Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor
November 12, 2013 12:51 PM   Subscribe

I don't censor myself. But after a long, thirsty day of searching for body disposal and untraceable weapons, I like to finish with a search for "Dear NSA, I'm a writer, this is research." (Which brings up some pretty sad and chilling blog posts.)

If I spend any time batting around unsavory ideas in e-mail, I usually sign off on one of them with the same phrase.

Pretty much, I expect to be arrested at some point. I have a feeling the NSA doesn't have much of a sense of humor.
posted by headspace at 1:02 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

The actual survey responses begin on page 21, and demographics of the surveyed (not including race or gender :( ) are on the last page.
posted by Going To Maine at 1:07 PM on November 12, 2013


(for America)
posted by entropicamericana at 1:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [4 favorites]

So, in other words, it's working.
posted by blue t-shirt at 1:20 PM on November 12, 2013 [10 favorites]

Because the NSA is people too.
posted by Ned G at 1:43 PM on November 12, 2013

"The threat of exposure has caused potential visitors to stay away, and members to withdraw from the community, resulting in the church losing its voice and damaging our faith and our organization." Rev. Rick Hoyt, First Unitarian Church of Los Angeles

Any sacrifice of our rights and freedoms is justified if it keeps us safe from the Unitarian jihad.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 2:11 PM on November 12, 2013 [6 favorites]

Michael Hayden: "But privacy to an individual is what secrecy is to a state.".

Didn't anyone tell him that privacy is dead and he should just get over it?

But please, NSA, give us more lectures on the importance of personal privacy.
posted by el io at 2:15 PM on November 12, 2013

... yep.
posted by kyrademon at 2:32 PM on November 12, 2013

Any sacrifice of our rights and freedoms is justified if it keeps us safe from the Unitarian jihad.
I'll bet that the GS13 running the Unitarian jihad (or whatever Al-queda gets called now), gets a bonus based on its Google rank.
posted by MikeWarot at 2:56 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

One writer expressed concern that other countries will see the U.S. surveillance program as a green light to conduct their own surveillance

"Will see"?
posted by IndigoJones at 3:08 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Reason 438 you didn't finish nanowrimo this year:

The NSA.
posted by hal_c_on at 3:28 PM on November 12, 2013 [8 favorites]

Years ago, as an impressionable youngster, I had the privilege of taking a class by an Iranian emigre. One day he told us about living under a regime that kept order with its secret police. The real censuring, he said, was not the obvious list of non-allowed books, political parties, etc. No, this simply meant that people learned not to say dangerous things. That is, ideas not approved by the state.

But the most pronounced effect of the secret police and their opening mail, tapping phones and running numerous citizen informers was that a person under that threat of surveillance and arrest began to stop thinking disapproved ideas.

That's the chilling effect, and it is starting to work here -- where it never should have been able. First we stop writing certain things, then we stop associating with certain people, then we stop thinking and everyone wears flag pins and "supports the troops."
posted by slab_lizard at 3:52 PM on November 12, 2013 [17 favorites]

To be fair, slab_lizard, we were doing that at least 30 years before Snowden's leaks.
posted by clarknova at 4:31 PM on November 12, 2013

So, what Slab_Lizard (if indeed that is his real name) is saying is that he doesn't support the troops.
posted by el io at 4:40 PM on November 12, 2013

Definitely a known Communist, judging from his Klout score and other secret intelligence data.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 4:43 PM on November 12, 2013

___ _____ ___ _ ___ _______ ___ ___ ___ ________ ____ _____ _______ ______ __ __ __ _______. __ ___: _____ ____ ________ __ __ ___ _______ NSA _____ ______ ___ __________. ____ __________ __ ___________.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 5:59 PM on November 12, 2013 [1 favorite]

Any sacrifice of our rights and freedoms is justified if it keeps us safe from the Unitarian jihad.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow

Fixed that for you!
posted by Dreidl at 6:24 PM on November 12, 2013

Ned G: "Because the NSA is people too."

The NSA is PEOPLE. And they taste like rancid pork!

Hold on. Someone at the door.

posted by Splunge at 6:30 PM on November 12, 2013

Dear NSA, lick my sack.

Love, Metafilter.
posted by Renoroc at 6:55 PM on November 12, 2013 [2 favorites]

Dear America
I love you, you know that. We were an item, for decades! I know I've been away a long time, and I miss you, I really do. But, really, we can't get back together unless you start facing reality, and clean up your act.

It's not enough that you have been exposed. So what? Exposure only takes the gloves off. The exposed behavior must change, not simply be shoved under cover, hidden from all eyes.

But it's worse. It's gone on too long and too far, and too deep. You've made of our relationship a laughing stock. You've squandered your reputation and acted a complete whore. Where once you'd refuse business based on human rights, you now refuse human rights based on the need to do business. Can I be more clear than that?

Rehab isn't easy! There's MUCH you must do! But I doubt it will happen. People in high places are going to absolutely need to be cast, not only down, but into prison. You can't keep "looking forward", acting like the past didn't happen. That's bullshit, and no one is fooled by that shit anymore. It must stop, now. Worse, the ones looking forward are now obviously looking forward as a way to misdirect everyone else in hopes (now dashed!) they won't notice the malfeasance of the forward-looker.

The only alternative is an end. You will eat yourself and disintegrate, like every empire that has gone before you. The longer you continue this course, the worse that end will be. It can't be helped, that's how these things work, like natural law.

Clean up your act! NOW.

posted by Goofyy at 1:24 AM on November 13, 2013

Isn't it more correct to say that fear drives people to self-censor? Assuming the NSA surveillance story is actually real (which I kind of doubt, but that's a different story), it has been going on for a long time. All that has changed is that people know a little more about it now. Nothing concrete, really, just that it is Bigger Than They Thought. The NSA didn't change their behavior; their own fears and imaginations did.

We won't preserve our freedoms by cowering in fear. We maintain our freedoms by continuing to use them.
posted by gjc at 7:27 AM on November 13, 2013

If you want to see the chilling effect in action, search Google News for articles about the Trans-Pacific Partnership document leaked this morning. Count which of those articles were published in major U.S. news outlets. Currently the count is 0.
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 10:09 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's the first I've heard of it. Thanks for the heads up.

WikiLeaks publishes secret draft of Trans-Pacific Partnership treaty

Moyers & Company did a bit on TPP a couple of weeks ago:

Why are the contents of a major US-led trade deal being deliberately kept from the American people?
posted by homunculus at 10:42 AM on November 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Feds Deploy National Spy System of Microphones Capable of Recording Conversations
Is Self-Censorship In Outdoor Conversations next?
posted by jeffburdges at 9:01 AM on November 19, 2013

Thank You Edward Snowden Bus
posted by jeffburdges at 12:55 PM on December 3, 2013

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