When Boring People Turn Dangerous: Canada’s Insane Power Grab by Matt Taibbi – SubStack
The Canadian government’s decision to freeze bank accounts in the trucker protests is a mad leap toward bureaucratic dystopia
On Christmas Eve, 2018, New York Times writer Andrew Ross Sorkin published, “How Banks Unwittingly Finance Mass Shootings.” Chronicling the credit card history of the man who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida Sorkin noted Omar Mateen had not merely spent $26,532 on weapons and ammo in the eight months before the 2016 attack, but had wondered if his doing so had raised red flags:
Two days before Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 more at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, he went on Google and typed “Credit card unusual spending…” His web browsing history chronicled his anxiety: “Credit card reports all three bureaus,” “FBI,” and “Why banks stop your purchases.”
He needn’t have worried. None of the banks, credit-card network operators or payment processors alerted law enforcement officials about the purchases he thought were so suspicious.
Sorkin’s piece ended up being an argument in favor of credit-card companies, payment processors, banks, and others working together to bring about a Minority Report-style panacea in which society’s dangerous folk could be cyber-identified and stopped before they commit horrific acts. At one point he quoted George Brauchler, the District Attorney who prosecuted the Century 16 movie shooter in Aurora Colorado, James Holmes:
“Do I wish someone from law enforcement had been able to go to his door and knock on his door and figure out a way to talk their way into it or to freak him out?” he said of Mr. Holmes. “Yeah, absolutely.”
I’ve never owned a gun and have been sympathetic to gun control ideas for as long as I can remember. Sorkin, however, was not talking about gun control. He was theorizing a quasi-privatized vision of social control that would bypass laws by merging surveillance capitalism and law enforcement.
In a rhetorical trick that’s since become common, he described how the failure of companies like Visa to block Mateen’s purchases made them “enablers of carnage.” Clearly, someone made the mistake of letting Sorkin see Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man, and Cliff Robertson now whispers from the beyond to him too. If those with power to act don’t stop wrongdoing, aren’t they just shirking their great responsibility?