NSA Spying: The Collective ‘Meh’ Heard ‘Round America (Pew Poll)

Meh - photo by Thomas HawkAmericans read about NSA surveillance of internet traffic and data mining of phone records and they responded with a collective “meh.” This blog doesn’t exactly tear it up in the page view department, but my recent posts on NSA Spying have gotten very little traction at all. And that leads me to believe when it comes to the NSA leak story, Americans just don’t give a shit.

Apparently the Bush administration and now the Obama administration have done a lot of damage to this country’s psyche. We believe terrorism is such an existential threat to our way of life, that we, well, are willing to give up part of that way of life. And a new Pew poll shows I might be on to something when I say Americans just don’t care about freedom, liberty and privacy as much as our rhetoric would suggest.

Pew Research Center — A majority of Americans – 56% – say the National Security Agency’s (NSA) program tracking the telephone records of millions of Americans is an acceptable way for the government to investigate terrorism, though a substantial minority – 41% – say it is unacceptable.

So there you have it. Americans say, “go ahead and take some privacy if that’s what it will take to combat a problem — when compared to real dangers — that barely registers on the scale.” OK, that 41% is a large minority, so I guess that is presumptuous of me, but I can’t help but think a lot of that 41% doesn’t really care as well.

But ask Americans a more generic question (“Which is more important? — Investigate terrorist attacks (or) Not intrude on privacy”) and you get a clearer consensus that straddles the line between intolerable and just plain depressing.

Currently 62% say it is more important for the federal government to investigate possible terrorist threats, even if that intrudes on personal privacy. Just 34% say it is more important for the government not to intrude on personal privacy.

/ photo by Thomas Hawk

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  • Christian Hanneman

    That part of our “way of life” which Americans don’t want to give up is all the connectivity we love. We won’t give up our cellular telephones, our internet, our Facebook and Twitter. It seems like the loss of privacy is the price we are willing to pay for being able to connect to anyone and anything anytime and anywhere.

    When automobiles were first invented people were appalled, APPALLED at the number of accidents that were starting to occur. Well, did we give up our cars because people were dying? Today we have long since accepted traffic fatalities as a normal, if tragic, part of modern society.

    • I’ve heard this argument, but there’s a big difference between secret government data-mining and using Facebook, Twitter, etc. The difference is choice. You can say people are giving up their privacy by participating on social media or even being on the internet at all, but it’s a choice. I don’t remember being asked by the NSA whether or not they could view my phone records or what sites I visit on the internet. Of course I know the private companies I deal with for these services know, and I’ve chosen to accept that. But the idea that “the state” can and will KNOW ALL in the name of national security is not something I remember signing up for. And it’s certainly not something that agrees with the Fourth Amendment.