Monday, December 30, 2013
Oh Yes They Can -- Or Zombie Lies That Never Die
One of the persistent myths that we hear all the time in connection with the Snowden Thing is that corporate surveillance is Oh So Benign whereas government surveillance is the Epitome of Evil because "only government has the power to arrest, incarcerate, and kill you."
This is utter unadulterated horseshit, as anyone who has lived in the real world for any length of time, or anyone who's read a book or two (what are books?) for that matter, ought to know all too well. In fact, I look for this line of "reasoning" nowadays, because I figure this little bit of corporate nonsense spew comes straight out of "Reason" magazine as well as the other Corporate Libertarian stink-tanks, of which there are many, almost too many to count.
Corporations very much can engage in arrest, incarceration and execution, with or without the let of the State, as they have been doing since their origin. Letting the private sector do it, after all, washes the hands of government for such wet work and nasty business which was one of the advantages of creating the corporate sector in the first place.
But these powers and authorities are no historical artifact, never employed today. Far from it. Many towns and some cities in the US have privatized their police forces, and every corporate facility is guarded by private security forces, many of which are armed and are authorized to use deadly force. This is not The Government, this is Corporate, through and through.
The idea that these private forces would only act to protect from some crime in progress on their own property, as any private citizen has the perfect right to do, is naive in the extreme. It's based on fantasies, not fact. The corporate sector, but not necessarily individuals, conducts surveillance, investigation and arrest at will, simply because it can. The notion that they don't or can't is absurd, and the notion that they only do it for "benign" commercial purposes -- to learn what your purchasing wants are and offer you goods and services to meet those desires -- is deep in error. They want to know everything about you in order to control you.
"Just like the government."
They can and do arrest one -- with their private armed forces -- whenever it suits them. Surely you've seen suspected shoplifters being cuffed and hauled into the interrogation rooms beside the entrances to Target and other major retailers. That isn't being done by undercover police, that is being done by security personnel employed by Target or whatever. The public police may be called and the suspect may be hauled off to jail, but the apprehension is done by corporate cops. This can happen on suspicion.
There are extensive "crime fighting" private surveillance and investigation networks, some with global reach, which can and do look into every aspect of a targeted individual's life -- without warrants, let it be noted -- and which can produce complete dossiers on anyone. Those dossiers can be and are sold to interested parties, including governments, but they are typically produced by request of and payment by corporate sector interests (such as insurance companies and the like) for the purpose of making some poor sod's life miserable, a sod who has displeased some corporate master or other.
Corporations work hand in glove with (public) law enforcement agencies which in effect serve at the pleasure of the corporate sector and as an extension of corporate power and authority. This is perhaps their most insidious measure because the appearance is that a (public) law enforcement agency is in charge of surveillance, investigation, apprehension, and arrest of an individual when they're not. They are acting at the direction of and with information provided by a corporate entity. They are taking action as extensions of corporate power and authority. This is so utterly routine, most of us take it for granted, but all by itself, it puts the lie to the notion that corporate surveillance is "benign." It isn't.
There are private courts which exist in many cases to ensure that individuals do not have the right to adjudication of complaints against corporations in courts of law, but must submit to corporate-courts instead. Some of these private courts, however, exist to handle parts of the (public) justice system's "overload." In other words, they have all the powers and authorities of Government courts, though they are not Government, and they are not answerable to the People.
Just so, there are extensive private corporate owned and operated prisons, which also have all the powers and authorities over inmates as any Government Prison might have, if not in fact more, and yet they are not Government and they are not answerable to the People.
We could go on and on detailing just how pervasive corporate control of citizens and governments is in this country, but the point I'm making is that the claim that corporate surveillance is "benign" because corporations don't have the powers of arrest, incarceration and life/death over individuals is a lie, straight out. In many cases, they do, and they use it.
And of course, there is the model private sector quasi-government enforcement agency, the so-called Mafia. Someone will run around screaming, "But that's illegal!!!!!" Yes? And?
NOTE: This post leaves aside the whole corporate subversion of national sovereignty issue embodied in the proliferating free trade agreements and intellectual property protective measures being bruited in various fora as we speak -- fora that are closed to the public, of course. In many of these cases, government power and authority is specifically ceded to corporate interests, which are then authorized to act as if they were government, without let or hindrance.
ADDITIONAL NOTE: Yasha Levine at Pando.com expands on the premise of this post with plenty of examples of corporate ability have people... erm... put away. It's a nasty business. And he points out that Young Snowden, like nearly all his partisans, dismiss the problem of corporate surveillance with an airy wave and a jolly, "Corps can't kill ya!" Ha. Utter horseshit.