I have been following the news about PRISM (the US government’s program of listening in to our telephone conversations and reading our emails) with interest. I find it intriguing. Others find it disturbing.
Firefox (an internet browser) is seeking signatures for a petition protesting this program which it plans to present to Congress. When you go to Firefox’s landing page, you will be greeted with this petition. Feel free to sign it.
It doesn’t matter if you don’t live in the US because the petition welcomes everyone’s e-signature. When you type in your name and address, there is a drop-down menu to select your country of residence. Every country is listed. I wonder how many people from Ethiopia will be signing this petition. Or Hungary.
I have always been a tad wary of petitions. They often achieve little more than providing the names and addresses of dissidents. You wouldn’t think anyone who truly believes the US is turning into a police state would want to voluntarily reveal their identity. If they are listening to everything we say and reading everything we write, surely they must already know if we’re unhappy with this National Security initiative. Why sign a petition?
I think the whole thing has become blown out of proportion; a belief I am certain is shared by Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who exposed the program and who is now desperately seeking refuge in any country that will not extradite him to the US. For his seemingly innocent actions, he has been charged with treason and an assortment of other prison-worthy crimes.
In an effort to defuse a situation that is clearly spinning out of control I decided to pop over to Washington to see if I could help sort this out. And what better way than sitting down for beers and burgers with Barack? If you want to solve problems, go to the top.
When I arrived at the White House I was greeted by a well-turned-out Marine who asked me to state my business. I told him I was here to set the president straight.
“Go right in,” he answered.
When I knocked on the White House door, I was greeted by Michelle and her radiant smile. As is her habit, she was wearing a sleeveless dress, which I have been told by a female friend drives women over 40 crazy. Since I don’t wear dresses, I had no idea why. “Her arms!” my friend said. “Most women over 40 can’t wear sleeveless dresses! Their arms are too flabby!”
I had no idea because when I look at a woman I don’t look at her arms. No, I look her in her eyes, instead. Michelle’s sparkled as she ushered me to the Rose Garden where Barack, wearing a spotless cooking apron, was tending to the barbecue.
“Hey, Bill. Good to see you.”
“Say, how did those kebabs you were cooking the other night turn out?”
“How did you know I was cooking kebabs?”
“Oh, come on, Bill. You know we know everything.”
“Oh, yeah, that whole PRISM thing.”
“Pretty cool acronym, isn’t it?”
“Really cool. What’s it stand for again?”
“I don’t remember. Doesn’t matter. That’s why we have acronyms, Bill, so people can remember the names of programs without having to remember what they stand for. How would you like your burger? Oh yeah, medium rare. If we’re going to know everything, the least we can do is remember how someone likes their burgers, right?”
“Right. Actually, that’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”
Barack let out a big sigh.
“What a mess.” he said. “The truth is, Bill, everybody is listening to everything from anybody. We listen to the Chinese, we listen to our people, we listen to the Russians, we listen to all our friends in Europe, we listen to the Taliban, we listen to the Pakistanis, we listen to everyone in the Middle East (including Israel, I’ll have you know) and we listen to countries in South America, especially now Ecuador. And anyone who has the technology is listening to us.”
“That’s a lot of listening.”
“No sh… Well, that’s the mess, Bill.”
“Yes, the listening. You see, the issue is that there is good listening and then there is bad listening.”
“What is bad listening?”
“The Chinese and the Russians, for sure. Basically, anyone from outside is bad listening. The Chinese are always stealing our stuff, you know; patents and trade secrets and everything, and the Russians, well, they just have a thorn in their side because they lost the Cold War. They’re sore losers.”
“So what is good listening?”
“Us, Bill, us! And how do you spell ‘us’? You-Es! US! Us! We do good listening.”
“Look. In a democracy; a strong democracy like we have, you listen to your people, right?”
Barack looked at me with a little smile on his face and summed it up quite succinctly, saying, “Listen-ing to your people is a cornerstone of democracy. What you’re seeing with PRISM is democracy at work. It’s just that thanks to that ingrate Snow-den, it’s all been taken out of context.”
“It all makes sense now. Have you shared this with your public relations people; your spin doctors?”
“Yeah, but they just don’t listen.”
I left the White House that evening with an immense sense of relief, knowing that the people… all the people… didn’t just have the president’s ear but everyone else’s in government, too.
Good listening and bad listening. It all made perfect sense.
But why did it feel familiar? Then I remembered: Animal Farm by George Orwell.
Two feet bad. Four feet good.
– Go cult. Be a follower. www.ThreeYearsOnMars.com