Big Brother is NOT Watching You
Surveillance and concern about overbearing security services is one area where you find the looney tune left and laissez-faire right in total agreement. Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul might disagree about everything else, but both agree that the government tapping individual’s phones and reading their mail is a really bad thing. In many ways this demonstrates how, in the West at least, liberalism has triumphed over all of its opponents in the sphere of ideas. While their conceptions of it might differ, both right and left agree that the need to maximize liberty is the one priority that matters over all others.
The blame for this, as it often does, can be traced back to Rousseau, who preached that before civilization came along and spoiled everything man lived in a state of nature where he was both totally free and utterly content. This of course is a load of balderdash. Freedom is certainly great and all, but a state of total freedom would be a state of anarchy, and not the blissful kind our French fool imagined. If too much authority gives you the Third Reich and Stalinist Russia, too much freedom gives you Somalia or pre-Taliban Afghanistan. Man is not a naturally perfect being, he is in fact a naturally despicable being that is only constrained from his baser instincts by civilization, not in spite of it. Give too much power to one man or to all men and the result is the same, catastrophe.
Yet this sad illusion continues. In my home country of Canada the government recently table a new anti-terrorism bill, Bill C-51, in response to vicious acts of Islamic terror both here and abroad. The usual collection of suspects have of course come out saying that Orwell’s 1984 is on our doorstep and this is but the thin edge of the wedge that is about to shatter all our freedoms and liberties.
Of course this is not the case. Bill C-51 really isn’t that radical. It mostly just gives Canadian intelligence services powers that are already pretty common amongst other Western nations like America or Britain (those horrible hellholes of despotism and tyranny that they are). But let’s say that Bill C-51 actually was everything its critics say it is, for the sake of argument. You’re every move and thought still won’t be monitored by the government even then.
Back when I was acquiring my oh so valuable Arts degree, I took a few courses on espionage and intelligence. One problem observed was that modern security agencies suffer from the problem of too much raw intelligence as opposed to too little. The ability to gather data and information has exceeded the ability of spy agencies to actually analyse it efficiently. The average satellite image acquired by the NSA is examined for a grand total of three seconds on average, and they have whole departments dedicated to nothing but that.
Think for a second if you will about yourself. How often in the course of one day do you talk on the phone, send a text, message a friend on FaceBook, chat with a relative on Skype, surf the Net, exchange emails, read or post on a blog, or do any other form of communication? You probably can’t even come up with the exact number because you do it so many times. Now multiple that by thirty million and you’ll have a rough approximation of exactly how much data the government would have to track and then review to actually keep track of your every move. The government has real problems to deal with, it’s not going to listen in to your weekly call with Auntie Gertrude, you’re just not that important.
Oh but the potential is still there, no doubt you’ll say, and there’s an obligation to protect the right to privacy. I hate to break it to you, but that’s long gone. The technology is out there, and if you think private companies, lobby groups, the press, intelligence agencies from governments less scrupulous than ours and ordinary private citizens aren’t already using it at will then you’re a naïve fool. Even something as innocuous as an off-colour comment at a social gathering or even in a private conversation can be captured on a camera phone and put out there for all the world to see. Privacy just doesn’t exist anymore, so you should just adjust your life accordingly and deal with it.
Stopping the government from having the power to snoop won’t change this, it’ll just make it more likely that one day you’ll be going about your business when some ISIS scumbag (cause let’s be honest and admit it’s almost always one of them or their ilk these days) comes along and either blows you up or shoots you down. This idea that dictatorship arrives by stealth through Trojan horse laws that somehow trick the populous into tyranny is just a lie we tell ourselves. The uncomfortable truth we don’t like to acknowledge is that dictatorships only survive so long as a substantial portion of their people support them, or at least are passively ambivalent towards them. So long as the majority of people in Canada want to live in a free country, a free country Canada will remain. Bill C-51 won’t change this, it’ll just make future tragedies like Charlie Hebdo or the Parliament Hill shootings a little less likely to be repeated.