Text in which the author defends ideas and reaches conclusions based on his / her interpretation of facts and data

Stay scared

The spymasters know that if you sow fear in suitable doses you harvest docility and submission

News keeps pouring in about the widespread cyberespionage practices revealed by Edward Snowden, the young man who, to the shame of the West, has had to seek refuge in Hong Kong. While the US attorney general seeks to criminalize a citizen who has tried to protect us from our protectors, we hear all sorts of jabber about what was being done for our own good, to prevent tragedies and save innocent lives. But new details, such as the use of cyber-spy systems during the G20 meeting in London in 2009, debunk these fairytales. The Guardian notes that the British government of Gordon Brown, in collusion with its American friend, used a program called Prism to follow the position of the participants in that summit, to the observers' unfair advantage over even their closest friends. Nobody doubts that David Cameron has been up to the same tricks, because these gadgets are there to be put to the use for which they were intended.

One of El Roto's recent cartoons in EL PAÍS read: "For your own safety, stay scared." A reasonable amount of fear is a precondition for self-defense, but we know that if you sow fear in suitable doses you harvest docility and submission, which ease the work of government. This is the voluntary-servitude principle explained to us in the writings of Étienne de La Boétie. We are still in the long shadow of the War on Terror, which George W. Bush and the hardcore around him, led by Cheney, undertook with twisted legal instruments such as the Patriot Act. The results are all around us, in the form of the torture still being applied in Guantanamo to a new legal category called "enemy combatants," and other novelties such as the Prism program. Since Snowden's revelations, the nation-saviors in the National Security Agency (NSA) have been trying to justify their doings with arguments worthy of the film Minority Report, claiming the preventive deactivation of dozens of deadly terrorist attacks they save us from - for which we ought to be duly grateful, instead of bitching about our privacy.

Nobody doubts that David Cameron has been up to the same tricks, because these gadgets are there to be used

They are trying to tell us that each case of their interference in our privacy represents a bomb that will never explode. They are trying to divert our attention to all those whose lives (unknown to themselves) have been saved. But all this is too abstract. Because "you can't count the lives saved — you can only count the dead." For example, the children killed in American schools by weapons that are bought legally without the least sort of control, because the right to bear arms is enshrined in the Constitution, whatever the price. According to Professor Roser Martínez Quirante, whose statistics cover until 2002 (but little has changed since then), no fewer than 30,000 people are killed each year by firearms in the US — while firearm fatalities in Spain, Britain, Greece, Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium add up to only 700, this among a total population of 280 million, comparable to that of the US. In 1990 Clinton enacted a federal law declaring schools, and a 300-meter radius around them, firearm-free zones. But the Supreme Court found it unconstitutional. You can, it seems, declare certain zones to be cigarette-free, but you cannot set perimeters within which guns are excluded. In 1997 the same court annulled another provision of the Brady Law that imposed administrative obligations on local authorities, by which the police would look (snoop) into the criminal records, if any, of gun purchasers.

Of all the formal complaints lately registered by EU Justice Commissioner Viviane Reding against cyberespionage, nothing more has been heard. Never mind Article 18 of the Spanish Constitution, which "protects the right to honor, and to personal and family privacy," or "the secrecy of communications, especially those made by post, telegraph and telephone, unless by judicial warrant." To be continued.

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