Expat activists and journalists leave USA for Berlin's safety


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It’s a win-win. The activists get to dramatize their sense of persecution and the NSA gets to have them overseas where they have far more leeway to practice surveillance.

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Leeway by their own rules, but not necessarily those of other countries. Also, leeway and ability might not in all cases be commensurate.


The rest of the world actually cares about civil liberties.

The US power structure responds to activists (and the threat of change) in only 3 ways: Exile, imprisonment, or murder. Actually listening to the will of the people? Not so much.

I’m undecided on that. I can’t figure out how much is left of US democracy. Do the powerful really ignore the will of the people, or do they just control the will of the people, while still being dependent on it?

My guess is the latter. Americans are traditionally distrustful of government, but only up to a point. From my few political conversations with actual Americans on American soil (travelers are a self-selected group), I gather that they still see their government - or rather, the parts of it that commit crimes abroad - as basically benign and, most of all, as necessary.

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Or, even worse, applying Hanlon’s Razor to the problem of power politics, are people maybe really dumb enough to prop up ruthless power elites, and the ruthless power elites are true democrats who think that the bad things that they are doing are really necessary. Maybe the powerful hold opinions like “universal surveillance is necessary” because they themselves are just stupid people, and the other stupid people keep them in power because they agree?

real safe there.

Don’t let your distrust of the US blind you to the fucked up state of so many other nations.


Really? I’m not sure I trust your scope here.


… and that’s why the US is in this mess. This “We can do no wrong” attitude. If you’re not open to self reflection/criticism and belief you’re one of the “good” guys everything you do is acceptable. Guess what … most of the baddies in history (from KZ guard to Abu Ghraib torturer) thought they did the right thing.

Ummmm… no. I was merely commenting on his statement, “The rest of the world actually cares about civil liberties.” Seems to me, that sentence claims that all of the non-US world cares about civil liberties. Which is simply ridiculous. I wasn’t trying to rank the US over or under anyone.

There is a fourth, more powerful way: ignoring them. When you give the world the means to self-divide to small bubbles, the ones who want to change something end talking within their own little meaningless echo chambers while the rest is placated with junk news about celebrities.

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Whatever you do, don’t go to London, even if it’s only a layover
British Liberty under Threat

At the very least foreign powers are more transparent about being opressive, rather than the US doublespeak about freedom and democracy. Perhaps that is just good marketing on our part.

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Insofar as the government is viewed as more effective than in other places, it is also trusted more.
that distrust you mentions is the healthy kind of distrust people should have of governments. Try living in other countries, people REAALLY don’t trust their governments.
To your point, the question remains, how much change can ordinary citizens have on government?

I do live in another country (Austria, Europe).

We do have a certain distrust of our government; we never ever expect them to be competent.
We do pay a lot more taxes and we’re mostly happy with that, as we trust the government to provide reasonable social security and health services using that money. We expect a certain amount of small-scale corruption, but not too much “really bad” corruption - we expect underqualified but well-connected people to end up with ridiculously well-paid government jobs, but we don’t expect our tax euros to be stolen.
We even trust our government with a national residents’ registration system - the government has everybody’s primary address on file. That, combined with the fact that everybody has a passport (the country is a lot smaller than the US) means that voter registration is a non-issue here. Elections just work.
There is extreme distrust of all things military in Austria.

Generalizing (without evidence) from Austria to other European countries, I do feel that among rich, well-developed countries, the US has a relatively low level of trust in their own government.
Some, but not all of that trust is actually deserved.

Of course, there are other countries with no trust of government, and with governments that don’t deserve any trust.

But I don’t think that too much distrust is healthy; when people think everyone is cheating, they are more likely to cheat themselves. And that applies to government workers, too. Also, distrust has to be distributed properly; it’s pointless to distrust the government so much that it gets hard to keep track of who is allowed to vote, while at the same time trusting the government to keep who-knows-what kind of database because “national security”.

Disclaimer: This posting is heavily influenced by my upbringing and the culture that I live in. Some of it is my personal opinion, and some of it is an attempt at summarizing a “national opinion”. I don’t really know which is which.

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Hey, I’m from Mexico and find my distrust is sometimes not enough. I only know what I know.

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