So much has happened so quickly that it’s high time to reflect on the technological marvels that change our lives at blinding speed. Of course, the blur of progress leaves little time to actually reflect, but let’s not take for granted how what was once science fiction suddenly has become commonplace.
Does anybody even ponder how profound it is that the Internet made it so easy to create a Sarah Palin channel -- where those who are willing to pay the price can watch all-Sarah-all-the-time? Setting aside your preference for NO-Sarah-all-the-time, it still is amazing how easy it is to set up a television outlet for her rants, or for anybody who can draw an audience. Is that progress or what?
Think of the possibilities: How about a National Security channel, where we can play along in the game of exposing our intelligence leaders and their continuous stream of lies. CIA Director John Brennan is the latest breakout star now that he’s owned up to his spooks’ secretly hacking into the computers of Senate investigators. The Senate Intelligence Committee was compiling a report on U.S. torture, a seamy record made worse by false claims that the tactics helped prevent terrorist attacks. When confronted in March with charges that his people had broken into the Senate files, Brennan told NBC’s Andrea Mitchell that “nothing could be further from the truth. ... We wouldn’t do that.” As we now know, what was furthest from the truth was his denial. His peeps did do that, and now he’s apologized ... for getting caught.
He’s not the only master of deceit. On March 12, 2013,James Clapper, director of national intelligence, testified at an open congressional hearing. Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., asked him whether the National Security Agency collects “any type of data at all on millions or hundreds of millions of Americans.”
His response: “No, sir, ... not wittingly.” Thanks to Edward Snowden, we know he was lying like a rug or, as he put it in an interview with Andrea Mitchell, the “least untruthful” he could be. Among the questions all this raises is, How come Andrea is in the middle of all this? We’re longtime friends; she’s a nice person. But she seems to have some shady associates. Also, why is Edward Snowden hiding out in Russia for exposing all their subterfuge and massive intrusions into our personal lives, while the perpetrators hold on to their jobs back here in D.C.
None of these high-tech outrages would have been possible just a few short years ago. We’ve accepted the trade-off, sacrificing any semblance of privacy for convenience. The very same GPS, for instance, that charts our every move, also means our every move gets us where we want to go. And how fulfilling it is when the female voice announces, “You have arrived!” I always want to shout: “Thank heaven. I’ve worked so hard.” It’s like at checkout, when the clerk asks if I want my parking ticket stamped: “Do you want validation?” “Oh, yes,” I exclaim. “We all need validation.”
But I digress. As for our gadgets, we are forever refining them. Maybe we can tweak the voices on our devices so the directions are customized. We could have Ted Cruz guidance where every turn is to the right, and if we don’t get where he wants to go, he shuts down the car. Hillary Clinton can be the one providing directions to her presidential coronation, but her talk would cost $200,000. Actually, those of us in Washington wouldn’t need the GPS, because with all the gridlock we never get anywhere.
That’s the sad commentary about all our progress: We’re not making any.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist including 20 years at CNN.