Tuesday, the world caught a rare glimpse into the operations of the CIA thanks to WikiLeaks. Among the file dump were over a thousand pieces of software designed to secretly spy on you through your phone or TV. They developed ways to bypass even the best anti-virus measures and fool cyber security experts.
But as of Thursday morning, the story has virtually disappeared. It is no longer trending on Twitter and is missing from the front page of CNN and MSNBC. Much of the news that replaced the story is drivel: Chaffetz’ cell phone or health care comparison, Trevor Noah’s criticism of Trump, and even the Dallas Cowboys cutting quarterback Tony Romo appear instead of a story of grave importance. Sure, those stories are “sexy” and make for great shareable social media content, but they do not address a threat to the foundations of this country.
As our Constitutional rights are stripped away by a shadowy government agency, college students are violently protesting speakers that they don’t agree with; the media is outraged at gaffes by politicians – Yet as our very freedom is actually being crippled, we shrug our shoulders and move on to the next story.
While we are rightfully investigating the Trump administration’s ties to Russia and Russian involvement in our elections, our own government is acting in the same way the Soviets did at the height of the Cold War. Stories of the KGB spying on the Soviet people were commonplace in the news in the 1980s. Such stories led us to mark the USSR as the perfect bad guy in films and TV. But now as the CIA has turned on the American people, we still blame the Russians.
We know that the spy agencies of our country have acted against American citizens and American press with political motivation. Under both Bush and Obama, the Department of Justice snooped on unfriendly reporters and activist organizations, citing national security and the threat of domestic terrorism. So why aren’t we angry now?
The Pew Research Center found several factors involved in our collective shift away from concern over privacy. In a review of their studies, Pew points out that citizens trust the government more than Google or Facebook to maintain the privacy and security of their data. This is despite the fact that Google and Facebook are actively working to protect our information, while the government is busy trying to collect as much of our data as possible.
Pew also shows that as our concerns grow over terrorism, we are inversely worried about civil liberties. Those trends are shown equally across liberals and conservatives alike. So the more fear government generates, the more we allow them to stomp on our freedoms.
This makes perfect sense as to why both big-government Democrats and Republicans alike are trying to paint foreign governments as super villains. If we are afraid of Russia, China, North Korea, ISIS, and even Mexico, the government can justify their actions against its own citizens. That is not to say that we don’t face foreign threats, but we have to be cognizant of what rights we are willing to sign away in the name of security.
We should be outraged that our government no longer respects the most basic of our rights. Instead, we await the next Trump Twitter meltdown. Meanwhile, our apathy is telling our government officials that we consent to their intrusion.