Welcome to this weeks edition of The Daily Banter mailbag!! Today, Bob, Ben, Chez and Banter blogger Jessica Furst discuss the NSA eavesdropping bombshell, the Michelle Obama heckler and the Game of Thrones finale.
1. OK, listen. I'm was willing to let AP and Fox News slide in the name of plugging leaks but in one day there's the Verizon story and now the NSA and FBI data-mining from US internet companies. Is this Obama's fault or do we now just have to accept that we really are living in a surveillance state and we're ALWAYS being watched?
Chez: I'm going to be very honest about all of this. Even when Bush was president I wasn't completely infuriated by the Patriot Act. The reason wasn't that I didn't think it was awful, simply that I tend to overlook things that aren't right in my face. Sure, it's lousy on my part, but I've always kind of felt that panic over things you can't see are for people who don't have enough day to day things right in front of you to be afraid of. It's a luxury I can't even imagine. I also always assume the government is up to something horrendous and I'm a firm believer in Bentham's panopticon: that we're always being watch and that we often even do it to ourselves through the internet. That said, yeah, there's a lot of really shitty reality to come out in just 24 hours -- not counting AP and Fox. I know Greenwald's doing the Snoopy dance over all of this and certainly over his own role in it, so that bugs me. But with everything we're seeing I think somebody seriously needs to reconsider the Patriot Act and somebody needs to limit it. I do partially blame the Obama administration, but I also believe what the Times said today, which is that left to its own devices, every administration will push the limits of the power it's given.
Ben: The scope of the surveilling going on by the NSA is truly shocking - and so is the complicity of companies like Google and Facebook. Is this Obama's fault? Yes - he's given the surveillance the green light, and even if he didn't set it all in motion, he's still culpable. To a certain degree, we're going to have to accept living in a surveillance state. The technology that helps connect us with all our old friends around the world also gives companies the ability to find out exactly what we are up to pretty much all of the time. I personally don't have too much of a problem with it if the information gathered about me is used to sell me crap through advertising, but that info going to the NSA is another story altogether. It's a monumental breach of civil liberties and needs to be reversed.
Bob: First of all, I think we've always known that this was going on. But yes, we have our very own surveillance state in which nothing seems private any more thanks to Mark Zuckerberg and The Facebook, which turns everything you ate for dinner into a public meme -- wait, that's not the NSA. Never mind. Seriously, I'm quite frankly shocked that so many people, especially the Republicans, are shocked. Prior to this NSA story, the Republicans were screaming, "We need eavesdropping! You can't have a Constitution if you're dead!!! Why does Obama suck so much at catching evildoers?!" And now, after the NSA story, everyone from Newt Gingrich to Ann Coulter is screaming, "Fuck you for spying, Obama!" But once the intelligence community is unraveled the far-right can go back to attacking Obama for being weak on the terrorism.
Jessica: I don't really understand the problem. I've always thought it incredibly useful to have someone or something who is also paying close attention to what I'm doing. It saves me losing stuff and saves me from getting lost in the wilderness.
2. Can somebody please explain to me what that woman who heckled Michelle Obama was thinking? Please?
Ben: Some people should get heckled - Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, war criminals and other major league asshole types. But Michelle Obama? She's not a politician, has no power over policy, and is pro gay rights. It was ridiculous and counter productive. Oh, and boring.
Bob: She was thinking, "ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! ME! I'M ENTITLED TO SAYING ANYTHING I WANT WHENEVER I WANT BECAUSE I'M MAD! RRROOOOOOWWWWWRRR!"
Jessica: Carol, I've seen comedians deal with hecklers with such hilarity I thought it impossible for me to laugh any more. I think that's what the heckler was going for, but Michelle Obama clearly was not up for it. That's called 'when a joke falls flat'.
Chez: She just couldn't stay silent any longer and had to interrupt the First Lady of the United States at a private event with that one fucking thing that was pissing her off -- that had been clawing at the inside of her head for ever and ever. Because her pissy little concerns are what's really important in a room full of people who paid to see someone other than her. Or something like that.
3. So what happened on this week's "Game of Thrones." I missed it.
Chez: Ask Bob.
Bob: I also haven't watched it. But I think Bruce Willis is a ghost the whole time.
Jessica: stopped watching Game of Thrones after the first 5 minutes of the first episode. I don't do well with scary and violence. From what I hear it's still not as frightening as World War Z. I prefer things with piped laughter and girls who moan how all men are shit. You know the sort.
Ben: I just got back from having dinner with Chez (I'm in LA at the moment) and he regaled me with what happened in the episode. I don't watch Game of Thrones, and probably won't start after hearing about what went down. It sounded utterly horrific.