in warehouses of whirring servers detailed profiles of not just purchasing history, but locations, associations…politics. Imagine the delirious delight of, say, the East German Stasi marvelling at their targets willingly revealing their daily whereabouts and rendezvous, obviating clumsy radioactive tagging techniques. Surreptitious meetings of desperate dissidents will be naked to the Eye of the State all thanks to the insidious trade of convenience for lack of privacy. Law enforcement and the military already map cell-users’ relationships — even if the phone is not ‘smart.’
The authoritarian liberal-left monoculture has crossed the Rubicon. Behold the Progressive Praetorian Guard — all carefully vetted for loyalty — and their Potemkin Village President now seated in power, whose pitiful popularity is quietly disguised. Do not be fooled: the barbed wire and boots are a threat to those who dare dissent. The smearing of Trump supporters as ‘terrorists’ is justification for a new Secret Police, while Democrats demand wholesale purges from government, evoking the words and associations forbidden by other paranoid Parties. Merely questioning the Biden ascendance to power is ‘sedition,' ignoring the insidious hand of Big-Tech tilting the scales.
This is only the beginning as the CEO of Twitter brazenly declared to his employees as to how ‘it’ will go on far beyond the inauguration. Blacklisting and banning for the monoculture is apparently not enough. The anti-social justice Michael Recetenwald observed: “the means by which a police state is being set up is the demonization of Trump supporters and the likely use of medical passports to institute the effective equivalent of social credit scores.”
The buttons on my venerable Nokia are regrettably failing. After years of service, and several-days-long battery life, sending texts now demands insistent and frustrated pressing. Alternatives in the smartphone ecosphere provide some escape from the duopoly of iOS and Android, but rarely come to fruition. Classic Nokia designs are making a comeback, however; it seems cell-phone simplicity has a wider appeal than my amused smartphone-toting friends think. The giggles at parties still come easy, and the disturbed looks and shrugs still ensue. Cue next slaps on the shoulder and suggestions that I’m simply being paranoid.
Dr. Shawn A. Means is a mathematical biologist and Christian apologist published in numerous scientific journals. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image: Raimond Spekking, via Wikimedia Commons and via Wikipedia // CC BY-SA 4.0