TRUTH THROUGH A PRISM – Marilyn Armstrong

FOWC with Fandango — Prism

Prism is a complicated word with a variety of meanings, mathematical, optical, and figuratively. I use the term figuratively — to see something through “the prism of a camera,” would be a common usage.

What is it?

In geometry, a prism is a solid geometric figure whose two end faces are similar, equal, and parallel rectilinear figures, and whose sides are parallelograms. (Got that? Really? Well, please explain it to me!)

In optics, it is a glass or other transparent object in prism form, especially one that is triangular with refracting surfaces at an acute angle with each other and that separates white light into a spectrum of colors. You can buy prismatic filters for a camera and many modern cameras come with some version of a prism built into them.

Prism is more commonly used in figurative speech. In this case, it is referring to the clarification or distortion of a viewpoint, as in “They were forced to imagine the disaster through the prism of television” — which would inherently change the natural viewpoint. I often think that is what people really mean when they say “reporters lie.”

Reporters don’t lie, but they force the truth through the prism of their format — television. This requires cutting down long commentaries to find the “nugget” without the longer speech. Although this is intended to sharpen the meaning of the comments, it doesn’t always do that. The personal point of view of the editor or reporter can affect the way the subject is presented.

But reporters don’t lie. They present information in a particular way which requires editing and shaping. Without this “shaping” of the news for presentation in a half-hour or hour news broadcast, there would be no television news at all.

For that matter, the same process is used in any form of print media. No one presents the full context of a speech in any form of news. Even in full book presentation, most commentaries are substantially cut. Why? Because you would fall profoundly asleep before you got to the main point of the discussion.

It’s all well and good to have long arguments which find you still haggling over details at dawn the following day, but reporting news in a format anyone can follow and understand takes a lot of understanding of the subject matter. Finding the “important nugget of information” in a cloud of context is a skillful occupation. It isn’t performed by people who get up in the morning planning on lying to the public — unless they work for Fox News, in which case reality bears little resemblance to their version of “news.”

So when you argue the prism of a format, remember it is done so you can make sense of it. If it isn’t a complete version of the whole truth, do your own research. Look for the truth. Find it. Read it. Search for more if that’s not enough.

ABC News

No one — least of all the people who report the news — suggests the versions they report are the uncut truth. That type of knowledge requires you.

Find the truth — then believe it after you discover it. If you start out with pre-conditions of “what truth should be,” you won’t find anything but your own opinion.


NOTE: The expression “through a prism darkly” refers to spying.

Waiting for Dystopia

I’m bemused and a bit bewildered at the furor over how the NSA is spying on American citizens. As a long-time faithful fan of NCIS, Law & Order and so many other cop shows, I’ve become familiar with how easy it is for government agents to get our phone and computer records. Our photos are easy to find on traffic cameras and security footage. It’s the meat and potatoes of television crime shows, so I can’t believe there’s anyone over the age of 5 who doesn’t know when someone is compromising evidence or has forgotten to wear his or her gloves at the crime scene.

Portrait of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover. (no ...
Feared FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover – Rumor has it he wore a dress when he wasn’t accusing Americans of being Communists.

We know there are cameras trained on us everywhere we go. It’s even more intense in Great Britain and most parts of Europe, so this isn’t just an American aberration. It’s everywhere.

It must have been 20 years since we first learned about the trap door in Windows. You remember. That’s the security hole designed to let the government peek into our computers. All operating systems have holes in them. Any 14-year old hacker can find them, so surely the FBI can do almost as well. Did anyone think that the holes in our operating systems have gone away? Been patched up? Really?

Blaming one political party or the other, one president or another for extending and expanding the surveillance that’s been ongoing  for decades is pointless. It’s not going to stop no matter what they say or who is in the White House. The agencies that run the surveillance will merely improve their ability to camouflage their activities. Our governments are not going to stop monitoring our computers, telephones, bank accounts, or anything else. We can’t even stop Google and Facebook from having their way with us, so what makes you think we can stop the FBI or Scotland Yard?

It is wrong that governments spy on their citizens? Isn’t that a gross violation of our privacy? In theory I agree. They shouldn’t listen to our boring phone calls. I think it’s possible the cruelest punishment of all would be monitoring the phone calls of adolescent girls, but I digress.

My opinion is (a) it’s not up to me or you, and (b) we can’t have it both ways. We can’t demand more and better security yet expect the government to accomplish it without compromising our privacy.

So, we are faced with a theoretical (but not real) choice. Do we want security or privacy? As for the theoretical but not real aspect of the choice: it’s not up to us. In the United States, agencies of the government are in charge of national security. It’s their job. This didn’t start with Obama , Bush or even Regan. It goes back a long way, at least as far back as when J. Edgar Hoover was The Man and probably long before that too.

This is not an area on which we get to vote. It has been this way since before any of us were born and will continue to be this way after all of us are dead and gone.

Continuing to whine and bitch about it isn’t going to change anything. If you don’t want to be monitored, stop using the Internet. Give up your cell phones. Keep your money under the mattress. Live on a farm in the middle of nowhere. Grow your own food and generate your own electricity. Don’t have a mortgage. Pay all your bills in cash. Better yet, don’t have bills.

Don’t work a regular job and move frequently. Don’t collect social security, Medicare or for that matter, file an income tax return. Don’t register a car and don’t vote. Should you have kids, home school them. Even if you do all these things, if THEY want to find you, they will. Because sooner or later you have to interact with other people and people talk.

