Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The "Chilling Effect" of NSA Spying on Free Speech And the Free Exercise of Constitutional Rights.

"...In a legal context, a chilling effect is the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction.[...The right that is most often described as being suppressed by a chilling effect is the US constitutional right to free speech..." (Wikipedia: ) ...

Too often these days we are finding out that we are being spied upon via our emails, our social networking, our phone calls, and even by the very preferences we reveal while surfing the internet and going to our favorite web sites. Not only are we being spied upon, but so are our social network "friends" and those we interact with on the internet.

I asked ten people I am associated with if government spying had a "chilling effect" on them.  Only three answered that it didn't matter.  One response was that if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to worry about.  Another just did not care, but I could have predicted that answer, because he is scarcely involved nor does he know or care about politics. The third gave me a very ambiguous answer.

Seven others, however, resented being spied on, and at least five asserted vehemently that government surveillance had indeed a "chilling effect" on what they say and what they do.  And they were very vocal and antagonistic about a government that is so arrogant as to so blatantly violate their civil and constitutional rights.

One answer was as interesting as it was intriguing, and it was this:

"The reason that it is being leaked, that we are being monitored and surveilled by our government is deliberate."  The woman was very specific, and I believe she was very clear in her observation:

"What person would not be careful about what they say to their spouse over the phone in a personal, intimate conversation, when they know that someone, somewhere is listening to their every word.  And what about that person that goes on a rant, complaining about a particular political candidate?"

I contend that government intrusion into citizens' personal lives goes beyond a chilling effect, and that there is a psychological purpose for "leaking" about those government intrusions.

The effects of "being watched" or "monitored" imply that one is doing something wrong, either morally or illegally. It relegates a citizen, whether that citizen is an honest one or not, to the level of criminal.

What does it say about a government that assumes by spying on everyone, that all citizens are potential criminals?

Although some would argue that government violations of civil rights are done in the name of national security, the psychological effects of treating the citizenry at large as a criminal element can only have a debilitating and deteriorating effect on our culture.

Would you speculate that this governmental transgression is deliberate, and if so, for what purpose?

(Note: Seven of those surveyed were Libertarian/Conservatives.)

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