Rather naïvely Peter assumes the law to be the written text of civilisation’s better angels, or – as he puts it – “the codification of society’s mores and principles.” Here he touches on what the child is taught to think of the policeman and the law, that it is universally good and wholesome. It lacks completely any normal and healthy hermeneutic of suspicion that comes with the reality of the law, its place in society, and the purposes it always and everywhere serves.
Whether or not we are paranoid or delusion we are all subject to comprehensive, deeply penetrative, and highly technologically sophisticated surveillance by the state. In a sense Edward Snowden did not tell us anything in 2013 we did not already suspect. When I came to Ireland in the 1990s the British government signals intelligence (SIGINT) centre at Cheltenham in England, GCHQ, was already well known, and was popularly assumed to be listening into and recording all telecommunications in the Irish Republic. It was assumed that because of the conflict in the six counties between Irish Republicans and the British state it was only to be expected that British Intelligence would listening to Ireland. This presumption was well founded.
Everyone has something to hide. Mark Zuckerberg can say that privacy is no longer the norm, but in his own private life he contradicts this by the extraordinary measures he and his wife take to keep themselves hidden even from their own neighbours. The things that we hide need not be criminal or immoral or shameful, it is simply the case that we are programmed to have secret and private lives as well as the life we lead in public. The argument that the innocent have nothing to hide begins to crumble when we suggest rigging people's homes with cameras.
This was a state of emergency, and, as the dominant classes intend neoliberalism to be a long-term politico-economic project, there had to be a permanent policing solution to facilitate it.