The United States won the Cold War, but its government gradually came to adopt the very practices that we demonized at that time. Who conquered whom here? Freedom was supposed to have been the victor, but today, Edward Snowden had to be given sanctuary in Russia, of all places, just for having revealed uncomfortable truths about what the U.S. government is doing to its own citizens.
They say it’s all about stopping terrorism. Well, oddly, security is precisely how censorship was justified in the old Soviet days too. The government had to be given access to all communication in order to protect the people from miscreants and enemies within the body politic or else everyone would suffer some terrible fate. To be on the side of free speech was considered an act of treason. So it is today in the great home of freedom.
.. All governments in all times and places have aspired to control the communication of their citizens. In the United States, the government did in fact maintain its control for the greater part of American history. The radio waves were nationalized and controlled. Mail was a government service. The government enforced a strict monopoly over television for decades. Even the telephone system was a government monopoly — handsets and telephone cords were issued and owned by an agent of the state.
In the course of only a few decades, everything unraveled. The telephone monopoly was busted. Cable television was born. Censorship over the radio began to loosen. Then technology took over and there were cellphones, email, private delivery services, chat, hundreds of millions of websites anyone could start, Voice over Internet Protocol, and more forms of communication than government could possibly keep up with. The monopoly over communication that the government once maintained had been completely smashed.
This situation has persisted for about 15 years — a near-anarchist paradise of human sharing and interaction through technological innovation. What’s going on today is really the reaction and response by the elites. They want their power and control back. They are trying to get it through the oldest form of government control surveillance and the blackmail that comes with it. It’s the tactic guards used to control prisoners. It’s the tactic government is using to fight its way back toward having control over our lives.