Public reaction to NSA wiretaps/data mining

Alan over at A Different Perspective calls for people to "please get upset" about the NSA's data mining of the phone records of millions of Americans. And I agree, we should be upset. Anyone who's read my blog will know that I'm an advocate of privacy. But I have to admit that I reacted more with apathy than indignation at the recent announcement.

Then I found out about the Washington Post-ABC News Poll which basically shows that 2 out of 3 Americans support this sort of privacy invasion, if it results in more security.

Now, I have a problem with the structure of the survey, which implies an inverse correlation between privacy and security. I don't think that relationship has been established. But, be that as it may, the results are what they are. A strong majority of Americans favor giving up some degree of privacy in exchange for an increased feeling of security. Am I wrong to see a problem with this?

My personal feeling is that this is a symptom of the "me-centeredness" of our society today. I know - it sounds like a stretch. Hear me out.

The people killed on 9/11 had no involvment with the middle east, al'quada, Afganistan, terrorism, etc. But they died anyway. That left "normal Americans" feeling vulnderable in a way we never did before. We want somebody to make that feeling go away. (Credit to Jim Wallis in " God's Politics" for this idea.)God\'s Politics : Why the Right Gets It Wrong and the Left Doesn\'t Get It Now, contrast that with the gathering of personal information, which is generally considered to be illegal without showing probable cause. I think that most people would prefer that their privacy not be invaded, but they don't feel overly damaged in this case, because they believe that there's nothing in those records that can harm them personally. Some other person might be harmed, but not them. Hence, my claim that this is based on the "me-culture." After all, why should I care what happens to somebody I don't know, as long as I'm safer?

I think that's wrong. I also think it's short sighted. Anybody remember Joe McCarthy? When simply being in any way tied to an organization critical of the US got you listed as a subversive? Do we really want to return to that? Because I don't think we're far from it at this point.