FRONT ROYAL, VA — "I've been a fan of military history most of my life, and I've never seen a weapon developed that wasn't eventually used. So if I were you, and there was something I really wanted to do with my life, I wouldn't put it off for long."
With that memorable observation, Professor Bernie Norling wound up his popular four — semester course in European history at Notre Dame one fine morning in May 1968.
The class of some 50 students, the majority of them history majors expecting to graduate the next weekend, gave him a standing ovation.
Let's face it: the National Security Agency (NSA) and its programs of domestic wiretapping, eavesdropping, and outright theft of vast personal information for government use, is a weapon. Using it is an act of war — all of it sanctified by invoking the "War on Terror."
Our country's embrace of this war has infected the national psyche in two profound ways: first, it is Manichaean: it was declared twelve years ago as an endless, worldwide war "to put an end to evil." Add to that hubris a drumbeat of raw Hobbesian fear and you get a tech-savvy Leviathan who can do no wrong.
He who leads the fight against that absolute evil is absolutely good — and acts like it.
After all, absolute power corrupts, absolutely.
Historically speaking, this transformation of the American psyche has happened at breakneck speed. What was once, a lifetime or two ago, a limited government invested with a civic spirit in service of the common good has become an unvarnished power-lusting beast.
They don't even bother to pretend anymore. The barbarians are always at the gates. "It's for your own good," politicians of both parties assure us. "We're protecting you from the enemy."
However, to paraphrase Pogo, we have discovered that "the enemy is us." And here we find a most curious alliance, so distinctly unprecedented that it will likely earn a prominent place in the history books.
...the NSA couldn't collect every tiny tidbit of our lives and keep it forever without the cooperation of those young geniuses at Google, Verizon, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and all the other enterprises that help them spy on every word we speak and thought we think.
Some ten years ago, our local bishop briefly considered fingerprinting all parents in the diocese, a policy somehow conceived to combat the clerical sex abuse and cover-up scandals that had recently erupted.
At the time, I took the occasion to call the spokesman for the FBI in Washington, since it was that agency's records that would be searched in these "routine" criminal background checks.
The gentleman was a Catholic who attended a parish in the diocese. He couldn't understand why so many of his fellow parishioners were upset at this policy.
He went on to assure me that all of the fingerprint records of innocent parents would immediately to be destroyed. "Why would we want to keep them," he asked.
I do believe he was offended when I laughed so loudly into the phone.
Well, now we know why they would "want to keep them," and it's no joke. Our own aspiring Leviathans want everything they can get their hands on.
And they're getting it.
And curiously, they couldn't get it without the indispensable assistance of the most antigovernment, independent, and libertarian-leaning generation in history:
"Without God, Everything Is Permitted"
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
Yes, the NSA couldn't collect every tiny tidbit of our lives and keep it forever without the cooperation of those young geniuses at Google, Verizon, Apple, Yahoo, Microsoft, and all the other enterprises that help them spy on every word we speak and thought we think.
And don't forget the hackers — the anarchist, tattoo-infested criminal community from which the NSA actively and routinely recruits.
Instead of protecting us from hackers, the government has hacked us. In the name of "security" (NSA's middle name, by the way), Big Brother foments fear, in the name of perpetual war.
This is a generation that has been brought up to believe that it's ethical to do anything that technology permits.
Make babies in a test tube? Check. Kill unborn babies 'cause they're girls? Check. Take a pill so you can have an abortion in the comfort of your own home? Check. Go to the moon, take pictures of Mars, kill civilians with the Drones of Love — check.
It's all a game, it's all the same.
This bipolar civic pathology is deadly. Instead of protecting us from hackers, the government has hacked us. In the name of "security" (NSA's middle name, by the way), Big Brother foments fear, in the name of perpetual war.
OK, let's take the Leviathan at his word.
Clearly, the NSA is a weapon of war in the holster of the Thought Police.
Combined with its companion criminals (IRS, HHS, Obamacare, FEC, FBI, ad nauseam), it constitutes a turnkey operation ready to serve the Leviathan who will undoubtedly shed his (or her) mask as we blithely glide further down the slippery slope.
Confirmed in its goodness, its soul out of control, the Leviathan state uses fear to keep us in denial, while the nerds willingly serve, fixated on their toys that track our every move.
"May I Kill It?"
Angel, ready to kill the Satanic demon
C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce
Thanks to our benevolent government overseers, every dangerous machine on any job site in America has what is called a "kill switch." When something goes awry, hit the kill switch and the machine shuts all the way down. Everything goes dark.
The combination of spying by Big Brother and his corporate cronies constitutes a one of the most dangerous weapons ever devised for war.
As Professor Norling so presciently noted, this weapon will eventually be used.
A sidebar: Long ago, Augustine made clear that temporal power should be limited, as well as subordinate to the spiritual power.
No institution has a greater stake in preserving those limits today than does the Catholic Church.
Our bishops have launched an unprecedented and very public campaign to defend "religious liberty."
Your Excellencies, might we persuade you to defend our liberty?
Perhaps they are distracted by their dogged determination to support the welfare state. This week our bishops have encouraged Catholics to "speak with representatives about Food Stamps."
In fact, a search of the bishops' conference website for "Food Stamps" renders 137 links.
A similar search for "NSA" turns up — zero.
Apparently, the City of Man's digital attack on the personal freedom and privacy of Augustine's Heavenly City has escaped the notice of the hundreds of the bishops' bureaucrats in Northeast DC.
One would think that, at least, they would have stirred from their socialist slumber to condemn the greedy corporate profiteers who are making billions by selling our secrets to the Prince of this World.
...the Leviathan state uses fear to keep us in denial, while the nerds willingly serve, fixated on their toys that track our every move.
To be sure, as usual, that Prince's promises are pathetic. After all, he is the Father of Lies.
"No one can see your details." "We only use them for the terrorists."
Let's face it: the Leviathan wants to use the Thought Police not against the terrorists, but against us.
Before it's too late, it's time for digital disarmament.
Erase it all. Then unplug it all. Then destroy it all.
Hit the kill switch.
From Under the Rubble archives
From Under the Rubble is copyright © 2013
by Christopher Manion.
All rights reserved.
Christopher Manion is Director of the Campaign for Humanae Vitae™, a project of the Bellarmine Forum. He served as a staff director on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for many years. He has taught in the departments of politics, religion, and international relations at Boston University, the Catholic University of America, and Christendom College. This column is sponsored by the Bellarmine
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