The following video came to mind, after reading headlines that security agencies now need more of the same.
Not just more fish – a much bigger fish. Or something along the same lines.
The Guardian asks for a debate we’ve never had.
I suppose this would involve a value-for-money assessment of some kind or another. How many billions being spent; how many plots being avoided; how much efficiency being improved upon. At the moment, whilst our hospitals are submitted to such regimes, our security services seem to get little more than a rapid nod of approval for whatever seems required:
The chairman of the parliamentary intelligence committee, Sir Malcolm Rifkind, whose remit is supposed to be oversight of the agencies, also offered his support. He told the BBC that terrorists used the internet, email and social messaging, so intelligence agencies “have to have the power to intercept particularly international communications that might be relevant to preventing terrorist attacks”.
I’m missing something else here, too. Whilst a debate on the kind of surveillance we want is needed – informed debate which firstly needs informed persons to explain, in good faith, the real nature of the alternatives out there – we also need to ask the question Monty Python kind of does in that clip: do we need a bigger fish or do we need a different fish?
Monty Python makes us laugh by showing a bigger fish is all that’s missing.
I’m not sure in the real world it has to be the case.
In the arguments about the brute forces needed to invade our privacies, we are told over and over again how important it is to do so in order that our freedoms may be protected.
You don’t have to be a terrorist to wonder how it’s going to be possible to protect our freedoms by invading their easy practice.
Even so. Let’s say that we understand it’s for a shortish period of time: a temporary stepping back from liberalism so that an order of sorts may be re-established. That this is not an action of choice but, instead, a Hobson’s choice of action.
So even if that were the situation, I’d still argue that we have complementary alternatives. The surveillance state of mind – which for some circumstance captures the imaginations of all kinds of makers, shakers and leaders – is not the only way. Here we are looking only to keep the lid on the pressure cooker. It’s a hard-power way of doing things – nothing else.
Why not attempt in some way as well to plan for when the lentils are done? If you don’t, they’ll end up burnt and useless to all intents and purposes, anyway.
There has to be an exit plan. There has to be some way of lessening the build-up of steam.
There has to be more to it than just a battening down of the ship of state’s hatches.
Surely we are allowed to suggest things like that without being accused of sympathising with the violent citizens who clearly have the capacity to turn a society upside down via very limited means.
I’m surprised that people who work in the security agencies don’t suggest far more often a multi-pronged approach. Are they afraid of losing the budgets they already manage? Is there some interdepartmental reason for holding their philosophical cards close to such limited chests? Or is there some other reason we are quite unaware of that defines and prevents them from doing more than just more of the same?
Are we really saying our security agencies are no wiser than Monty Python’s fish?