March 15, 2018
Mundane utilities do not evoke passion among political activists. But the routine, everyday, and habitual create our greatest vulnerabilities. Psychologically set on automatic, these bypass conscious choice and self-protective scrutiny. Therein lies their potential power.
Edward Snowden’s data dump exposed an ambient and largely invisible danger – the voracious appetite for intrusion and control by government forces, utilizing one of several habitual mediums through which we ingest, metabolize and transmit contents of our cultural environment. Have not these state forces, their industrial/corporate partners and complicit media (together the “deep state”) consistently excluded, isolated or reduced knowledge about air pollution and its climatic effects, herbicides incorporated within genetically modified food, radioactive depleted uranium spread across our imperial killing fields, and insidious propaganda degrading our information systems?
The deep state operates with inherently malevolent intent insofar as it remains indifferent to the wellbeing of you and me, but its intermediate agents are typically unaware, innocent, undeserving of distrust and thereby unwitting agents of unseen deep state objectives. We therefore need the best possible filters at the consummatory end of the chain. Chief among these is a healthy suspicion of any institutional power with wide reach and penetration upon which the population is largely dependent. As Noam Chomsky pointed out, “Control of the population is the major task of any state that is dominated by particular sectors of the domestic society,” and Henry Kissinger reportedly observed, “who controls the energy can control whole continents.”
Could public utilities possibly escape the same inventive deep state power grabbers that have so skillfully exploited the internet? What might be the agenda behind visions of a massive “smart grid” linking millions of individual “smart meters” measuring our everyday use and potentially controlling our access to vital resources? In the post-Snowden era, can we afford sanguine indifference about such vulnerabilities?
It seems that all things analog are out of style. In the field of utility use measurement, analog meters require old-fashioned, non-intrusive, gainfully employed human meter readers. But like the milkman and neighborhood Good Humor ice cream truck through which our needs were once met personally and locally, they are reportedly no longer needed. Reported, that is, by utility company executives who hold no advanced degrees in neuroscience, microbiology or the psychopathologies of power.
For example, citizen concerns about increased electromagnetic radiation risks from “smart meters” running 24/7 on our homes and businesses are casually dismissed since, they point out, we have so much EMR exposure from other sources.
But most other sources such as cell phones are non-continuous and voluntary. Moreover, effects are cumulative. We probably have too much already and don’t need more. The World Health Organization has identified electromagnetic radiation as a possible carcinogen . A summary of research findings published by the National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health, reports the following:
“Man-made electromagnetic radiation exerts numerous biological effects that begin at the molecular level and eventually lead to cellular, tissue and organ dysfunction. Electromagnetic radiation exerts its effects at the sub-cellular level by altering molecular rotation and vibration, increasing the collisions between molecules and breaking chemical bonds which ultimately affect structure and function. This has direct effects on energy production in the cell. Mitochondria are the organelles responsible for cellular energy production and numerous other cell functions and they are adversely affected by electromagnetic radiation in many inter-related ways .
“Electromagnetic radiation causes structural damage to mitochondria. Exposure to radiation causes swelling and cavitation in mitochondria as well as broken, disorganized and sparse mitochondrial cristae or folds. The damage increases with prolonged exposure time even when the dose of radiation is low, therefore, long-term, low-dose exposure leads to significant damage [2,3].
“Radiation also damages the mitochondrial membrane which causes a decrease in mitochondrial membrane potential, which is responsible for the proton motive force and energy production in mitochondria, which eventually leads to apoptosis (cell death), since apoptosis is regulated by mitochondria” [1, 4].
Citing these and other concerns, our group of Eugene activists persuaded the local utility company in 2013 to limit its smart meter installations to the “opt-in” model requiring proactive resident choice. But now they have reneged and switched, without public debate or consent, to the “opt-out” model requiring proactive resident refusal to avoid automatic installation. The sales pitch is increased efficiency but the evidence for this is extremely thin, so why this persistent push despite documented biological risks at the cellular level and potential associated personal injury lawsuits?
For whom will smart meters provide increased efficiency? That’s what is most worrisome. We’ve learned for over a century that any new technology permitting increased surveillance and population control will be used and abused by government agencies.
Methods of measuring, tabulating and transmitting population information began proliferating in the late 19th century. Herman Hollerith’s 1889 patented punchcard was adopted by the US Census Bureau to enumerate 62,622,250 Americans within a few weeks in 1890, leading eventually to IBM’s system used by Nazi Germany to identify Jews for persecution. Paris police developed the first biometric criminal identification system in 1882 and Scotland Yard had a fingerprint classification system by 1901. Dewey’s decimal system developed in the 1870s provided an institutional template of alpha-numeric codes for filing, retrieving, and managing large bodies of information that were adapted by the Office of Naval Intelligence and the Army’s Military Information Division in the 1880s. The MID’s intelligence information cards ballooned from 4,000 in 1892 to over 300,000 in 1902.
Powerful data management tools for American imperialism were first employed to destroy guerilla resistance in our takeover of the Philippines, compiling personal appearance, financial, political and kinship information on every local leader to break resistance with methods later used and progressively refined in Vietnam, Indonesia, Latin America and US imperial incursions ever since, and by the Zionist movement’s “village files” preparing Plan Dalet for its 1948 ethnic cleansing of Palestine .
Colonial police methods were brought home for domestic suppression as well. As incoming head of the FBI Radical Division in 1919, J. Edgar Hoover compiled over 80,000 file cards within months “covering the activities of not only the extreme anarchists but also more moderate radicals.” Information acquisition and control has subsequently served state surveillance and suppression of dissent from the labor movement through Occupy Wall Street with voracious, ever-expanding appetites revealed, inter alia, by Snowden.
Are smart meters and the smart grid integrating them for the newest iteration? No speculation needed. In 2012, CIA Director David Petraeus spoke to a summit for In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s venture capital firm, about the emergence of an “Internet of Things” (wired devices) which are “transformational” for “clandestine tradecraft.” In the “smart home,” electronic devices and “smart appliances” will transmit tagged, geolocated data through a “smart grid” to the surveillance/security state. Petraeus continued, “Items of interest will be located, identified, monitored, and remotely controlled through technologies such as radio-frequency identification, sensor networks, tiny embedded servers, and energy harvesters – all connected to the next-generation internet…heading to quantum computing” .
And there will inevitably be other people of questionable intentions smart enough to hack our smart data. Remotely accessed information will include when we’re home, what we’re doing and where, what electronic equipment and appliances we own, and when we’re gone. Cybersecurity expert David Chalk declares that anything can be hacked, jeopardizing not only individual home security but potentially the entire grid .
I’ll opt out to protect my mitochondria from involuntary EMR exposure and my household from electronic intrusion, thank you, and to protect our communities so should we all.
5 Pappe, Ilan.The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine. Oxford, Oneworld Publications Ltd., 2006.
Jack Dresser, Ph.D. is National vice-chair, Veterans for Peace working group on Palestine and the Middle East and Co-Director of Al-Nakba Awareness Project in Eugene, Oregon