Whatever you now find weird, ugly, uncomfortable and nasty about a new medium will surely become its signature. CD distortion, the jitteriness of digital video, the crap sound of 8-bit - all of these will be cherished and emulated as soon as they can be avoided. It’s the sound of failure: so much modern art is the sound of things going out of control, of a medium pushing to its limits and breaking apart. The distorted guitar sound is the sound of something too loud for the medium supposed to carry it. The blues singer with the cracked voice is the sound of an emotional cry too powerful for the throat that releases it. The excitement of grainy film, of bleached-out black and white, is the excitement of witnessing events too momentous for the medium assigned to record them.
To do their jobs properly, journalists and lawyers sometimes need to be able to keep information private from the government. And because what journalists and lawyers do is so integral to safeguarding democracy and basic rights, the United States has traditionally recognized their need for privileged communications. But the virtually inescapable government surveillance exposed by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden has impaired if not eliminated the ability of news-gatherers and attorneys to communicate confidentially with their sources and their clients, according to a new report by two rights advocacy groups. The report by Human Rights Watch and the American Civil Liberties Union is based on an exhaustive new survey of journalists and lawyers working in the areas of national security and intelligence. Both groups of professionals describe a substantial erosion in their ability to do their constitutionally-protected jobs. Not even the strongest versions of NSA reform being considered in Congress come anywhere close to addressing the chilling effects on basic freedoms that the new survey describes. “If the US fails to address these concerns promptly and effectively,” report author G. Alex Sinha writes, “it could do serious, long-term damage to the fabric of democracy in the country.”