Monday, 2 June 2008

'So, this is how liberty dies....to thunderous applause?' - Part 1

. The 'war on terrorism' has become the main ideological cloak behind which civil liberties are attacked and state extends its power, regulating every sphere of life - state power which is ineffectual at best and is usually counterproductive. We are approaching another controversial vote on extending the powers to detain terror suspects without charge. Contray to widely received wisdom this is not as popular with the wider public as it is often said it is; a You Gov survey carried out in March reported on Angus Reid's Global Monitor found that 70% felt that;

"The 28-day limit should remain, but the police should be allowed to question suspects further after they have been charged, if the police obtain fresh evidence on related offences"

In other words people recognise that there is such a thing as going too far.

Liberty V Security

Are liberty and security two diametrically opposed concepts? Surely some liberty must be
sacrificed to ensure societies security?

Nobody, surely only the terrorists themselves. But of course that is not the issue. In reality the odds of anybody reading this being caught in a terrorist attack are slim in the extreme. It is far more likely that the reader will be involved in a fatal car crash or else struck down as a pedestrian but I don’t see any draft proposals to ban the use of cars. Suicide bombers of course, aim to cause maximum casualties but in the exposure there attacks get they have a psychological impact. If we don’t involve ourselves then we are often involved through friends and family. Thus the state creates an illusion of our own 'investment' with it's cause and seeks to morally justify the extension of it's power . However, in reality wider society only needs protection from certain individual groups or individuals which at any given time make up a statistically infinitesimal section of society. A properly functioning state should be perfectly capable of protecting people without needing to impose any disproportionate restrictions on the liberty of society in general.

Accepting the above proposition ID cards, for example, should automatically be opposed on libertarian grounds, because they are a condition imposed on an entire society. They are an infringement of an individual’s basic right to privacy and they are an implicit accusation of guilt. Of course, this is carried further in plans to monitor emails and these measures fail the acid test, they add nothing, not a single thing to the ability of a state to protect its citizens.

If you want to argue about this then consider this well established fact. The July 7th bombers were *well known* to the British intelligence services. Had all of them carried ID Cards would it have made any difference to what was known about them? Of course not. So, ID cards are a prime example of a purely reactive measure which in reality adds nothing to the fight against the thing they are supposed to prevent. Liberty is opposed to security or ‘our lives’ by those with a vested interest in doing so.

2 comments:

C Bjorvang "Understanding the logics of political debate and activity" said...

Good point!

Acctually, the measures introduced to protect us from certain terrorists is working very much to the advantage of the terrorists. The logic is that we 1) are reaffirmed of a situation in which great measures are needed to uphold our security, hence giving us the impression that we live in an unsecure world and hence we should be affraid (be terrorised) and 2) Taking away civil liberties, such as that the state can not lock you in without a fair trial, works in the way that we will feel insecure in our situation because we could be subject to authoritarian measures, and hence we will feel threatened (terrorised).

Taking the above into accunt it may seem like the terrorist question is a Catch 22, where both increasing and not increasing state power leads to the same end result, that being us felling terror. However inconvinient this might seem, it is actully just the kind of situation that any state authority with the slightest hunger for power(something I doubt any politician, or for that sake human, lacks) would love. This is because we, living in a liberal democracy, percive the state as something good, a protector, and therefor we allow the state to increase its power, since the alternative seems worse to us. The really dangerous part in this whole tragedy is that while we might think that we leave power into the hand of a solid democratic system of cheques and balances, we are acctually giving power nearly exclusively to the excecutive branch, which is in order with all we know about war. This war however will never end, since however we deal with terrorism, it will always prevail, and even increase with many of the measures carried out to prevent it. Hence we sacrifice the power of the judical branch, saying terrorism is a special kind of crime, a sort of war crime, which needs its own juditial procedures. We also decrease the power of the legaslative branch, giving them, by the end of the road that we are heading, a mere formallity, since they would not dare to do anything that put the "war efforts" on stake.

The war on Afganistan was by many seen as a great and needed response to the attacks of 9/11, much in the same way as when Chancellor Palepatine declared the creation of the Empire to bring about peace and security. Only this one is for real.

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