Op-Ed by Carey Wedler
The Internet erupted in a flurry of posts about President Trump’s message to millions of people Tuesday afternoon. The text, which was announced prior to its transmission, served as a test to a new national alert system enacted by FEMA for the purposes of alerting citizens about natural disasters, terrorist attacks, and other emergencies.
People were quick to express their desire to opt out (you can’t) and their general disgust at receiving direct texts from the president. Others condescendingly claimed the alerts will be for our own good— because apparently no one ever got word of national emergencies until the day Donald Trump and FEMA decided they were going sound the alarm.
While the national alert has people issuing a glut of social media posts focused on Trump, the single message actually tells you everything you need to know about the government.
1. No one ever asked if you wanted it: Because of a law passed in 2006, the government can assert the president’s right to text you even if you turn off other government notifications. Similarly, the increasingly omnipotent government at large never asks if you’d like to participate. Despite popular rhetoric about the “social contract,” at no point in a person’s life does the government send a consent form to the people it taxes and rules over asking if they would, in fact, like to engage in the system. Though politicians and their supporters can claim “we are the government” all they want, we were never given a chance to actually voluntarily agree.
2. You don’t have a choice over these impositions on your property: Even though we own our phones and our data plans, there is no way to opt out of the presidential alert. Just as owning your own home does not preclude the government from taxing it and confiscating it if you refuse to pay, the government can also apparently invade your private phone. The same mechanism applies to taxation in general: the government asserts its right to impose itself on your property (money). This is the basis of how it sustains itself and all of its operations, including sending you annoying texts with screeching alarms.
3. You can’t opt out: You might be able to opt out of annoying cold calls from private companies, but when it comes to government, you have no choice. You were never asked if you want to participate, you can’t prevent the state from infringing on your private property, and you also can’t peacefully excuse yourself. If you, for example, decided you didn’t want your tax dollars to fund imperial wars that kill innocent people, well, too bad. If you don’t want to fund mass surveillance, tough luck. And if you refuse to pay, you will be thrown in a cage. If you don’t want to go through the TSA’s body scanners, you can technically “opt out,” but only insofar as you’re willing to have your private parts groped by a government agent. This is what defines government: its ability to force you to submit without requiring your permission and without giving you an alternative. You can’t even “leave if you don’t like it” without paying a compulsory, exorbitant fee.
4. It’s for your safety!: Many are convinced the alerts are necessary in order to protect us. But just as FEMA is certain these texts will help in emergency situations, the government at large insists it is there to protect you. The previously mentioned wars, mass surveillance, and state-sanctioned sexual assault are all in place to preserve public safety, just like President Trump’s text.
The memes mocking Trump’s new alert system are already flooding the internet, and most people have already formed an opinion on it. If only they would opt out of the mentality that their participation in this entire system is voluntary.