By Terry Manning
Then they went home, took baths and shaved, as if that was going to save them from the consequences of their actions.
It’s one thing to try to overthrow the federal government by declaring, “It’s 1776!” but did the insurgents who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 expect to escape justice like this actually is the 18th century?
For years Luddites and other naysayers have warned about technology’s intrusion into areas where they say it doesn’t belong. These Cassandras caution we are unprepared for the ramifications of allowing these tools to gather so much information about us and for the ways that information will be sold and used.
I agree with the general idea, but mostly I’ve felt the dangers were overblown. Surely people showed a little bit of discernment before sharing their most intimate details with Siri and Alexa? People knew, didn’t they, it’s not a coincidence when they Google desk lamps and then their Facebook timeline is filled with ads for desk lamps?
But I was wrong, apparently. Too many of us really are clueless about how technology works, both in our favor and against us. We rarely give a second thought to how the tiny gadgets we carry in our pockets, purses and backpacks leave trail of breadcrumbs everywhere we go. The attempted coup might be one time that was a good thing.
Federal agents have used a variety of data sources to hem in the terrorists, from putting rioters on no-fly lists to analyzing social media posts where they bragged about their misdeeds. Agents have been able to answer blank-faced declarations of “It wasn’t me” and “I didn’t go into the Capitol, though” with photos and videos containing pinpoint location data. The insurgents really made it easy. Especially those who used Parler.
I first heard about Parler when my high school friends started posting their usernames on Facebook, asking those of like mind to look them up on the new site that promised escape from the oppressors of social media who wouldn’t let them post any and every ugly thing that crossed their hate-filled minds.
Many left out of a desire to “stick it” to Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and the Twitter overlords who dared censure Donald Trump’s false and incendiary messages. Others followed out of curiosity, to see what kind of unhinged rants would be shared there. I never considered it. As a Black man who’s lived most of his life in the South, I’ve been on the receiving end of enough vitriol. Why would I pursue it?
But then, as could have been expected, the giant internet service providers who hosted Parler started to look at the content being distributed on their platforms. This scrutiny intensified after the assault on the Capitol building.
Google and Apple removed the app from their stores where it could be downloaded. Then, a handful of Cliff Clavins shared instructions for how to get the app without Google or Apple’s help. When Amazon Web Services removed Parler’s data, though, the site that had indulged so much anti-government dissent became a virtual man without a country.
Until the Russians stepped in. That’s right, Parler is back in a limited form and being hosted by servers located in Russia.
If Parler users thought they’d been roughed up by the feds and hackers, I’m sure they’ll be tickled pink (or red) by what Vladimir Putin will do with their personal information. (Seriously, though, what kind of idiot uploads their Social Security number and a photo of their driver’s license for the sake of being tagged an “influencer”?)
In any case, these folks aren’t nearly as smart as they think they are. Exhortations to destroy evidence that could be used against them has likely come too late. And they can’t blame the Deep State for that, just their own shallow thinking.
Terry E. Manning lives and works in Savannah, Ga. He is a Clemson graduate and worked for 20 years as a journalist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.