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Some words for the computers and the apathetic

June 13, 2013 - Paul Giannamore
I posted the following last night on my Facebook page:

“Here is a little test:

I do not like the New England PATRIOTs. When my daughter was little, we enjoyed having a play TEA PARTY. I enjoyed Anthony Bourdain's program about LIBYA. Is CHECHEN food good? I am sick of talking about GUNS. Timothy McVeigh made a TRUCK BOMB out of AMMONIUM NITRATE.”

I’ll state it clearly. My goal is to see if the government truly is not getting into people’s business who aren’t really associating with terrorists. It’s a set of sentences with key words I figure are big for attracting attention nowadays. If it indeed is true that the feds are capturing everything we do and say on the Web, there must be some kind of computer program with some kind of keyword search at work somewhere. Which could lead to simple small-town newspaper guys like me getting ensnared for typing a few words in the works, right? I stress, those words are typed wholly without meaning. They’re just sentences. No intent at all beyond seeing if something or someone somewhere listens. I hate Timothy McVeigh, and I think ammonium nitrate should be banned in favor of a less explosive fertilizer, if one exists. And I have no intention of going to Libya, which is why I figure CNN pays Mr. Bourdain to go there for me and all of his fans.

I realize most people just do not care about the whole government spying thing, figuring that, like being made to partially disrobe to get on board an airliner that is late, may be poorly maintained and probably is staffed by underpaid, exhausted child pilots and directed by too few civil servants, it’s just the way America keeps itself safe now.

But I remember when you could actually wear tie-up shoes and dressed nice to get aboard your flight. And you could carry shampoo through the airport. I remember when illegal wiretapping, even by President Nixon and his minions, was illegal. Warrants were necessary. But we’re ensnaring the terrorists. The feds say, in effect, by getting everything, they’re getting a lot of something.

So, I will be running this test. Today and tomorrow, too, I will be placing, sometime between 9 p.m. and 11 p.m. on my Facebook page, a few sentences with keywords already typed in capital letters. Might as well make it easy for them. If everyone in the nation did the same thing, would the computer suspect everyone, marking us all for extra supersecret surveillance, like being made to go behind the search screen at the airport? Or would we be blamed for tying up the apparently amazing supercomputer system at work when it could have been stopping the real terrorists?

Oh, and my question to the more than 50 percent of Americans who think this whole thing is just about security so it must be OK, does that mean the civilly disobedient eventual warriors who founded this nation should have just paid their taxes to the king of England and gone on about their business? Because you’ve apparently all lost the spirit of freedom the Founding Fathers sought to place in the hearts of all Americans. Do you actually listen to the words of the national anthem or just wait to cheer and get on with the ballgame?


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