Notes Antic Disposition

Our Emergent Panopticon

Clear evidence of the emergence of a repressive panopticon society: a UK Twitter user has been convicted and fined for posting a throwaway threat to blow up his local airport. Ok – perhaps what he tweeted was breaking the law. It was certainly tactless, borderline, and utterly stupid, but in context, it’s clear what the intended meaning was and somewhat ludicrous that he was arrested a week after the message was posted (a clear indication of just how much of a threat he was making).

So Britain is following the USA. “Innocuous hyperbole” can now lead to someone being forcibly arrested, having police search the person’s house, seizing all computers and phones? What a wonderful precedent to set – a slide down the slippery slope towards a totalitarian surveillance state where all conversation is publicly monitored and speech is only free if you don’t say anything offensive. Now potentially ambiguous venting online can get your house raided and your property seized. Sure, this guy behaved like an douche, but arguably less so than our friend Mr Chen across the other side of the American continent.

Sadly, this is just the tip of the iceberg. Incidents like these are more chilling – they give a very clear impression of where certain regimes are heading. And of course, none of this will ever make it into the mainstream media. That’s not how things work. It seems the attitude of governments and law enforcement is that society is threatened from within, as much as from without. We should prepare ourselves for the social consequences of ubiquitous surveillance not being what we expect.