Our Austrian correspondent AMT has translated the following op-ed from Die Presse about the current regime of mass surveillance under the security-conscious nanny state:
Naked into the Big Brother State
by Christian Ultsch
As long as someone — anyone — promises more security, people will acquiesce to the loss of more and more rights that mark freedom.
The “zero-years” [meaning the years 2000-2009] with their exhausting terror insanity are over, and we are still trotting naked and fatalistically like newly-shorn sheep towards the big brother state which is continuously being expanded. There remain plenty of crazies out there, like the 28-year-old Somali man who Friday night wanted to visit a Danish artist with an axe and a knife because the latter dared to caricature the prophet Mohammed four years ago.
There is no longer anything that remains a secret; the soup concocted from a nervousness about danger dissolves privacy like vegetables that have been overcooked. The state-run chef is all-knowing, if that is what he wants: for instance, he knows where and when we are traveling and with whom we are telephoning. In the near future all telecommunication companies will be officially required by law to store all customer data for at least six months and on request forward the data to the police. An EU directive wants it that way. Oh well. Are there any protests? Nada. Nothing.
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Our most intimate preferences have been listed in an open book for a long time. The trail we leave when we use our credit cards or the internet make up a pretty profile to be used for commercial or police purposes. And those who traipse through the streets of Vienna or use the highways or public transportation can be found on recorded video more than once a day. There is even discussion in some municipal tenements about filming tenants while they empty their garbage into the bins. All this is allegedly for the sake of our safety. The state is just doing its job (and at the same time listening to us and reading our stuff). If we have nothing to hide, this shouldn’t bother us, we are instructed.
Oh yes, it does! It is troubling when the foundations are laid for a totalitarian big-brother-like community. It is troubling when the state nonchalantly subverts rights that were fought for centuries. The war against terror does not justify weaving a seamless monitoring system which catches citizens who have never been in conflict with the law. Freedom cannot be defended by restricting it. In bleating forbearance, our generation allows others to chivvy one basic freedom after another out of us as long as we are promised more security. Freedom of movement, for example, has become pretty relative in the context of flying. This where the neuroses of the terror age are currently expanding. Osama bin Laden and his cohorts’ fantasies of destroying airplanes are not a mere fetish in the wake of September 11: taking down technical wonders from the skies produces especially gruesome pictures.
Accordingly, the security craze at airports has intensified. Failed attacks have nerve-wracking and time-wasting results. We have the failed shoe-bomber Richard Reid to thank for having to pass security checkpoints in socks. And because one group planned an attack with liquid explosives, we can no longer take deodorants and toothpaste on board without hesitation. Not very appealing on long flights.
And the legacy of the son of a Nigerian ex-minister who on Christmas Day wanted to explode a Delta airliner, but only managed to singe his underpants, will be the full body scanner. Soon it will be possible for security people to relax when looking at scanned passengers’ prostheses, intimate body piercings or colostomies. Why don’t we just all travel with a towel around our waists and convert airplanes into flying saunas? None of us has anything to hide.