Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Why aren't we rioting already?

Now, contrary to the title, I am not suggesting that the public riots against the government. It is destructive, and rarely solves the issue that it was set out to.

Approximately a year and a half ago, Occupy Wall Street started. Protests and riots spontaneously arose in cities around the United States and the world. The protests were destructive and harmful, with businesses and municipalities losing huge amounts of money. They also generated a lot of amusing videos of people being asked why they were protesting.

Supposedly, the protests were against... something. I think it was income inequality, or the governmental plan to bail out corporations, or the influence of business in politics. Maybe. And the protests went on for a few weeks, and after a while, everybody went home. Nothing really changed, except for the fact that the protests cost cities millions of dollars in extra pay for police and fire (example here), and untold millions in actual damages to businesses, not counting lost business.

Now we have concrete reasons to protest against the actions of our government, but no one is actually doing anything about it.

What are those reasons?
1) Targeting of groups by the Internal Revenue Service. Remember when President Obama said this?
Apparently, it is not a joke. Various groups were targeted by the IRS when they applied for tax exempt status, when other groups were not. If you want a complete line-up of articles on the subject, go here.

Is this reason not enough to protest? Most people fear the IRS. They can bring down ruin upon anyone. Being audited is terrifying. You are responsible for proving your innocence. Now, you have the IRS actively targeting certain groups, asking for everything from facebook posts, books they read, donor lists, and board meeting minutes.

2) The hacking of reporters' computers and phone lines.
Reporters who were writing articles about touchy subjects had their phones and computers hacked.

While the phone lines were not tapped, traces were performed on the phone lines for the Associated Press so that the Justice Department could track who was being called. Article here.

James Rosen, a reporter for Fox News (say whatever you want about Fox News), is being threatened as a co-conspirator for leaking information about North Korea's nuclear program. Article here. His phone lines were again traced secretly.

Sharyl Atkinson, a reporter for CBS, had her personal and work computers hacked during the times that she was reporting on the terrorist attacks in Benghazi. If you don't know what happened in Benghazi, a US Ambassador and several other Americans died. Here is the wiki page. Here is the article about how Ms. Atkinson had her computer hacked.

3) The collecting of phone data from millions of Americans.
The National Security Agency, starting under the Bush Administration, has been collecting data on the phone activity of millions of Americans. Article here.

While the government has said that they weren't listening, there are many who think otherwise.

4) The secret collection of data from major internet sources.
The NSA, through a program called PRISM, has been collecting data from companies such as Yahoo, Google, Apple, and Microsoft. This program was exposed by a former contractor for the NSA named Edward Snowden. Here is an article.

Why isn't the public doing something? We have every reason to do something drastic. Hell, just for the tax reason we would have enough cause to do something.
In addition to the abuse of the tax system, we have the infringement of the free press, and the secret collection of private data by the government. 

Other countries that are currently protesting: Turkey, which started out as a protest over a planned business development that would have destroyed a park, which has now turned into a larger protest against a repressive government. Brazil, which is protesting everything from high bus fees, the cost of preparing for the World Cup, and corruption. Bulgaria, where they are protesting the appointment of a security official by their socialist government. Now, I acknowledge that these are huge simplifications of what is going on in these particular countries, but at least they are doing something.

So why aren't we doing something? In my opinion,  it is because so far, most people haven't been affected as an individual. The collection of private data won't change your browsing habits, or how you use your phone, especially when you don't know it is going on. The tracing of the phone lines of the Associated Press and the hacking of reporter's computers won't impact the public as long as some reporting is going on. The information that gets put out by the press might be different, but who will know if the reporters that are doing the hard reporting are silenced? The harassment of various groups by the IRS affects only a small group of people.

But these are all violations of our individual rights protected by the constitution. You would think that our President, who was a constitutional law professor, would know that. Infringement upon the press? First Amendment. Collection of private data? Violation of the Fourth Amendment, which guards against unreasonable searches.  A violation against one individual should be a violation against all of us.

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