Archive for April, 2005
Statewatch: monitoring civil liberties in the EU (and around the world for that matter, it is, after all, a “Small World” ™)
20 April, 2005: Global coalition launch report and international surveillance campaign: London – Statewatch, with partner organisations the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Focus on the Global South, Friends Committee (US) and the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group (Canada) today publishes an in-depth report on "The emergence of a global infrastructure for registration and surveillance". With the support of around 100 civil liberties groups and NGOs from across the world, the report is backed by the launch of the International Campaign Against Mass Surveillance (ICAMS), calling on all national governments and intergovernmental organisations to turn away from anti-terrorism efforts that are oriented around mass surveillance:
- 1. Press release (pdf)
- 2. Executive Summary (English, pdf) French (link)
- 3. Full report (pdf)
- 4. Declaration (English, pdf) French (link) Spanish (link) Dutch (link)
- 5. List supporting organisations
- 6. Endorse the Declaration – sign-up (link)
Tony Bunyan, Director of Statewatch, said: "We are very pleased to be joining with so many civil liberties groups from around the world to oppose the introduction of mass surveillance on a global basis. There is a real danger that in trying to watch everyone you are actually watching no-one"
David has been developing a theme at some length concerning the ongoing war of romaticism vs modernism. In April 28th’s post he has a guest commentator, Frederick Turner who has this to say:
I believe that the rift between the sciences and the humanities is profoundly dangerous both intellectually and culturally, leading to deep errors of understanding and unwitting crimes. Certainly at the time it seemed the only defense against what looked like a brutal pragmatism in personal relationships and a ruthless historicism in international realpolitik, where the victors in both cases would write history. But the apparent cure–the cordon sanitaire between science and the humanities–had side effects perhaps worse still. Let us look briefly at the history of those key humanistic ideas: freedom in moral action and originality in art.
To be free one must have free will. Will became the core concept of nineteenth century moral philosophy. It was will or intentionality that set us apart from brute nature. But what was the direction of will? It could only be the extension of its own field of action, since any focussing down on a specific object in the world would enslave it to the deterministic motivations of physicality. “Extension of the field of action” is nicely glossed by the word “power”: so “Will” now became “the Will to Power”. Thus power eventually became the key idea of the Humanities, as it remains today in its Foucauldian, Feminist, Postcolonialist, Lacanian, and Neomarxist versions. Strangely, our original enterprise, which was to delineate an alternative humanistic world to the deterministic realm of physical forces, has logically morphed itself into the very enemy it was designed to escape.
Power, whether expressed in oppressive violence by a reactionary elite, revolutionary acts by the disenfranchised, or legal sanctions by an enlightened ruling group, is the same thing as physical force: politically it means that you can send men with guns to make people do what you want. If beauty has been culturally relativized out of existence (which is indeed the result of avant-garde theory) and if logical reasoning is, as part of the regnant regime of power and knowledge, no more than the linguistic property of the oppressor, the only way to persuade people is through force.
…Thus the humanities, when cut off from nature, ended up not only looking exactly like the brutal world they hoped to transcend, but also trapped in the gradual entropic heat-death of the physical universe.
I have _major_ problems with that conclusion. To me it is an extreme generalization, illogical and not backed even by the limited amount of very selective evidence presented. To make another generalization, I’d say that too much thought is being presented in a supposedly rigourous manner but completely lacking in objective logic.
That was Stewart Brand’s creation, originally uttered in 1984, at the
first Hackers’ Conference, and printed in a report in the May 1985 “Whole
Earth Review.” It later turned up in his book, “The Media Lab: Inventing
the Future at MIT,” published in 1987:
“Information Wants To Be Free. Information also wants to be expensive.
Information wants to be free because it has become so cheap to distribute,
copy, and recombine—too cheap to meter. It wants to be expensive because
it can be immeasurably valuable to the recipient. That tension will not go
away. It leads to endless wrenching debate about price, copyright,
‘intellectual property’, the moral rightness of casual distribution,
because each round of new devices makes the tension worse, not better.”