Truthdig Editor-in-Chief Scheer (Communication and Journalism/Univ. of Southern California; The Great American Stickup: How Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street While Mugging Main Street, 2010, etc.) examines how online convenience has supplanted bedrock American values of personal freedom and the right to privacy.
Have Americans really surrendered liberties for the "freedom" of bypassing the mall and doing their shopping online? Certainly, but as the author discusses at length, the Internet has also given rise to the most perfect surveillance apparatus ever created. For years, Facebook, Google, Amazon and other businesses and organizations have amassed unprecedented amounts of data on anyone who does anything on the Internet. As long as all that personal information was being used to more effectively push products and gizmos on consumers, most everyone over the last 15 years or so just seemed to shrug and keep on surfing. Of course, hawking goods online was never that innocuous—not when the endgame was to not only satisfy desires, but to invent and manufacture them as well. When the Pentagon and the rest of the “Military-Intelligence Complex” started to fiendishly exploit the Web in ever crafty new ways, people finally began to pay more attention and question whether we were entering a scenario initially conceived by George Orwell, Aldous Huxley and other prescient writers. "Disturbingly,” writes the author, “some of the research [the Pentagon] commissioned seemed to be aimed at understanding how to control or prevent public dissent inside the United States through surveillance and manipulation of information flows, like those curated by social networks." The online giants might have tried to divorce themselves from overreaching government spooks, but Scheer provides more than enough solid journalism to show that the digital dirt is knee-deep and getting deeper.
A vital piece of work that demands attention.