“Big Brother” Crying “Wolf”?


Anthony Judge – TRANSCEND Media Service

But them “wolves” are a-changin’ — them’s becomin’ “werewolves”!


Warnings have recently issued by US authorities regarding potential threats to US facilities and travellers, most notably in the Middle East (Eric Schmitt, Qaeda Messages Prompt U.S. Terror Warning, The New York Times, 2 August 2013). Much has been made of the precautionary response of the US in closing over 20 embassies in the region (Al Qaeda threat leads U.S. to issue global travel alert, embassies to close, CNN, 2 August 2013; US closes Middle East and other embassies after security threat, The Guardian, 2 August 2013). Allies in Europe have variously echoed the threat warning and considered similar precautions.

The warnings purportedly derive from successful use of NSA/PRISM in the detection of traffic between terrorists — said to be resembling the pattern of traffic immediately prior to 9/11 (Dan Roberts and Robert Booth, NSA defenders: embassy closures followed pre-9/11 levels of ‘chatter’, The Guardian, 5 August 2013). The perceived threat has been associated with prison breakouts of alleged members of Al-Qaida (Interpol issues global alert over al-Qaida-linked prison breakouts, The Guardian, 3 August 2013). The assessment is said to have been made despite a recognized change in the pattern of communications following the recent disclosures (Terrorists changing communication methods after NSA snooping leaks, ZeeNews, 27 June 2013).

In commentary on CNN (4 August 2013), in response to questioning, Robert Baer, a former CIA case officer, indicated that “They’re coming after us“.

The challenge for the world would appear to be how to evaluate the claims for the credibility of such warnings — given the source and the potential strategic agendas. Potentially more fundamental is how the current process is indicative of ever increasing critical awareness of the role of trust and confidence — despite their intangible nature.

Just as the pattern of communication between alleged terrorists is claimed to resemble that prior to 9/11, the claims for the credibility of that evidence vividly recall those made by US Secretary of State Colin Powell, in a key presentation to a plenary session of the United Nations Security Council on 5 February 2003, arguing in favour of military action in Iraq (Remarks to the United Nations Security Council. 5 February 2003). The “concrete proof” was later shown to have been deliberately misleading.

Is recognition of the significance of trust and confidence also indicative of emerging recognition of a need to move beyond simply maligning the “other” — whether “Al-Qaida” or “NSA”? Are there more fundamental issues than seeking to enhance the unquestionable merits and trustworthiness of those whose exclusive credibility it is desired to prove?

By whom is it then appropriate to be “terrified” and of what is that “terror” indicative? Beyond understandable concern for lives and vital infrastructure, does that focus obscure the “terrifying” implications of change itself?

A relatively gentle “wind of change” was famously recognized by Margaret Thatcher in 1960. There was widely-appreciated acknowledgement by Bob Dylan that The Times They Are a-Changin’ (1964). Has the pressure for radical change now mutated radically? In a global society addicted to the daily thrill of “terrifying” experiences (including fearful tales of vampires), is the threat of change now more appropriately framed by “werewolves” rather than “wolves”?

Can the terror induced by change agents — whatever their cause or modality — be distinguished from that induced by those acting to resist them? More fundamentally however, what are the existential implications of any sense of “terror” when variants are so assiduously cultivated by the media, and through other experiences welcomed as “terrific”? Vicarious or otherwise, what are we pretending to run from when we are so strangely enthralled by “terror”?

Rather than “they’re coming after us” — like “wolves” or “werewolves” — the argument is transformed into a concluding recognition that “we’re wolves” in quest of ourselves, and of an identity to be otherwise understood. The Zen-like vigilance required then implies that “NSA” be better understood to mean “No Security Anywhere”.


Big Brother crying “wolf”?
Erosion of credibility of authority
Trust, confidence, and credibility under a regime of total insecurity
Appreciating the Emperor’s new clothes — as designed by NSA
Clues for an existential turnaround?
Questionable “existence” of Al-Qaida
Questionable “existence” NSA/PRISM
Cultivation of “terror”, “terrorism” and “terrific”
Ambiguity of “democratic oversight”: institutionalisation of negligence?
Fear of change: engaging otherwise with “werewolves”
Embodying “malware” transformatively: No Security Anywhere (NSA)?
Paradoxical correspondences and complementarity



This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 12 Aug 2013.

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