At the mercy of the state

25 Mar



There is something very rotten in the state of a nation’s politics when both its government and its opposition are able to co-operate on the introduction of legislation for intrusive mass surveillance of the nation’s entire population.

If you want to better understand the repercussions of this legislation for the individual, I’d recommend reading this piece, sending the suggested letter to your MP, then retreating to a corner to weep for what we’re becoming.

The government and opposition argue that these extreme surveillance measures are necessary to apprehend terrorists, pedophiles and major criminals, all of whom will by now have devised encryption methods to bypass government surveillance, and most of whom will have had such methods securely in place for years.

What has been most alarming in the lead-up to the Senate debate on the legislation today has been the apathy of mainstream media towards proposed state surveillance that frames every citizen who uses the Internet as a suspect. Not as a potential suspect, but as a suspect whose online activity can be accessed by agents of the state without a warrant, if they decide to go after you.

If you’ve nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear, claimed AFP Assistant Commissioner Tim Morris. However, in Prime Minister Tony Abbott’s own words institutions aren’t perfect, as we well know from the institutional abuses of all kinds that are exposed daily by whistleblowers, many of whom will be left without a means to reveal corruption under the new legislation.

The “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear” argument implies that the state and its agents have the right to know everything about you in the first place, and that they will determine what is deserving of their attention in your daily activities. The term “hide” is used in this argument rather than the term “privacy.”

In the replacing of one word for another, the citizen’s right to a life kept private from the state is pejoratively reframed as having “something to hide.” We are now guilty until we can prove ourselves innocent, because what else can we be if our online lives can be investigated without even a warrant?

Metadata retention legislation does not uncover what every citizen is necessarily “hiding.” It destroys every single citizen’s right to privately go about her and his online pursuits under the assumption that privacy equates to hiding, and thus becomes the object of suspicion and intervention.

Like a suspicious spouse or the interfering parent of an adolescent, the government now assumes if you want privacy you must be guilty of something.

Those who have “something to hide” will continue to find ways to hide, just like Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull who uses an encryption service to send his text messages.

We know governments can’t be trusted simply because they are governments. We know institutions can’t be trusted simply because they are institutions. To give these bodies unrestricted access to our online lives is an insanity. We are now all at the mercy of the state and its agents to an unprecedented degree, a situation that is intolerable in a liberal democracy.

The ALP are a disgrace for supporting the Coalition in this Big Brother legislation.

Get encrypted. It’s not complicated. Senator Scott Ludlum makes some suggestions on RN Breakfast this morning.

And here’s a Get Up campaign that will help you go dark.

In the meantime, Prime Minister Tony Abbott  tells us he was never worried about metadata collection when he was a journalist so what’s the problem?

That man really knows his onions. It’s breathtaking.




32 Responses to “At the mercy of the state”

  1. Wick Burner March 25, 2015 at 4:12 pm #

    Reblogged this on Wick Burner Attacks and commented:
    Hope it’s OK for me to reblog this, which follows on nicely from my previous post ( on the Orwellian mass surveillance now fully adopted after the Senate yesterday supported this oppressive and pointless legislation.
    I’m sure web searches for tools to circumvent the retention system are going through the roof…
    Thanks in advance to NO PLACE FOR SHEEP. Go read the full post…

    Liked by 1 person

  2. doug quixote March 25, 2015 at 4:22 pm #

    The absurdity of the “if you’ve got nothing to hide you’ve got nothing to fear” mantra has been revealed so often we may wonder why it is still used. For example:

    “The “nothing to hide” argument mistakenly suggests that privacy is something only criminals desire. In fact, we choose to do many things in private – sing in the shower, make love, confide in family and friends – even though they are not wrong or illegal. Who would not be embarrassed if all of their most intimate details were exposed?

    “Fences and curtains are ways to ensure a measure of privacy, not indicators of criminal behavior. Privacy is a fundamental part of a dignified life.

    “The “nothing to hide” argument also has things backwards when it suggests that we are all worthy of suspicion until proven otherwise. Our system of justice treats us all as innocent until proven guilty. That applies in everyday life – when the government wants to spy on our daily activities and private conversations – as much as it applies in court. The state bears the burden of showing there is a good reason for suspicion, not the other way around. ”

    But you may then say that

    “You are sure that you have nothing to hide and you never will. You think my concerns about chilled speech and democratic accountability are overblown, and you think privacy concerns are exaggerated and unlikely to affect you or our society in any case.

    “But – and this is the biggest hole in the “nothing to hide, nothing to fear” argument – how can you know for sure?

    “In fact, you have no idea if you have something to fear or not, because you do not know what the government does with the data it collects. If the government keeps secret what it is collecting about you or why, you cannot correct potential errors.

