If you’ve ever seen something depicted in a movie or television show that you have even in the smallest way been involved with and know something about, you know the funny feeling of seeing what they get right and what is over the top or skewed or wrong. That’s true of the news and reality shows, too, but let’s stick to ‘fiction’.
Today in Der Spiegel, there is the most clear-voiced, damning article I’ve seen yet about the NSA spying operation. On the one hand, it is shocking – proof, showing complete contravention and defiance of international law, treaties, agreements – and this is with our ALLIES. On the other hand, I’ve always assumed that this is true, that we spy on everyone no matter what. I’ve always assumed that the BBC’s MI-5 or Covert Affairs or every spy movie ever, which depicts attempts at total access without impediment as the norm, as the way the world works. I trust Hollywood in a general way much more than the statements of my government on this sort of thing. Which is weird. It’s not as if I sat around and weighed it up in a conscious way.
The reason Hollywood is right is because movies are made by artists (OK, loosely). The job of writers, directors, actors in this genre is to fathom and present human nature. When you work on a spy movie/book, you do research. There are written sources and then you try to find real spies who will talk with you. That is one reason for the accuracy. But the other reason is because direct information or not, a writer is a person whose job it is to imagine what people will do. The simplest reason for the (real) NSA intruding on everyone everywhere is because they can. If you spend much time watching what people do so that you can imagine what people will do, you will have recognized that most of the time, if something is technically possible, despite law, tradition, morality, God and all the angels, someone will do it.
Why law, tradition and morality are not enough to stem actions that a great deal of trouble has been taken to conceal because people know they are wrong, is another question that a good artist, or psychologist, spends a lot of time on. Because it’s our job, we bring it to consciousness, but most people know why, if they are willing to look into their own hearts.