Henry Rollins: Worried About the NSA? What About Google?
[Look for your weekly fix from the one and only Henry Rollins right here on West Coast Sound every Thursday, and come back tomorrow for the awesomely annotated playlist for his Sunday KCRW broadcast.]
I have a feeling (no hard data) that the habits and communications of 99.9 percent of America's population hold little to no interest for American intelligence-gathering agencies. I do not lose any sleep over aspects of my life being the topic of discussion at the NSA.
Please don't get angry with me and say that I am one of those "I have nothing to hide, go ahead and rip up my Fourth Amendment protections" types. I would never be that civically lazy. I guess I am saying that I am quite over myself.
Since I got all growed up, I have found the existential ennui of adulthood rather humorous and strangely comforting. Pleasures of the flesh used to include sleep-depriving conquests with great consequences of humiliation and heartbreak. Now it's a glance at the watch, a brief pondering as to how many years I have left and if it would be rude to check my email once more before disrobing. Know what I mean? I hope not.
I am not trying to turn this into an analysis session, but Doc, I just don't feel like NSA-grade crosshairs material. I don't think it's a shortcoming on my part, just the way the cards were dealt.
As a "person of interest," I fall flat. I don't hate the government. I don't think the Second Amendment is being infringed upon. I don't want to secede from the union and I don't want to blow anything up or harm anyone. I know, that's not the point.
I feel far more felt up by Google and the like. My laptop seems to know where I am, even if I don't. My cellphone asks me if I want directions to anywhere from the spot I am standing in. I buy a record online and Amazon.com sends me letters, telling me that people who bought what I bought also bought these other records. (By golly, Amazon also happens to sell them, too.) My small publishing company's email address has been the same since the last century. It's on AOL and, yes, we get teased about it. We figure it's not broke and humans are resistant to change, so we keep it.
AOL has made some interesting assumptions about yours truly. Often when I open the mail page, on the right side of the screen is an advertisement informing me that there are gay men in Los Angeles looking to meet gay men in Los Angeles. While I am quite sure this is true, I don't know how this is benefiting me, as I am not gay. AOL knows I live in L.A. but it has my orientation all wrong. Is this some of that "bad intel" that leads to catastrophic actions, like the invasion of Iraq? Hardly, but it does make me wonder: What is the endgame here? Perhaps someone at AOL thinks that if they keep putting the man ad in front of me, I will eventually cave in or become so curious, or perhaps default to my primordial, capitalistic urge to perpetually Seek & Consume, that I will finally click the box. What is it about me and what I do that indicates that I want to meet a man in Los Angeles? While none of this offends me, it does make me wonder where all my keystrokes end up.
I have lived in public as a somewhat recognizable person since I was a teenager. Emails I answer end up posted on sites; pictures of me and someone I just met, taken by a cellphone, literally number in the thousands and are easily accessed. I have been followed by stalkers and waited for by photographers in some of the most boring locations you can imagine.