November 5th, 2013
09:27 AM ET

What I'm reading: Are we creating informant society?

By Fareed Zakaria

“There has been exaggerated talk about whether the government intelligence community could create a police state,” writes Michael Chertoff in the Washington Post. “But the true horror of the East German Stasi or the Maoist Red Guard was the encouragement of informants – private citizens reporting on other private citizens and even family members. No police agency could be omniscient. The oppressiveness of those police states came from the fear every citizen had that another citizen would disclose deviations from the party line.”

“The relevant question here is: Are we creating an informant society, in which every overheard conversation, cell phone photograph or other record of personal behavior is transmitted not to police but to the world at large? Do we want to chill behavior and speech with the fear that an unpopular comment or embarrassing slip will call forth vituperative criticism and perhaps even adversely affect careers or reputations? Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do in restaurants, at sporting events, on public sidewalks or even private parties?”

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“The Afghan experience demonstrates that diplomatic progress between the United States and Iran is possible. It is certainly not guaranteed, but a solid diplomatic solution is always better than the alternatives,” writes Ryan Crocker in The New York Times. “The government of the Islamic Republic is clearly an adversary, but it is also a rational actor. And, like all governments, it is capable of being pragmatic and flexible when it is in its interest to do so. There is a chance that the Obama administration can replicate past successes if it applies four lessons from the 2001 talks.”

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“India’s profile in its own neighborhood has been shrinking rapidly as New Delhi’s inability to shape the evolution of domestic politics in Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka demonstrates,” argues Harsh Pant in Yale Global. “India’s attempt to project its ‘soft power’ in Afghanistan has not yielded the hoped for results. This prompts regional states to question India’s ability to emerge as a balancer in the larger Indo-Pacific. While keen to court India, these states do not see India emerging as a credible actor in their neighborhood any time soon.”

“This foreign policy crisis is of India’s own making. Inability to put its own house in order has shattered the notion of India as an emerging global power. In the last five years, the government in New Delhi decimated economic potential, scaring domestic and foreign investors, and making the county hostile to private investment. The peculiar balance of power between the government and Congress Party ensured that Singh – who as finance minister under then Prime Minister Narasimha Rao, opened India’s doors to the outside world – became a party to stifling the Indian economy.”

 


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soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Joseph McCarthy

    Are we Americans creating an informant society? So far, that appears to be the case.

    November 5, 2013 at 10:59 am | Reply
    • rightospeak

      Thank you, Joseph ,no need for me to comment. The media is so far removed from reality that they have no clue. I am glad that you informed them.

      November 5, 2013 at 1:55 pm | Reply
  2. Paul

    Not wrong: 'But the true horror of the East German Stasi or the Maoist Red Guard was the encouragement of informants – private citizens reporting on other private citizens and even family members' – but informants were not enough to create that evil. One missing piece, that you seem not to understand the whole logics behind that. The real game that was / is going on is that the special secret intelligence officers (in our cases mostly Koreans, j.a.p.anese, chinese, ...) play one 'racial-destroyer-game' – meaning 'if you are not one of them, they try to destroy you' – they also call it 'mikado'.

    November 6, 2013 at 4:50 am | Reply
  3. barbaraviale

    Reblogged this on The year I never said no.

    November 6, 2013 at 9:06 pm | Reply
  4. j. von hettlingen

    Fareed, you ask: "Do we need to constantly monitor what we say or do........."
    Perhaps so, even ordinary citizens are sometimes – inadvertently – targets of sadists and cynics. Occasionally we read about teenagers committing suicide, because of cyber mobbing. Social media makes individuals vulnerable to exposure. So state surveillance is less dangerous than what citizens sometimes do to each other!

    November 7, 2013 at 6:31 am | Reply
    • rkfrom ny

      Very well said, j. von hettlingen. Thank you.

      November 7, 2013 at 11:04 am | Reply

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