A little more than 60 years ago, President Eisenhower, as he prepared to leave office, gave what has proven to be his most enduring and well-known speech:
Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations.
This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. 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.
Recent scholarship has confirmed that Ike saw this as one of his most important speeches ever:
We should be clear what Ike was concerned about. He knew that the United States, with its growing economy and growing needs for defense, would need private businesses to help build weapons. What he was concerned about was that these companies would promote war or other military priorities so they could improve their profits. These companies would hire lobbyists to encourage members of Congress to direct business their way. Ike was worried about crony capitalism, the use of government money to promote private businesses.
Sixty years later, it is easy to see that Ike’s warning has come true. Almost nobody reading this believes in a completely pacifistic U.S. foreign policy. But I hope most people reading this can see that U.S. defense should concentrate on defending the U.S. borders. In the last 60 years, and especially the last 20 years, U.S. foreign policy has increasingly promoted wars in foreign lands (Iraq, Lybia, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, etc) far from our borders. Some of those actions may have been justified (I am thinking about Afghanistan after 9/11), but why is the U.S. military spending hundreds of billions of dollars every year fighting wars far from American shores? Is it reasonable to believe that the military-industrial complex is truly the source of the constant need to find new enemies abroad? Are these wars really about companies paying off politicians so these companies can make more money?
As this article points out, we have a new secret combination to worry about in 2021: the digital-intelligence complex.
The synergy between Washington and Silicon Valley can be seen as the latest manifestation of the Beltway’s revolving door. But the size and scope of Big Tech – and the increasing dependence of government on its products and talent – suggest something more: the rise of a Digital-Intelligence Complex. Like the Military-Industrial Complex that President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned against in 1961, it represents a symbiotic relationship in which the lines between one and the other are blurred.
The article points out there is an increasing connection between government officials and the large digital companies like Amazon, Microsoft, Google, Twitter, Facebook, etc. Again, the problem is not that the federal government needs private companies to help with cloud computing. Cloud computing is a very complex business, and private companies like Amazon, Microsoft, IBM, Oracle and Google have created ubiquitous, scalable, secure solutions that are appropriate for government services.
The concern is that with so much money involved private companies will begin influencing government procurement processes through lobbying and the promise to government officials of high-paying jobs in the tech industry when they leave. And this is already happening.
But there is a greater threat: the tech companies increasingly control access to information. Twitter, Facebook, Google and Amazon have already combined to bring down one competitor, Parler. Any honest observer of politics can see that these companies also combined during the election to suppress conservative and libertarian information. Tens of thousands of Facebook and Twitter accounts (including mine of Facebook, by the way) were either blocked, suspended or suppressed on one way or another leading up the election, and the attempts to examine the election results were also suppressed.
Some people reading this may claim this was all an attempt to weed out “misinformation,” and if you are a Biden supporter you are probably pleased with the censorious actions of the tech giants. Time magazine wrote a very strange article praising the shadow campaign that “saved the election,” but for those of us who favor the free flow of information and civil liberties, this is an extremely worrisome trend.
At this time, the progressive left is being promoted by the tech companies’ monopoly on information, but it was only a few decades ago that the progressive left was being demonized by the corporate media. Have people already forgotten the McCarthy-era purges of the left in the 1950s? The 1950s attacks were done in the name of countering the “misinformation” of Communism, but the tactics were the same that are taking place today. When a small group of people dominate information — and work with government to do it — it is only a matter of time until they turn on you and your friends.
Glenn Greenwald, a left-wing journalist concerned about civil liberties, has been increasingly concerned about this trend:
Greenwald warned of further coordination between the incoming Biden administration and left-wing big tech giants against voices they want to suppress.
“What will happen once [Trump] is gone?” he said. “The strategy has always been clear: To inflate the risk of what they call white supremacist terrorism, which increasingly means nothing more than being a Trump supporter, and then treating people in the United States who fall into that category the way you treat terrorists.”
Greenwald said the big tech companies have more power than any companies in world history due to their ability to control speech and information.
Warning about Democrats supporting these tactics of suppression of free speech, he said “authoritarians never believe they’re authoritarians, no matter how much censorship, surveillance, jingoism, & imprisonment they demand.”
Greenwald emphasized in a tweet: “These Silicon Valley monopolies are grave menaces to political freedom & economic well-being is *not* a right-wing view. The most comprehensive report warning of these dangers was issued 3 months ago by a Democratic House Sub-Committee.”
You can read more about the Democratic-led hearings on the dangers of Big Tech in this article, but suffice to say that this is and should be a completely non-partisan issue. All of us should be concerned about the dangers of crony capitalism, ie, the use of monopoly or near-monopoly power to influence government policy.
In the last 60 years, we have seen that the combination of government and the military has increasingly resulted in war, death and destruction and the distortion of U.S. foreign policy so that a small group of people can profit. In the last few years we have found a new threat, a new secret combination that will eventually threaten us all. The Book of Mormon has of course warned us:
Ether 8:24: “Wherefore, the Lord commandeth you, when ye shall see these things come among you that ye shall awake to a sense of your awful situation, because of this asecret combination which shall be among you.”