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In The Name Of Security

Updated: November 22, 2014 1:55 pm

“The greatest tyrannies are always perpetrated in the name of the noblest causes.”

—Thomas Paine

Over the past two decades, new rules have mushroomed ‘in the interest of safety and security’, which have sneaked into every nook and cranny of our lives. These rules are making life more complicated, more expensive and more frustrating than it needs to be. Throughout the history the response to social disorder and rising crime rates has been to adopt the most modern equipment and techniques available. Over the past thirty years in particular, considerable advances in technology have dramatically increased the powers of the state to carry out surveillance upon its citizens. This inevitably brings with it the dystopic vision of an Orwellian society, where citizens are constantly under the vigilant gaze and attentive ear of ‘Big Brother’. Though the allusion to ‘Big Brother’ is a popular modern metaphor for the role of the State in social control, it ignores the numerous benefits increased surveillance has brought about. Surveillance does, undoubtedly, have two faces. It can act to curtail rights through, for example, reinforcing divisions within society, or it can be a vital tool in preventing and detecting crime. For citizens to accept and consent to certain forms of surveillance, that is to say it’s positive face, the state should be accountable for its actions. It cannot be left with an unfettered discretion to determine why and where it carries out surveillance on, and on behalf of, its citizens, without some form of legal responsibility.

This safety imperative is confounding and intimidating. It silences our better judgement. People also worry that there are hidden dangers they can’t possibly perceive. They imagine that these rules must be necessary and that someone, somewhere, has evidence showing that they are making us safer. The core philosophy of In the Interest of Safety by Tracy Brown and Michael Hanlon is to ask for this evidence. Whenever we encounter a ban from authorities we tend to ask why? On what basis does this rule exist? Where are the cases of people getting into trouble while doing this? When asking these questions, we can find that these safety rules are not as unassailable as we might think, and our response can have an impact on them. This book tells us what we can do. It shows us the importance of demanding that safety rules must be justified and based on firm evidence. In turn this will help us decide which rules are necessary and which should be challenged. The tide of official self —importance, media hysteria and commercial exploitation that produces regulations which not only irritate, but sometimes confuse, are often a waste of time and money and occasionally reap the deadliest unintended consequences. In a nut shell this book tries to open our eyes and helps us to decide which rules we really need and which we can discard.

By Nilabh Krishna


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