75-FireAndIcePoem

I have friends who are awaiting the end the civilization, if not the world. They are planning against the day when they will live in the Dystopia of their nightmares. They want to make sure they have enough guns.

Personally, I think lots of bottled water and canned goods would be more useful. And blankets, first aid supplies, and warm clothing. But I’m not expecting the world to end, and if it does, I figure it will just wither away. Not with a bang, nope, uh-uh. I’m leaning toward the long, tired whimper.

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Daily Prompt: Do Not Disturb — Through A Prism

Author John Scalzi in his blog Whatever posted what I think is a sane, intelligent answer to the uproar and outrage over “discovering” that the government is spying on us. The article is titled Hey Scalzi, Don’t You Have Anything Angry to Say About That PRISM Thing? He points out that we all know the government is spying on us. We certainly have to know that Google and Facebook are spying on us. Microsoft has been spying on us for years as has Apple and Amazon. Depending on the security level of your home network, your entire neighborhood could by spying on you. There’s nothing new about this and if you had for some weird reason assumed your government which has been ramping up surveillance activities for more than a decade is not spying on all of us, it leaves only one question: How naïve are you?

Image representing Google as depicted in Crunc...

Living where I live and doing what I do, I recognized long ago there is no “off the grid” for me. Unless we were to go live in a cave in the far northern reaches of somewhere or other — if you know Garry and I,  that’s about as unlikely a scenario as anyone could create — I’m no cave dweller. The idea of living anywhere without a high-speed Internet connection gives me the willies.

That the government is using its capabilities to keep an ear and an eye on our transmissions, just in case something sounds suspicious and/or terroristic not only doesn’t surprise me, it would surprise me if they weren’t doing it. Land’s End monitors my purchases and browsing to create advertisements likely to lure me to buy from them. So does L.L. Bean, Dell, Amazon and everyone else from whom I shop. Google probably knows what color underwear I put on this morning. They’ve got my email and every photograph I’ve ever posted. Moreover, like most of the rest of you, I have a blog. Everything I write, every picture I publish goes off into cyberspace where it lives forever. If I Google myself, I find that like a mosquito captured in amber, my previous identities are still floating around out there, unchanged by time.

Years ago I accepted reality. If I want to belong to the world, I’m will be exposed to and by it. If you think otherwise, you are in denial.

Image representing Facebook as depicted in Cru...

All of those agreements we sign because if we don’t, we can’t use the software or that website, explicitly say we are granting permission to collect information, read our posts, access our applications and mine our data. I am mindful of what I post on the Internet. I write a lot, but I never post anything online that would embarrass me if someone announced it from the pulpit in church. If I have secrets, they stay secrets by the simple, primitive expedient of keeping my mouth shut.

Living out here in the middle of nowhere, we are less invaded by cameras and spy satellites than more heavily populated areas. It’s not because we aren’t as likely as anywhere else to be engaged in some kind of nefarious activity. It’s simply a matter of using available resources. There are only so many cameras and people to monitor them. We just aren’t worth the effort. Besides, if you want to know everything that is going on in Uxbridge, Massachusetts, drop by. Hang around the grocery store for a couple of hours. You’ll know everything and everybody in very short order.

The truth is that I don’t have much to hide. There’s stuff I did in my past that could potentially embarrass me, but it wouldn’t land me in jail. Probably my husband knows more interesting stuff than I do, but he was a reporter for a long time. And he isn’t talking. Not to me, not to anyone. He subscribes to the belief that a secret is something you don’t tell anybody. I’ve been trying to worm information out of him for more than 40 years. He just smiles and keeps watching whatever show is on TV. You have no idea how frustrating I find it, but comforting too. Because he’s not telling anyone my secrets either.

English: The logo of the blogging software Wor...

The government isn’t looking for me. I’m not buying guns, building bombs or selling drugs. I’m not traveling anywhere much, unless you count the occasional friend and doctor’s appointment. You could monitor my telephone traffic 24/7 and learn absolutely nothing because I don’t spend any time on the phone except when arguing with customer service reps, usually the cable company. And while it might be entertaining, it isn’t likely to be particularly exciting or enlightening. It certainly has nothing to do with anybody’s security, not even mine.

Spying? I’m more worried about Facebook and Google, WordPress and Amazon. They really do want to know what I’m doing so they can sell me stuff. They are very good at doing it, too. If the government were to question them, I guess the entire U.S. Government infrastructure would know my shoe size, what software I use to edit photographs and write, and that I still dress in essentially the same styles I was wearing 40 years ago. They’d know what dogs I’ve got, what food they eat. What food we eat, for that matter and probably what medications we take. I cannot imagine what use they might find this information. It doesn’t even interest me much.

This is the world we have chosen, designed and bought into. We have GPS units that broadcast our location to anyone who wants to find us. Virtually all of us have cell phones that are easily tapped and tracked. All of our bank transactions can be accessed by Lord knows how many people. If we are on Social Security and Medicare, the entire government is aware of our income, medical issues and who knows how much more. That would be assuming they are actually interested enough to look, which frankly, I doubt.

My office by window light

My government is not hunting for me. If they were, all they have to do is give me a call or drop by the house. They know where to find me. They know where to find you, too. That they can collect mountains of data is one thing. I very much doubt they have sufficient personnel to sift through more than an infinitesimal percentage of it. And if they are as efficient at mining data as they are at everything else, your guilty secrets are safer with the government than with your best friend.

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