Thursday, March 20, 2008

If you have nothing to hide?

A.C. Grayling responds to the thought numbing assertion that if you have nothing to hide you have no reason to be concerned with the creation of a national surveillance state.

The assumption behind the "if you have nothing to hide" claim is that the authorities will always be benign, will always reliably identify and interfere with genuinely bad people only, will never find themselves engaging in "mission creep" with more and more uses to put their new powers and capabilities to, will not redefine crimes, and even various behaviours or views now regarded as acceptable, to extend the range of things for which people can be placed under suspicion - and so considerably on.

It is all or some of naive, lazy and irresponsible not to be maximally vigilant regarding civil liberties and human rights, because it is a datum that the liberties of individuals are inconvenient for all states and their security services, and in dispensations where there are few if any restraints (think the Soviet Union, or even today's Russia - and China) it is liberty which quickly and comprehensively suffers.

Where an alert populace can use its liberties such as free speech to defend its other liberties vigorously, the universal tendency of states to increase their policing powers can be resisted: but even in such countries as the UK and US it takes real effort to mount and maintain such resistance. Consequently it is not acceptable to rest content with the "if you have nothing to hide" argument, for it is one of the most seductive self-betrayals of liberty one can imagine.


Anonymous said...

I think the problem with most americans is that they believe there is something inherent about the US that makes it free, and great.

Most americans feel that their country can do no wrong, and by extension their governments can do no wrong, and it is this which makes them wonder why people are against the government increasing its powers.

Spocko said...

Thanks HG. I really want more attention to be given to this argument. How to engage someone's mind on this topic if they are of the "I don't have anything to hide I'm not a terrorists" mind set.

One way is to look at mistakes.
This is the reason for both oversight and the courts (FISA).

And if they want a current example I want them to remember the move Brazil. Where the guy named Buttle was picked up and not the guy named Tuttle. Typo. Oops. But the guy is dead now.

Maybe if one of their neighbor's got picked up for the wrong thing they might be a bit more interested in oversight. And then they can understand why basket warrants was one of the things that pissed off our forefathers and mothers.

Hume's Ghost said...

You know, I'm a big fan of Terry Gilliam (minus Brother Grimm) but I've never seen Brazil.

I keep forgetting I want to watch it.

Hume's Ghost said...

And the quickest way I know to cut through the "nothing to hide" fallacy is to remind them about the FBI having spied on Martin Luther King Jr., revealed personal info to him and them encouraged him to commit suicide.

Spocko said...

Hume's Ghost. DO rent Brazil. I just rewatched it 2 weeks ago.

Considering what we know about what the Bush people do now, the scenes that seems absurd when it came out are almost exactly correct. Right down to the hooding and torture.

You'll be blown away.