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Self-Expressionism And The Hypocrisy of Politics

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(Credit: Olive Bites Blog)

Yesterday like many across the world, I became glued to newscasts as events unfolded in France regarding the shooting of satire cartoonists, and journalists. These innocent lives were gunned down in a rampage because a newspaper decided to publish satire portraits of the prophet Mohammad. What followed was an immediate and swift condemnation of an attack on freedom of expression by these terrorists from most global leaders.

What is freedom of expression? Freedom of expression to me is the ability to express myself freely without the worry of being gunned down by terrorists, or jailed for expressing certain points of view. This goes hand in hand, in my opinion with freedom of speech. It’s essential to a democracy to be able to question the politics or ideology of any given topic. Democracy is about different views, and the ability to express those views no matter how distasteful some of those views can be without fear of persecution, or censorship.

Every religion has been guilty of suppressing self-expression. Leonardo Da Vinci had a love for the human anatomy, and often disagreed with the Christian pope at the time. To study what we consider science today in Da Vinci’s time was considered blasphemy by the church, and punishable by death. Think of where the world would be now if Da Vinci and others of that time period were able to freely express their scientific views without persecution. The advancement of human knowledge is also a benefit of self-expression.

As events unfolded in France, I began to start questioning the Canadian response. First the CBC’s editorial staff refused to show the cartoons in question, in an attempt to accommodate the Muslim faith. I wouldn’t have thought twice about it if it were not for yesterday’s events. Those cartoons after yesterday became an important part of a global news story. Journalists have a responsibility to cover the facts of the story, and report it in full without fear of retaliation. The CBC is a publicly funded organization and should hold democratic values of free expression, which sadly were not present yesterday during the initial reporting of the events. Here is an example of one of the cartoons:

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(French Translation: Love is stronger than hate)

Another troubling aspect is the fact that these terrorists were known to authorities. In an age of mass surveillance even people who are known to have terrorist backgrounds keep slipping through the cracks. This is now becoming a considerable theme across the globe since the Boston bombings a few years ago, and the frequency of these attacks in recent months strongly suggests that the policy of mass surveillance is inadequate to prevent any future attacks. In fact it looks to be doing quite the opposite. Too often than not, hard police work and targeted investigations are lacking even on known suspects.

After 9/11 the US gave birth to a state run security sector and public dollars flowed into private security firms. Today that security sector is huge and continues to grow with Canadian companies also benefiting. We’ve ended up giving away our right to privacy online as a result of events like yesterdays. We’re spending vast amounts of money beefing up our surveillance capabilities, and yet these known perpetrators who commit these horrible acts of terror are continuing to do so at an alarming rate. With today’s surveillance capabilities, shouldn’t we be seeing a significant decrease in these attacks?  With the capabilities we have in place today, there should be no excuse for this.

Yet every time society goes through these types of attacks, the private sector security lobby has no problems lining up at the door of public coffers. This lobby is now very strong and keeps stating we need to give up more of our constitutional rights, and enable more failed national security mass surveillance policies to prevent future attacks. Since our Conservative politicians are mainly twits (and could care less about civil liberties), rather than looking at the past decade and learning, they just throw money at the situation, and pass laws that undermine the importance of freedom of expression by attacking our privacy.

What does privacy have to do with freedom of expression you ask? Ask yourself this; if Da Vinci lived 10 years from now with no expectation of privacy, would he become the artist we know him today? A lot of Da Vinci’s most provocative works were hidden from those that would have certainly put him to death if they found them. Some of those works are still being unearthed and studied even today. If he didn’t have any private moments, what would we know of Da Vinci today? Will we end up even having our own private thoughts of self-expression in the future, or will give into those who claim to protect us and are financially benefiting from fear?

If politicians are serious about defending self-expression as so many did yesterday, why then are they attacking the very core of that expression by diminishing the very right to privacy (in the name of national security), where that democratic right of self-expression is birthed? If we can’t freely express ourselves in the privacy of our own homes, through private communications, or through the public without “fear” of prosecution or government listening in, than those that died yesterday, did so without purpose, or meaning and not in defense of core democratic values.

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