24.11.2013

"A monolithic and ruthless conspiracy": the speech of John F. Kennedy before the American Newspaper Publishers Association in 1961 as a mirror of today's antagonism between liberty and the surveillance state

Fifty years after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, it is close to certain that the murder was the result of a "ruthless conspiracy" of powerful interests that opposed a "free and open society".



Servicemen carrying the casket of President John F. Kennedy up the steps of the Capitol, followed by the late President's widow and children, during state funeral services for Pres. Kennedy in Washington, November 24, 1963.

Whatever you think of him and his policies otherwise, in a speech before the American Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961, President John F. Kennedy clearly pointed to a system of infiltration, secrecy, and subversion as being characteristic of the difference between an undemocratic, closed society, that is manipulated and monitored by covert, secretive means, and a truly democratic and open system, with a free public sphere; this was in the days of the Cold War. But as is increasingly turning out recently, the former, a system of (
even more sophisticatedinfiltration, secrecy and subversion, is (still) in place even today, more than twenty years after end of the Cold War, in the United States and elsewhere, and is undermining and working against the concept of a free democratic society. 

This secretive system is in contrast to the paradigm change after the Cold War, when societies, after the end of that global confrontation, were at leat theoretically ready to move towards Sir Karl Popper's "open society" and a growing demand of transparency and clarity emerged. The "war on terror" after September 11, 2001, created a new (pseudo-) enemy that, according to the main stream of political discourse, especially in the United States and the United Kingdom, could only be fought with more security and less liberty. This delicate balance between civil rights and liberty on the one hand and security and (the purported need for more) surveillance on the other is one of the major political points of contention today between groups such as the liberal parties (e.g. the "Pirate Parties" in Europe), civil rights activists and other opposition groups on the "left" and proponents of a surveillance state, such as the governments of the United States, the United Kingdom, and other countries and their respective security agencies, the NSA being the most prominent one in the limelight recently, on the "right".

The concise snippets 
from that JFK speech describing this secretive system and the need to fight it by "informing and alerting" not only the "American people", but society globally, are condensed in the following two minute video. The text is quoted below:



"Ladies and Gentlemen,


the very word 'secrecy' is repugnant in a free and open society; and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths and to secret proceedings. (...) 
For we are opposed around the world by a monolithic and ruthless conspiracy that relies on covert means for expanding its sphere of influence--on infiltration instead of invasion, on subversion instead of elections, on intimidation instead of free choice, on guerrillas by night instead of armies by day.


It is a system which has conscripted vast human and material resources into the building of a tightly knit, highly efficient machine that combines military, diplomatic, intelligence, economic, scientific and political operations.
Its preparations are concealed, not published. Its mistakes are buried not headlined. Its dissenters are silenced, not praised. No expenditure is questioned, no secret is revealed.

That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy.


I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. (...) Confident, that with your help man will be what he was born to be, free and independent." 



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