On January 17, 1961, when President Dwight Eisenhower delivered his farewell address, he warned the country about the “military-industrial complex.”
Acknowledging the need for a strong military during the Cold War (Eisenhower was a five-star general leading troops in World War II and Supreme Commander of allied forces in Europe), he cautioned against the loss of liberty if Congress, the military, and industry colluded to hijack the public interest (emphasis mine):
“Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists, and will persist.
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.
It’s been nearly three generations since that speech. During that time, we have unwittingly initiated the greatest experiments in the history of our species on what it means to be mankind, and society. Television. Cell phones. The internet.
But Eisenhower’s warning is not only relevant today, it is more important than ever before. The phrase “military-industrial complex” sounds nearly quaint. But its spawn, the “security-technology complex,” is not only alive but very active, very aware of itself, and very sophisticated in its manipulation of information and abuse of power.
It’s not just politics, or the illusions of freedom. Hiding behind false facades built of threats and promises, they analyze what you buy, what you read, what you drive, where you live and where you go. They use sophisticated tools to learn what you think, then tailor information you receive to create perceived threats and solutions that serve their interests, not yours.
They manage you. They herd you behind fences of fear, corral you with a tight focus on “message,” follow you and quickly respond if you get out of line. They feast on the heart of what our founding fathers worked so hard to achieve.
It may be too late, but there is one response they can’t control.
Turn it off.