Sunday, June 7, 2009

War is peace. Monitoring is freedom.

Today is the Swedish election for the EU parliament. I spent part of the day handing out ballots outside my local election place, for the Pirate Party. That's the party that thinks it's a bad thing that our governments wants the defense intelligence agencies to monitor all traffic to and from Sweden (and, given how networks work, thus pretty much all the traffic to and from different parts of Sweden). It's also a bad idea that record companies have more powers than the police to get information about persons. Also we'd like some changes in copyright laws - not eliminating it, but changing it.

There were two other people handing out ballots, a Social Democrat and a Liberal. When I was about to pack up and leave, the Social Democrat started asking me about the stuff that PP has no policy on. Pretty soon I was discussing more with the Liberal. And the stuff that came out of his mouth had me flabbergasted. Such as "But in some cases we need to monitor you to ensure your freedom."

I was so stunned that at first I couldn't answer. It had never crossed my imagination that someone could actually say that and mean it. I believe I stammered something about Orwell and 1984, and asked how the government's monitoring my emails to my mother made me safer or freer. Because the whole monitoring thing is all about safety - what if there's a bomb in Stockholm and surveillance of all internet traffic could have stopped it? And think about drugs, drug trafficking is done over the Internet and that must be stopped.

I suggested that, since the Postal office is one of the major distributions channels for drugs, they should have drug sniffer dogs in all post offices. Of course they would only react on letters that had drugs in them, and on letters that had been close enough to have the same smell, but why worry? If you don't deal drugs or stupidly use the same outgoing mailbox as a drug dealer you have nothing to worry about.

At this point he changed the subject a little. I think we got back to how, if I thought it was OK for the defense intelligence agency to monitor stuff going on in foreign countries, I thought it was wrong to monitor everything. Besides, all this monitoring would keep me safer! Didn't I want to be safe?

I suggested that one good way to make sure people don't get robbed or raped is to lock everyone indoors after dark. That way we'd all be safe from strangers, and if we're locked in separate rooms that takes care of domestic violence, too. This, he said, was my taking things to extremes. Well, yes, it is. If you want to monitor me to make sure nothing bad happens to me - where does it end? How much of an infringement on my privacy is acceptable? I don't mind being monitored if there's an actual reason to suspect me of criminal activity. I do mind having everything I do online pass through a big filter that may or may not trigger on something I write!

The girlfriend grew up in the Soviet Union. There were things one simply did not speak of, places one simply did not go to. There was little need for the police or the laws to specifically ban those places or issues - people knew it was unsafe for them to speak of or go to them, and they limited themselves to avoid being noticed by the government. I told the Liberal guy that's not a society I want to live in. He said that he didn't think that was something I need worry about. And that is why I'm not voting for his party.

Oh, and the guy in question? Not just any guy spending a few hours working for his party. He's Makan Afshinnejad - press secretary for Marit Paulsen, the leading name for the Liberals in this election.


Dennis Nilsson said...

"But in some cases we need to monitor you to ensure your freedom."

If Makan Afshinnejad is unlucky he has to learn what it mean the hard way, some time in the future. :-(

B.T.W "Folkpartiet Liberalerna" isn't at all "liberals" or share any value of the liberal idelogy.

"Folkpartiet Liberalerna" today is authoritarian political party with corporatist economic ideology. Like Benito Mussolini.

Jenny said...

Yes, I'd already noticed that Folkpartiet isn't liberal at all.

It's funny - when I was younger, living in Gothenburg, Folkpartiet actually was sort of liberal. In fact, the FP I knew in Gothenburg twenty years ago were pretty like the Social Democrats I meet in Stockholm nowadays. It's like every single party - including the ex-communists - have taken a step towards the right.