Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Against the surveillance state

Polly Toynbee reckons concerns over the fact that we have more CCTV per capita than any other country on the face of the planet is just an irrational, middle-class angsty thing. Like ID cards and DNA banks - what's the problem? She doesn't call those of us who are concerned about this sort of thing 'bruschetta-eaters', but she might have well have.

Mr Eugenides has already had a splendid rant at this garbage and I wouldn't feel the need to add anything to it - were it not that I've just spent three hours marking and I'm pissed the fuck off so I'm going to join in too. Take this for example:
"Big Brother is the malevolent use of surveillance by a wicked state. But for as long as the state remains democratic we can decide what use is made of it and how we are protected from possible abuses."
We have to back to the kindergarten of political philosophy here but I'm afraid it's necessary, so bear with me: democracy is concerned with how power is legitimised, liberty with its scope. Liberty has tended to be wider in democracies but they are, both in theory and practice, two different things. I am not any happier having my liberties taken away from me just because it is the 'will of the majority', thank you very much.

And given Ms Toynbee's touching solicitude for the poor, who the fuck does she think will be asked to produce their goddam ID cards on a regular basis? The middle classes? If that were so it'd be a first. Or take this:
"Liberty is taking priority over equality, because it can arouse pleasing middle-class angst."
What the fuck is this shit? Pleasing to whom? Sometimes liberty conflicts with equality, sometimes it does not - but it seems to me that under this New Labour government both liberty and equality have taken a bit of a beating. And with these examples, why is there a conflict? ID cards will do nothing, not a damn thing, to reduce inequality. Or DNA data banks. And don't these cost a few bob? Who pays for this? The low-paid workers our Polly professes to care about, that's who. Finally, she closes:
"There are real threats to some civil liberties - imprisonment without trial, acceptance of torture..."
Yes, yes there are. Nick Cohen take note - you used too, after all...
"...but CCTV and ID cards are not among them."
Ah, but they are...
"There is a moral blindness in pouring out so much righteous indignation over potential minor infractions against liberty while largely ignoring gross inequality."
So what if people don't ignore 'gross inequality' and they're concerned about the loss of liberty, eh? Perhaps then we could have some argument in defence of the surveillance state - which isn't exactly prolier-than-thou, 'cos Polly obviously can't do that - but that doesn't depend on the "I'm more concerned about the proles than thou" line we get from Guardianistas every time they make excuses for this government's erosion of our ancient liberties.

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