    “And if you know anything about our justice system, you know that errors are common. Transparency is partly about making sure the government’s actions – its outputs – can be evaluated; but transparency is also about making sure the government’s information – its inputs – is accurate.

    “When the government operates in secret, it is hard to know anything with confidence. ”

    Quotes are from Alex Abdo.

    There is more – see:

    Liked by 1 person

  3. paul walter March 25, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    THe ALP won’t offer an alternative, but then wonders why it can’t gain traction in NSW.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 25, 2015 at 8:32 pm #

      I hope they feckin sink like a stone into the quicksand of history


      • paul walter March 25, 2015 at 8:51 pm #

        Typical was todays announcement from Adelaide by the SDA that this excuse for a union has signed away penalty rates for Saturday work.

        This, during a week when the ALP in NSW is trying to get the public to focus on Baird’s electricity privatisation and convince voters it is a rock steady alternative.

        The ALP was so short sighted over Data Retention, it was the perfect issue to differentiate on, so obvious you wonder if it was deliberate, no-one short of moron could have been so myopic as to going along with it.

        There was NOTHING of value in the government’s totalitarian legislation, Labor had NO choice for credibility, but to oppose the LOT of it- and emphatically.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Marilyn March 26, 2015 at 6:27 am #

          The ALP are gutless fucking chickenshits who hear about kids being raped on Nauru and still say they love the “policy”” of torture and murder that started.

          Anyone left who still thinks the lazy scum are different to the LNP turn off the lights on your way out.

          The bastards have turned us all into enemies of the state based on us having zero to be afraid of.

          Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson March 26, 2015 at 7:36 am #

          Labor are playing to the same demographic as LNP. They will drive us into totalitarian oblivion

          Liked by 1 person

          • doug quixote March 26, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

            They have to choose to fight the battles that they have a chance to win.

            When we say that they are playing to the same demographic, we are saying that they respect the wishes of the majority of Australia’s people.

            You may not like it, and I do not – do not – like it, but that is the reality.

            Education and information are the only way to overturning that set of wishes. A political party commits political suicide if it goes against the will of the people, and risks years in the wilderness.

            Liked by 1 person

            • paul walter March 26, 2015 at 11:40 pm #

              DQ, I like you, mate, but there is a logical inconsistency in the argument that you have put up that I could drive a double b through.

              How do you change assumptions in a climate of surveillance and censorship?

              Liked by 1 person

              • doug quixote March 27, 2015 at 12:14 am #

                Well, show me the logical inconsistency. I can take it.


                • paul walter March 27, 2015 at 5:30 am #

                  “Education and information”

                  occur in a democratic environment, where the oxygen of information is not suffocated for the misguided, self perceived benefit of those become inimical to the free flow of information and education.

                  Don’t you agree, there is perhaps an eventual point of no return leading to an eventual Gotterdammerung, when Democracy is captured and coopted by anti democratic forces.

                  It has happened in the past to other civilisations, and unless I have misread history, it repeats at this point in that process.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • Jennifer Wilson March 27, 2015 at 3:31 pm #

                    If we have mass surveillance by the state we have ceased to be a liberal democracy.
                    Our behaviours will change accordingly and not for the better.


  4. hudsongodfrey March 25, 2015 at 8:48 pm #

    The more I think about this I’m somewhat inclined to equate it with something like the illegal invasion of Iraq, because as far as I’m concerned there is NO FUCKING THREAT!

    That’s what pisses me off. That the evidence for need of this has not been properly presented nor the electorate mandated any of the measures being proposed. Unless and until I find any reason to believe this threat both exists and exceeds our capacity to intercept under current provisions I have every reason to remain utterly convinced that this legislation represents the most reactionary shift in politics during our lifetime.

    A government that distrusts it’s own people redefines itself along tyrannical lines no less explicitly than Deng did when he turned the People’s Army on the people in 1989. The acts may not mirror each other in proportion to their consequences, but the message is the same. You the people do not have a say in this country!

    Once they get it in we’ll never get rid of it, either because the will to do so eludes them, or simply because you’re dealing with a self fulfilling prophecy here. Not only can such measures be abused but they most likely will be on the basis that those who advocate for them will pursue enquiries beyond any reasonable suspicion until they find something to justify their actions.

    And if even we the honest ones can be forced to consider living the the shadows of cyberspace then the internet will increasingly be considered a shadowy domain and probably eventually condemned as such. That as opposed to “terrorism” is something I do fear, because the thin edge of the wedge is clearly capable of that level of abuse if there’s nought we can do to stop it!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Karyn March 25, 2015 at 11:06 pm #

    *THIRD attempt to reblog* Very eye-opening post, interesting use of words “hide” versus “privacy” and yes, it does make it sound like (we are all) guilty until we prove our innocence. **I was never able to reblog this post from the original and the reblog** VERY SUSPICIOUS*

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 26, 2015 at 7:34 am #

      Yikes. Ive long thought the blog is surveilled Ha!

