Why you should have something to hide

Nothing to Hide - CutIn this seminal post, Moxie Marlinspike (a.k.a Matthew Rosenfeld, a.k.a Mike Benham) reflects about the relationships between power, surveillance, law enforcement and social change, and why you should be concerned, even if you think you have nothing to hide (which, by the way, it is very likely not true). Absolutely worth reading.

Ideas change over time. Very often, new ideas have to make their way through a dense mesh of previous rejection and opposition, and laws have to be changed before they gain general societal acceptance. What’s often overlooked is that legal victories which determine those transitions, would never be possible without the ability to break the law in the first place:

The state of Minnesota, for instance, legalized same-sex marriage this year, but sodomy laws had effectively made homosexuality itself completely illegal in that state until 2001. Likewise, before the recent changes making marijuana legal for personal use in WA and CO, it was obviously not legal for personal use.

Imagine if there were an alternate dystopian reality where law enforcement was 100% effective, such that any potential law offenders knew they would be immediately identified, apprehended, and jailed. If perfect law enforcement had been a reality in MN, CO, and WA since their founding in the 1850s, it seems quite unlikely that these recent changes would have ever come to pass. How could people have decided that marijuana should be legal, if nobody had ever used it? How could states decide that same sex marriage should be permitted, if nobody had ever seen or participated in a same sex relationship?

The cornerstone of liberal democracy is the notion that free speech allows us to create a marketplace of ideas, from which we can use the political process to collectively choose the society we want (…)

The world we live in influences not just what we think, but how we think, in a way that a discourse about other ideas isn’t able to (…)

We can only desire based on what we know. It is our present experience of what we are and are not able to do that largely determines our sense for what is possible. This is why same sex relationships, in violation of sodomy laws, were a necessary precondition for the legalization of same sex marriage. This is also why those maintaining positions of power will always encourage the freedom to talk about ideas, but never to act.

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Featured Image: INGSOC 1984 Propaganda Poster (detail)

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