By Ron Marr
Sometime last spring I began fiddling with my computer. I changed my preferences and landing pages so I would no longer see a hint of news. I filled my ancient Mac with numerous ad blockers, stealth modes, and anti-tracking software. You see, I was tired of being barraged by idiotic headlines, the majority of which seemed dubious, depressing, and stupid. I didn’t enjoy being the recipient of “breaking stories” and ads selected by some non-benevolent algorithm (spawned by some even less benevolent corporate leviathan) based on my browsing habits.
I don’t like it when a mathematical equation hops on its patronizing high horse and tries to influence my views, tastes, and decisions. It’s embarrassing. At one time such things would have outraged me, but that ship has long since sailed. It took years to understand that my outrage matters not a whit to anyone but me. I now realize that most people don’t mind being bamboozled, so long as the bamboozlement in question is comforting. They don’t mind being sold a pig in a poke, so long as the pig’s color scheme doesn’t clash with their belief system, desires, or preconceptions. About the most I say these days is that a body shouldn’t believe more than 10 percent of anything they see, hear, or read in the news media.
And since you never know which 10 percent is factual, you might as well ignore everything but the weather report.
Of course, I’m not delusional about this. I’m fully aware that our myriad Big Brothers—from Google to government—can collect any data they want whenever they want. If they were so disposed, they could reveal my countless visits to nefarious sites like Modern Blues Harmonica or BettyCrocker .com. If they decided to deem it seditious, the National Security Agency could easily prove that I have a dangerous obsession with learning the theme from Sanford and Son on the blues harp. I know, if they declared it insurrectionary, Homeland Security could utilize enhanced interrogation techniques to ferret out the reasons why I’m perusing crock-pot recipes for meatloaf.
Online surveillance seems to be one of those things everyone knows about and almost everyone chooses to ignore. Worse, there seems to be a growing consensus among the populace that wholesale peeping by big business and bigger government is fine and dandy. “Why should you care,” I’ve had people ask me, “if you have nothing to hide?”
Well howdy there Joe Stalin. Long time no see.
The simple answer is always in the vein of “because it’s none of their business.” If anyone insists on debating further, I ask if they’d mind installing cameras in their homes for those days when I’m tired of Netflix. I ask them for their internet passwords and credit card numbers. I sometimes ask if they’d mind forking over copies of their medical records.
They look at me with pity, as if I’m the slow child in the class.
I believe in the old adage that “the truth will set you free.” However, a few addenda to that statement weren’t included in the user’s manual. First, you have to find truth. That’s no small task since it’s buried under a virtual landfill of muck and garbage. Second, you must have earned enough wisdom, faith, and knowledge to know truth when you see it. Lastly, gaining your freedom does not mean you’ve won a ticket to the land of puppies and rainbows. Freedom requires thought, conviction, vigilance, and heartache.
It’s much easier to behave like a sheep than a sheepherder, which is why so many do.
A sheep doesn’t have to stand on his own two legs, which is why so many don’t.