As one can read from the title, this post isn’t related to anything scientific. Well… Not directly at least. Yesterday, while looking at the tweeter feed, I read a short post pointing to the BBC website, where it was said that the UK government plans to pass a law by which the said government will allow itself to read e-mails sent or received by individuals, as well as the websites visited by individuals. The word that is important here is “individuals”, because the british government isn’t merely interested at looking at tendencies of which website is visited. No, they want to know what website you, as an individual, visit. For the sake of tackling “crime” or “terrorism”, of course. Baring the fact that “terrorism” is not really easy to define: the French Resistance was considered a terrorist movement by the Nazis and the French collaborationists, and yet History doesn’t look at it that way. Maude as well, by acting like a fear-monger of petrol penury could be, in some ways, considered a “terrorist”. And states do behave as terrorists, as well. Ask South-Americans what they think of the U.S. policy there, or the Iraqis of the policies implemented by the U.S. and the U.K. in Iraq after the 2003 invasion. They belong to the “unpeople” of the world, though, so I’m sure their opinion will be discarded as “irrelevant” by the media and the governments of Western countries.Anyway, this is the last instance of a worrying trend among EU states. A trend inaugurated, as often, on the other side of the Atlantic after the 9/11 attacks where the Patriot Act sought to monitor who would read what (among other things). Since this day, governments have tried to limit freedom of speech in Europe, tried to set up systems to monitor the Internet and the social media, as discussions after the England riots showed (the irony being that the very same governments were praising the very same social media for their role in the Arab Spring). Several years ago the German government had the project of introducing a Trojan horse into the system of people residing in Germany (de) and since the Toulouse killings, Sarkozy, in a populist move not uncommon from him, wants to render the fact of visiting illegal websites punishable by law. If this is implemented, this will effectively create a crime of opinion in France, like in Iran or China (much like the new project from the British government). The French government is also trying to implement a nation-wide file of all French nationals through biometric ID card (fr). This is quite worrying as the STIC is riddled with mistakes (fr).Not long ago, the EU commission made recommendations to tackle “hacking”, with jail terms of up to two years and the criminalisation of possessing “hacking tools”, which creates a problem for a host of Internet security firms or IT services who precisely use these tools to test the security of their network or the network of their clients. Of course, this is for the sake of “Internet security” and to “protect businesses”. I suspect that the real reason behind this is the rise of Internet-mediated direct action, or “hacktivism”, where people like Anonymousattack the websites of government agencies or firms; as this was the case when they made DoS attacks against Amazon or Paypal to retaliate to the measures they took (without even being requested to do so by a tribunal decision, which amounts to a political decision) against Wikileaks. This really looks as if what the EU commission is trying to tackle isn’t cybercrime but activism on the web.Expression of citizens on the web isn’t the only problem for our “democratic” governments: spanish governments don’t even try to hide behind a pretense of “tackling crime or terrorism”. There, demonstrations are banned before elections.
All these measures have in common that they will be implemented to “protect“ citizens and businesses (the latter being a lot more important than the former) from crime or terrorism. And yet, you, as an individual, are far more at risk of being injured or killed in a car crash than during a terrorist attack. I personally think that terrorists here are just a convenient pretext. Indeed, people of the EU have been deprived of their rights to run the Union in favour of lobbies and ministers which are not appointed by the electors but by the head of state on the prime minister’s proposal (this is at least the case in France and in the UK, and I believe elsewhere too), the EU parliament enjoys very little powers and this is likely to remain that way, the president of the EU is not elected by the people of the EU but chosen by the various governments as a function of their interests —which, despite what they would say, never coincide with the interests of the majority of the people in their own countries, and the crisis that is ongoing since 2008 finally exposed the real purpose of governments around EU: to protect the rich. In such a context, as various social movements demonstrated in Spain, Greece, Portugal, people get angry. To the points of rioting or considering the austerity measures theft as this Portuguese teacher once said. Indeed, these austerity measures, are linked to poorer health outcomes. At least in Portugal. Right now, this anger isn’t organized, people vent it out in ways that are, in hindsight, quite innocuous to governments and markets. But this is just a matter of time before organisations will rise and make proposals fundamentally unacceptable to the rich and their employees in Westminster, the Palais Bourbon or elsewhere.
What if such a powerful organisation comes to life again? In that case, the states will be ready; and the armoured democracies they are building, not to protect the citizens, but to protect their class interests will show their real faces. Because don’t be mistaken: no-one should take the relative democracy we enjoy today for granted. History is quite clear of what will happen if citizens rise up and eventually decide to push for their interests instead of sitting passively in front of the telly or having an ale or two in a pub. Look at Germany in the 1930s: the Nazi party was financed by some major German firms (de), but not only. Henry Ford saw an interest in that, too (that is an understatement). Closer from us in time is what happened in Chile in 1973, when the U.S.A. helped to overthrow an elected president. This also happened, though failed, in Venezuela in 2002… It succeeded in 2009 in Honduras, though. And this will happen here as well if we are not vigilant enough.
I cannot resist to leave you with this video from the late George Carlin. This is about the U.S. but this can be easily transposed to E.U. without much being changed.