America’s politics of fear
The variety of far-reaching surveillance measures being used to collect information from most law-abiding citizens are being criticized as tools to perpetrate fear for political purposes.
The country that created Blackberry phones and gave birth to iPhones has more than 300-million wireless users. And in the name of national security, the US government will soon have a direct link to each and every hand held device.
Gathered at the scene of the September 11th terrorist attacks, Federal and New York City officials joined the presidents of the four largest wireless carriers to announce the nation's new tech tool. An alert system enabling the president and government agencies to blast every American with text messages warning of terror threats, weather disasters and kidnappings.
“It's like a police officer’s gun. It's there for a good reason. But we hope we never had to pull the trigger,” said New York City Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.
The cell phone alert system will launch in New York City and Washington, DC by the end of this year, expanding nationwide thereafter. Some carriers may allow cell phone users to opt out of receiving certain alerts, but Americans will not be allowed to opt out of the presidential texts.
Opponents say politicians are promoting more fear while providing little protection.
“Now we have a system of mandatory and inescapable alerts through every cellphone in the land. In the event that the government decides that something's happening that we ought to know about. Just as the introduction of the patriot act came after nine-eleven, this new technological invasion comes to us without any public discussion, right after the assassination of Osama Bin Laden, which has raised our terror alerts," said Mark Crispin Miller, NYU Professor and author.
He added that Americans are living in an age of creeping authoritarianism and scare tactics.
“The use of fear for any kind of government that craves any kind of control over people's lives and thoughts is that it makes people malleable. It makes people obedient. You go to any airport today and you see this in action. That people are taking off their shoes. Submitting to getting groped,” Miller commented.
Under the auspices of airport safety, babies, senior citizens and everyone in between must now endure pat-downs or pass through body scanners before boarding.
In the case Muslim-Americans, that may not be enough. Six days following the US assassination of Osama Bin Laden, four Imam's on two separate US flights were illegally kicked off planes for looking suspicious.
“You have a few hate mongers who can evoke emotions and that’s what people do. They play on people’s emotions. They play on people’s ignorance about Islam and Muslims and that’s created a climate of fear you see,” said Imam Al Amin Abdul Latif, President of the Islamic Leadership Council of NY.
In December, the department of homeland security began encouraging Americans to report suspicious activity to American largest food retailer, as Wal-Mart joined Washington’s “see something say something” campaign.The marriage between government and business has been accused of perpetuating a climate of panic and subsequent need for more surveillance.
“You need to create and enemy for people to rally around endless wars and we're spending fifty percent of our taxes on war and our national defense. When there's really no threat directly to this country. There's really a need to keep validating this spending,” said Abby Martin, journalist and founder of Media Roots.
Following the assassination of enemy number one, New York’s senior US Senator Charles Schumer called for an increase in rail safety funding and the creation of a no-ride list.
As US officials warn of more terror threats following Bin Laden's death, many Americans remain concerned, while others, are left wondering about the dangers of forsaking too much liberty for security.