THE BLOG

Prism: Who Cares?

19/06/2013 23:43 BST | Updated 19/08/2013 10:12 BST

The government spies on us: cue horror and massive public outrage. But is all of this really that surprising? After all, we expect our government to spy on foreigners who plot ill-will towards the nation, so why shouldn't we bear the same burdens as the rest of the world? Britain, does, it seems, have quite a line in home-grown terror, and the alleged murderers of Drummer Lee Rigby are British born. Those convicted recently of planning to bomb an EDL rally were also born here, as were the Birmingham plotters, convicted before the horrors of Boston.

Add to this the international nature of terrorist activity; with the range of operation and recruitment which al-Qaeda and the like can achieve through the Internet, and it makes perfect sense for the state to extend the same treatment to citizens of its own country as that afforded to those who had the misfortune to be born abroad.

The public are keen to see this as another government sponsored exercise in snooping, but those who express this opinion the most vocally are likely to be among the throngs who called loudly for tighter rules and methods of combating extremism following the tragedy in Woolwich. There is a tremendous scope for hypocrisy in these issues, with everyone wanting both fundamental autonomy and personal freedom, in conjunction with the security which only an over-arching state mechanism can provide.

For those self-satisfied pseudo-intellectuals, for whom personal opinion can only be expressed through quotation of others, this is in direct contravention of the aphorism as set forth by Benjamin Franklin. While his little sayings are of course comforting, they do not represent in any accuracy the true ways of the modern world, and do not deserve all of the unwarranted attention they are getting from opportunistic tweeters and band-wagon minded slogan-chanters.

Yes, it would be nice, for some, to be able to make a genuine choice between 'temporary security' and 'liberty', and I'm sure that many get a self-righteous kick out of imagining the high moral stand they themselves would take. But it is not like that anymore, and both 'security' (which by its very nature is temporary - "In the long run we are all dead" - as Kenyes put it), and 'liberty' are on a sliding scale. If absolute freedom was even possible, and it is not achievable until after the breakdown of all institutions and societal constraints, then what on earth would be gained by totally exposing yourself to those who would wish to do you harm?

As Michael Adebolajo himself said: 'we will never stop fighting'. Even if one wanted to quibble with the causes of his apparent hatred and anger, the fact is that they exist, and will continue to do so regardless of whether we live in a society which values individual freedom over collective safety, or whether we take the necessary steps to ensure that the suitable precautions are enacted. I know where I would rather live: in a country which values the individual, but places definite limits on certain areas for the good of all.

Terrorism is an exceptional state of affairs, but does not look likely to go away, and our interests are best served by doing what we can to make ourselves and each other safer, even if this means giving away a little personal data. After all, did you not entrust your little bundle of information to an online corporation? I'd rather have William Hague using my personal details for national security than Mark Zuckerberg manipulating it to increase advertising revenue on his poxy little website.

And this information is not going to be used for anything other than guaranteeing the safety of others. Regardless of what a few deranged scare-mongers may say, the government it not one recorded phone conversation away from dictatorship (and yes, to all you Ukippers out there, the EU isn't either). It may be naive, but I think that a democratic system such as ours would not allow any major abuse of this information to take place, and, as has been outlined by Hague, all interaction between the government and the detritus it has gathered would be subject to extant national laws.

Much has been made of the statement 'if you've got nothing to hide, you have nothing to fear', but I cannot see anything essentially wrong with it. As interesting as you kid yourself your life is, there's no chance of an intelligence officer listening to your telephone argument with the man from the electric company for fun. And it is not as if the 'suits' are compiling some sort of database comprising of embarrassing Facebook status updates.

What we need to do is collectively end the egoism: your life is unimportant, to the universe as well as the government. Your records, if they are confiscated, will never be perused, and it will be as if you never tweeted or sent that snotty e-mail. This ego-centricity has led to undue personalisation of the issue, and the truth is that this system is not designed to oppress law-abiding citizens, and it would be a criminal waste of resources if it did so. It is designed to go after the 'bad guys', and if you are not with them, then there is very little to worry your pretty little head about.

I suggest that, instead of going on periodic hissy fits about our privacy and 'liberty', we actually do something about it. Use websites which alter your IP address, base your snarky political gossip site in somewhere where it has the First Amendment over its head. Do something, instead of regularly moaning and then accomplishing nothing when it comes to crunch time.

I can guarantee that if you took all of this trouble, and avoid all of the supposedly creeping tendrils of government online to the utmost degree; it would make no overall difference. Your petty actions will not derail this sensible measure, and nor should it. For every government bashing keyboard-warrior, there are thousands who just don't care. They are right.