Illiberal – Sneaky Power & Surveillance Systems as Anti-Social Behaviour

January 18, 2020


“For most of us, most often, justice means that we get our way, receive what we believe is our due, and punish misdeeds according to our values – and hormonal levels at the time”.  Flavio Zanchi

Punishment & Discipline

Michel Foucault tells us that punishment has moved from public and physical admonishment (like hanging), and towards and more psychological forms of punishment, including imprisonment, intended to discipline and control the populace’s mind. Punishment was intended to ensure that citizens’ rights were, and seen to be, protected, so that social order was maintained.

Small ‘c’ conservatives and small ‘l’ liberals might disagree on the purpose of punishment, but not that it should only be applied ‘lawfully’, meaning in accordance with the social contract. Even when it is applied lawfully, the populace often protests at the severity of the inept, cruel and overzealous government in power or decision makers.

Watch ‘em all the time

Bentham might say that what the power brokers did in response, was to make those who may need punishment, at some point in the future, feel constantly under surveillance. Bentham described the Panopticon, a prison in which the governor can always see the prisoner, even in their cell, at any time, but the prisoner can not see the government controller.

In this way, ‘prisoners’ have no choice but to behave as if they are being constantly watched. Power of controller’s mind is exercised over independent mind. Power is exercised by three prongs:

  1. Surveillance – constantly and sneakily
  2. Normalisation – make it acceptable to watch at a whim
  3. Examination – (and worse re-examination) to correct or punish those who do not fit the mould.

Conservatives might justify the controller as protecting the social contract. They could not argue that it is acceptable, for an individual or neighbour, to exercise such control over another, by say, constantly scrutinising, by sneakily editing videos & surveillance, unfairly reporting, and gossiping about another. That seems abhorrent and illiberal, especially if it is unlawful too.

Play by the rules

This is because private CCTV should be used to ensure the security of the property it is installed on, rather than recording the activity of neighbours. The boundary of a garden/property is a very good guideline beyond which activity could be considered intrusive. Security of the home is only breached if the boundary is crossed by someone intent on causing damage or committing a criminal act.

Additionally, personal photographs or video material should only be used for the purposes of assisting authorities to prevent or detect anti-social behaviour and not for publishing or wider use, particularly if they identify persons and reveal personal information about them.

So, we know what the law is, we know that conservatives would back the law, would liberals agree that privacy and dignity should be protected?