By Jim Hightower on December 10, 2013

In the movie plot of a spy thriller, our hero gets captured by agents of a repressive government, and they take him into a dark interrogation room, where the sadistic spymaster hisses at him: "We have ways of making you talk."

Meanwhile, in real life, the director of our National Security Agency hisses at journalists: "We have ways of keeping you from talking." Well, not quite in those words, but Gen. Keith Alexander, chief spook at NSA and head of US Cyber Command, did reveal a chilling disrespect for our Constitutional right to both free speech and a free press. In an October interview, he called for outlawing any reporting on his agency's secret program of spying on every American: "I think it's wrong that newspaper reporters have all these documents... giving them out as if these -- you know it just doesn't make any sense." Then came his spooky punch line: "We ought to come up with a way of stopping it... It's wrong to allow this to go on."

Holy Thomas Paine! Spy on us, okay; report on it, not. What country does this autocrat represent? Alexander's secret, indiscriminate, supercomputer scooping-up of data on every phone call, email, and other private business of every American is what "doesn't make any sense." It's an Orwellian, mass invasion of everyone's privacy, creating the kind of routine, 24/7 surveillance state our government loudly deplores in China and Russia -- and it amounts to stomping on our Fourth Amendment guarantee that we're to be free of "unreasonable searches and seizures."

That's the real outrage we should be "stopping." But no, our constitutionally-clueless spymaster doubles down on his dangerous ignorance by also stomping on the First Amendment. If this were a movie, people would laugh at it as being too silly, too far-fetched to believe. But there it is, horribly real.

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

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Yesterday the U.S. Senate narrowly defeated a bill that would approve construction on the Keystone XL pipeline.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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