As many of you won’t know, the bastion of democracy that is the House of Lords passed the investigatory powers bill, or to give it its informal name: the snoopers charter.
The media, with the hiding stick that is the Leveson Inquiry behind it, largely ignored the topic all together, fearing that the government would try to restrict it – because you know, the government deserves the right to tell the free press what to do. Or wait, is it the other way round? I forget. What this lack of media attention brings to my attention, and I hope your attention too, is the apathy felt by many towards investigatory powers, and the lack of interest in the ramifications of such powers when granted to authority. We are often told the lines ‘if you have nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear’, or ‘we need these powers to defeat terrorism’. These are very powerful tag lines and impressive sound bites, but that is all they are. When deconstructed and argued against, these lines of rationale fall apart.
First, to the notion of ‘nothing to hide, nothing to fear’, one must simply look at oneself. We must look at who we are as humans, and who we are as citizens. No one, and I mean this in the most sincerest way, is the true moralistic bastion that we should all aspire to be. Everyone has prerogatives, everyone has vested interest and everyone, given enough time and enough power, would exercise those prerogatives, and interests to their own will. This is not to say everyone is a draconian tyrant willing to spy on the entire nation to find that one kid who spread the rumour they wet the bed until the age of 16 during high school. I am just saying we all have that capability buried deep in us somewhere, as beings that ultimately have self-protection at the core of our moral fibre.
Second, to the notion that security services need these powers to protect us, we must first define what a terrorist is. Someone who uses terror and or violence to scare and repress people into achieving a political aim, right?
The Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) uses subversive methods, not fully overseen by the judicial system in this country, to collect data and information on anyone they want who is a UK citizen, and possibly other countries too. They do so on a daily basis, reaching levels of millions of stored correspondences, which gives them the ability to track you, make a log of who you talk to, when you talk to them, and what your social habits are. Replace GCHQ with Daesh, MI5 with the morality police, and ‘protecting democracy’, with ‘protecting Islam’. Both institutions do not represent the values they claim to stand up for, both are terrorists. Both are repressive, and the only difference is Daesh uses physical violence to intimidate.
However dear readers, we currently find ourselves at the top of a slope, and that slope is quite slippery. What starts off today as surveillance could lead to a future of tyranny. Why take the risk of having these powers in place? If in 30 years time the words written in the infamous 1984 become a reality, I would like to say I told you so, but free speech will be long gone, along with the free speakers themselves.
Image credit: John Ward