The Skeleton Dance

The Facebook’s connected to the cellphone,

The cellphone’s connected to the government,

The government’s connected to the NSA,

& That’s-where-they-permanently-store-our-personal-data-for-all-eternity.

Okay, so that version isn’t quite as catchy as the original children’s rhyme, but it does contribute to proving a similarly undesirable point.

Immediately following the 9/11 attacks in 2001, Americans demanded additional safety. In the wake of such a severe breach of national security, this demand procured the authorization of the federal government to acquire new responsibility – one of intense (and arguably aggressive) surveillance. The fear of the American public both gave consent to and intentionally ignored the constant observation of individuals with potential to harm the U.S. Little did the People know, this “observation” gradually grew into collection, and it expanded beyond the terrorists and threats; The federal government allegedly began to store the personal data of American citizens in 2007, through an undisclosed program called “Prism.” In the year 2013, Edward Snowden (former U.S. citizen and government employee/patriot/traitor) provided national publications with proof of these surveillance activities. It was exposed to the public that the National Security Agency has had the ability to “reach directly into the servers of the participating companies and obtain both stored communications as well as perform real-time collection on targeted users.” These companies, utilized by millions of people collectively, include major platforms like Microsoft, Google, Facebook, and Apple, just to list a few.

I know what you’re thinking; Such an extremely brief summation of the recent evolution of government observation begs the question:

Is the American public harmed by the very surveillance system that was originally intended to save us?

In response to this inquiry, I experience mixed emotions. At first, I am led to agree with the idea that our privacy is being violated by these activities. I am angered that, by consenting to the Terms and Conditions page upon registration, from that point forward, all of my digital movements and interactions are being tracked, gathered, and, in some cases, exploited. I am angered that a government, a body with which I am associated, of which I am a (minute) component of, has the authority to know absolutely everything about me – down to the very last insignificant detail.

On the other hand, in the digital age that we have become accustomed to, I am directed to believe that our “private lives” are simply not private anymore. With the surplus of technology that smothers us today – surveillance cameras, location services, and portable communication devices – it seems that there is no privacy. There can be no secrets. (As if we needed help exposing our lives even more than they already can be through social media.)

In that sense, I suppose I am a bit of an idealist. Indeed, it would be so easy to believe that, if nothing else, my deepest conversations with some of my closest friends are reserved to our individual brains. But, who are we kidding? The government has probably had recording devices sewn into our clothing.

I hope they relish listening to hours of outfit planning, concert scheming, and boy-obsessing. You’re welcome, America.




*Pardon my cynicism


Like Mike

Never get on your knees.

     This is the first, and arguably most the vital, piece of advice that I gained from Mike Boettcher’s presentation in Room 200-something of Dale Hall. His illustrative tales of risk and sacrifice as a foreign war correspondent intrigued even the most ignorant of Intro to Mass Communications students. In particular, accounts of his travels with a group of active servicemen in Iraq captured the attention of the auditorium. The anecdotes of his experiences on the battlefront and in other areas of conflict reflect the ruthless realities of the recent war in the Middle East. Having been caught in the middle of a nine-day skirmish between five hundred Taliban members and the U.S.’s 101st Division, he knows firsthand the magnitude of the numerous conflicts in this region.

     Because so many of the clashes that have occurred in the area reflect social and cultural struggles, it only emphasizes the necessity for representing these events in the media. If one expands this stipulation to the entire Mid-East, it grows into an even more pressing matter. The population of this region, estimated at 205 million in 2010, is growing still, amidst a time of war nonetheless (Wiki). For most countries, these have become civil wars, such as in Syria, and now in Iraq. Prior to that, Egypt also experienced a period of heated civil conflict. Aside from the political and economic reasons as to why these wars are significant, the humanitarian aspect concerns me the most. Being half a world away from the Arab Spring, it is impossible for me to imagine the hardships that the citizens of these war-torn countries face on a daily basis; my only window to their world is through mass media. As Boettcher put it, “Everybody has a story, and they want it to be told,” and I can only hope that their experiences are interpreted to the rest of the global community with integrity.

In addition to depicting the direness of the Middle Eastern condition, an aspect of his lecture that resonated with me was his perception of his own profession. In his words, “We’re not the story – we cover the story.” I feel that this is the best way in which to view journalism, and any job within mass communications for that matter. By removing yourself (and your own interests, opinions, and preferences) from the account, you become the storyteller. You are the veracity and accuracy with which you present your story.

So, for today’s takeaway, I wish to say one thing: If being a journalist means making a positive impact by portraying someone else’s experiences, then I hope to someday be just like Mike.