peter-maass

We think they should be called trackers because we’re no longer using them as phones. There was a study done by a British cell phone carrier quite recently, which asked smart phone users, ‘What are you actually using these devices for?’ And making phone calls was actually the fifth most popular thing that smart phones are being used for. More popular was checking your email, checking your social media, listening to music, playing games, things of that sort. So phoning people on your smart phone is really not what most of us are using these devices for, so it’s not accurate, in a way, to refer to them as phones, when what we’re using them for are things other than making phone calls.

But, more important than that, in some ways, is our understanding of what these things are when we call them phones, we think of them as phones. This is the whole idea of framing. In politics, if you call something a death panel, that influences what people think about it. If you call something 'Obamacare,’ that influences what people think about it, positively or negatively. So with these smart phones, given that they do so much tracking, in the sense of, 'We’re keeping track of our lives, we’re keeping track of the news, we’re keeping track of our friends, and corporate and government entities are keeping track of us,’ if we call them trackers, then we’re doing a much better job of informing ourselves what these devices are actually doing, and what we’re really using them for.

One of the mysteries of Bosnia’s war is why so many good people stood by as evil deeds were committed in their name-people like Vladimir, the Serb in Visegrád who cried over what had been done to his neighbors. It is a universal mystery. Why, when the would-be dictators of the world start barking their songs of hate, do so many people sing along rather than standing up and say, simply, “No”? It’s a cliché to point to the “good Germans” who followed Hitler into his madness because their duty was not to question but to obey. What about the Americans who buckled under McCarthyism? Or what about the joggers in Central Park who fearfully run past someone being mugged?
—  Peter Maass, Love Thy Neighbor: A Story of War
In America, we have a hard time understanding why people in places like Bosnia are willing to suffer so much in a futile war. The goal of imperial wars, which we are most familiar with, is to conquer and rule. The goal of nationalist wars, as in Bosnia, is to conquer and cleanse. These contests are winner-takes-all. When you are faced with enemies who wish to expunge you from your land, and when those enemies offer a treaty that ensures their boots will stay on your throat, suffocating you one day, you have little choice but to keep struggling, even though the odds are against you and people who call themselves your friends are saying you should give up. Resistance becomes not an option but an imperative.
—  Love Thy Neighbour: A Story of War, by Peter Maass.

“In a technological sleight of hand, oil can be extracted from the deserts of Arabia, processed to eliminate water and natural gas, sent through pipelines to a terminal on the gulf, loaded onto a supertanker and shipped to a port thousands of miles away, then run through a refinery and poured into a tanker truck that delivers it to a suburban gas station, where it is pumped into an SUV-all without anyone actually glimpsing the stuff. And so long as there is enough oil to fuel the global economy, it is not only out of sight but out of mind, at least for most consumers.”

― Peter Maass, Crude World

You guys should read another fantastic long form piece How Laura Poitras Helped Snowden Spill His Secrets by Peter Maass

Poitras, sitting 20 rows behind Greenwald, occasionally went forward to talk about what he was reading. As the man sitting next to him slept, Greenwald pointed to the FISA order on his screen and asked Poitras: “Have you seen this? Is this saying what I’m thinking it’s saying?”

At times, they talked so animatedly that they disturbed passengers who were trying to sleep; they quieted down. “We couldn’t believe just how momentous this occasion was,” Greenwald said. “When you read these documents, you get a sense of the breadth of them. It was a rush of adrenaline and ecstasy and elation. You feel you are empowered for the first time because there’s this mammoth system that you try and undermine and subvert and shine a light on — but you usually can’t make any headway, because you don’t have any instruments to do it — [and now] the instruments were suddenly in our lap.”

Snowden had instructed them that once they were in Hong Kong, they were to go at an appointed time to the Kowloon district and stand outside a restaurant that was in a mall connected to the Mira Hotel. There, they were to wait until they saw a man carrying a Rubik’s Cube, then ask him when the restaurant would open. The man would answer their question, but then warn that the food was bad. When the man with the Rubik’s Cube arrived, it was Edward Snowden, who was 29 at the time but looked even younger.

“Our lives will never be the same,” Poitras said. “I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to live someplace and feel like I have my privacy. That might be just completely gone.”

Don’t forget to watch her 2012 profile of William Binney, a 32-year veteran of the National Security Agency.

Photo: Olaf Blecker