A Surveillance Society

Article published on May 21, 2007
Article published on May 21, 2007
Apologies for my recent inactivity on this blog. Deadlines and a lack of home internet connection have taken their toll on my output... "Either-Or" (C.A.
Fahey - 2007)

Nevertheless a couple of articles in the British press over the last couple of days (here) and (here) have got me ranting (once more) about the shameful destruction of Civil Liberties that we have seen in the years since 9/11 (for a couple of published works on this see here and here). Now I understand that intelligence is needed in the fight against International Crime and Terrorism, and it follows that this places limits on fundamental freedoms. However, over the course of recent years, the British Government, amongst others, has become ever more authoritarian in its supposed pursuit of bellicose 'wars' on crime and terror. Indeed, the British Government's own Information Commissioner has gone on record to concede that we are "sleepwalking into a surveillance society". This authoritarian shift shamefully exploits people's fear and the media hysteria of the modern age to attack to the core of our democratic traditions.

These latest examples are, once again, symptomatic of a slide towards a police state. Of course, some will claim that "if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear", but the idea of a democratic state even mooting the idea of people informing on one another is particularly distasteful - a political thesis not far removed from the McCarthy 'witchhunts' of the 1950s or the spectre of the Stasi in the former East Germany. Crime will still occur and there will still be a threat from terrorism regardless of overly zealous state intervention, but that is a small price to pay for the basic right of individual freedom. As Jago Russel from the Human rights Group Liberty has remarked, "How far are we willing to go in pursuit of the unrealistic promise of a risk-free society? "

Protecting democracy and freedoms by eroding their very values is a dangerously founded and intellectually flawed contradiction.