We all learned about Joseph McCarthy in school. The raging anti-communist who perpetrated a witch hunt against anyone who might have had tendencies towards anything that wasn’t Amurrican capitalism. While we did not witness the events ourselves, we have heard about the insuing frenzy that swept the nation, ruining countless peoples’ lives; people whose only crime was knowing someone who was Rusian, or merely holding non-conformist’s beliefs.

It remains a dark stain on America’s already tarnished history, but how much worse would it have been had the government access to the types of information they have now?

Not only would more people be implicated as communist sympathizers, but those who they had contacted would be implicated as well. The websites (if they had existed) would be marked as dens of communist sympathy and everyone who had visited them would have their browsing histories compiled and analyzed by the patriotic consultants supporting the NSA.

The sheer number of people implicated would create a crisis of capacity in the agency prompting for the emergency bill (passed hours after being drafted) providing billions of dollars to pay for computers to crunch the Big Data ever faster. Some of the money would be invested in the new war on Reds which would allow law enforcement to provide due process of law for each suspect.

Conviction rates for espionage or sedition would be low. Embarrassingly low. However, convictions for possession of marijuana and copyright infringement would skyrocket.

The worst impact would be on the social lives of those identified by the program. Jobs would be lost, families destroyed. And the victims, rather than being movie stars that could be gossiped about as if they were on the cover of a supermarket tabloids, these communist sympathizer would live in the suburbs reading those very same celebrity rags. Everyone would have a friend, a coworker, a fellow member of a church congregation who would be processed.

At first, the conviction itself would be enough to cut the community ties they had built over a lifetime. Later it would be the other crimes that came to light: the adultery, drug addictions, and so forth. These ancillary skeletons would act as the social executioner.

In the end the trust required to support a community, a town, a country would be undermined to the point that the whole thing just comes crashing down.


Many of us find it hard to imagine the impact that programs like prism might have on us or those we know. This “us” of course if excludes blacks, Muslims, Eastern Europeans, or anyone else who has been victimized by the government. So here is a thought experiment for the privileged among us who, aside from the TSa, have not faced the dehumanizing impact of a government constantly a treating you as a potential enemy of the state.

What If PRISM existed during the Red Scare?