      Liked by 2 people

      • Karyn March 26, 2015 at 8:10 am #

        Yeah…OM reflagged it but after four tries I couldn’t do it.


      • Karyn March 26, 2015 at 8:11 am #

        …’reblogged’…not ‘reflagged’ LOL

        Liked by 1 person

  6. eroticmoustache March 27, 2015 at 11:26 am #

    I’m glad that Labor got some amendments through that give some token protections to journalists, because, you know, journalists are far more important than the rest of us.

    Labor has lost my vote over this issue. It’s generally been my view that people don’t tend to change their vote on the basis of any single issue (swingers excepted), as exemplified by many people – me included – being pissed off at Labor over asylum seekers but not sufficiently to change their vote. This is different. It’s a political watershed and Labor has stuffed it up big time as far as I can see.

    I can’t believe these laws have passed with so little proper dialogue with the electorate and without anything resembling a proper explanation of their necessity. Not just their value, but their necessity. Anything less than an existential necessity is simply not enough to expect a population to forego such a basic right as privacy – privacy from Government. We can voluntarily forego our privacy in all sorts of context if we wish, but this is enforced.

    Now, I admit I’m not a fan of the glib dismissals of the notion that a threat to our life and liberty exists with respect to terrorist activity. I have no idea and nor do any of those dismissing it. But therein lies a major problem – where’s the explanation? Where have Labor been articulating the reasons for their general support of these measures? If such a threat actually exists, tell me about it; convince me. Don’t just toss bullshit jargon in my direction and expect me to be satisfied with that.

    And of course, the second and connected problem is that these laws are only partially and nominally about protecting the community from religious nutjobs. It’s about policing, mostly of white collar crimes, hence ASIC and the A-freakin-CCC being granted powers under the legislation. I mean, give me a break. This is entirely insufficient cause for the unwarranted surveillance of an entire population.

    And more than that – and this is the part where I don my tin foil hat and indulge in a bit of slippery slope fallacy stuff – how long will it be before this legislation is amended/augmented to include other bodies and even Government departments? e.g. ATO, Centrelink etc. How long will it be before Centrelink have the power to access your metadata to check if what you tell them about your circumstances are true or not? What about Housing Commission authorities? How long before lonely grandmothers living alone and possibly having their grand kids stay a day more often than the rules allow, will be subjected to investigation under these powers?

    The mind boggles and I don’t think, given the broad sweep of this legislation, that it boggles needlessly.

    But it’s ok, you can protect yourself on the Net by using a VPN. Yeah, right; I can barely afford my connection (which will now increase) let alone be able to pay for a VPN service (the free ones suck and ought not be used).

    Screw you Labor. I’m done.

    Liked by 1 person

    • James Fitzgerald March 27, 2015 at 1:49 pm #

      How anyone could vote for any political party that sanctions (or deliberately actions) the imprisonment of refugees, that supports military invasions (training?? WTF??) of other countries, that supports data snooping without a warrant, that promotes an economy over people, that bases an economy on over consumption (not just ordinary consumption), that encourages social and economic competitiveness (instead or cooperation) is beyond me. Single issue voters fall short on democratic responsibility.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson March 27, 2015 at 3:34 pm #

      Well put, eroticmoustache and this is one instance in which I am in complete favour of the slippery slope argument.
      As you rightly point out, authorities are now at liberty to use these powers against anyone they take a set against, for whatever reason.
      How has it come to this FFS?


      • eroticmoustache March 28, 2015 at 11:27 am #


        It doesn’t come as much of a surprise with respect to this particular Government, given where it sits on the political spectrum, but I don’t understand Labor’s stance. God, it’s like watching my mother die all over again. She became someone else before the end and so has Labor. There’s not much I am unwilling to accept if I’m shown the definitive reasons for it, but this is a total joke. Wayne Swan is probably going to regret that he’s my Member, or at least his staff will.

        Liked by 1 person

    • paul walter March 27, 2015 at 11:20 pm #

      Yes, the trouble is, it’s part of a pattern, not just a one-off aberration.

      The saner voices have tried to keep it on track but the conservative right faction now dominates.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Marilyn March 28, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

      Labor lost me in 1987 when Hawke sold us all out to old Rupert.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. David KL March 27, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

    “….and when they came for me, there was nobody left to come and save me…”

    Liked by 1 person


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