Science fiction has always offered us a useful way to think through issues, it is testing ground to explore and imagine alternative societies and worlds. In 2002 the neo noir film Minority Report, based on the short story by Philip K. Dick set in Washington in 2052, where “precrime” (crimes yet to be committed) a specialized police department, apprehends alleged criminals based on prophecies provided by three psychics called “precogs”. The preventive government in Minority Report claims these measures are to keep its citizenry safe, and protected. Electronic advances in a future state mean Medias presence is nearly boundless, invading and surveilling every aspect of daily life for the future citizenry of Washington.
Sometimes we do not need to imagine what a world like Minority Report might be like. Even if it is not always immediately legible or visible governments around the world are turning sci-fi dystopias into reality.
Aotearoa’s National party with the backing of Labour rammed through the Terrorist Law recently, 94 votes to 23. The law which gives SIS the power to carry out surveillance without a warrant for 24 hours, aims to tackle home-grown terrorism. John Key’s Government argued the rise of the Islamic State terror group in the Middle East increased the risk of an attack here, referring to ISIS.
“The threats faced by New Zealand have grown and it is important that we have the ability to respond to that,” Key said.
“The Government to protect New Zealanders at home and abroad and this legislation, passed with the support of a range of political parties, will better enable us to do that.”
The fear mongering of Islam by our leader John Key is of course, coded in islamophobia and incites xenophobia by pushing the tired but dangerous 9/11 narrative that Arab’s pose a great threat to our freedom, western democracy and national security. John Key has, predictably used the resent hostage situation in Sydney known as the #SydneySiege as further “proof” that his extreme and draconian Terror Law was justified afterall the Iranian man, Man Haron Monis, responsible for the attack forced the hostages to hold up flags with Arabic writing – clearly, he must be a terrorist? Monis’s lawyer, Manny Conitsis begs to differ saying:
“This is a one-off random individual. It’s not a concerted terrorism event or act. It’s a damaged goods individual who’s done something outrageous.”
But hey, anything and anybody to justify an unjustifiable law… right?
What should worry people about the Terrorist Law in New Zealand is that you don’t even need to commit a crime to have your passport stripped from you for up to four years. In Orwellian fashion our government can now withhold your right to leave New Zealand because they believe you might have been thinking of committing terrorist acts. Meaning, you can now be accused by authorities of a “thought crime” and stripped of your liberty by our Government, acting as some kind of “physic precog” that can predict crimes before they happened also known as “pre-crimes”, to leave your own country.
The only way out of Aotearoa, would be to swim for it.
I went to a meeting for the Human Rights Law commission a few weeks ago and Barrister Grant Willingsworth spoke at the start of the evening he said preventing a person from traveling overseas for 3 or 4 years is a more severe penalty than would be given for many quite serious criminal offences.
“It could perhaps be viewed as a kind of mega home detention.” He said.
Under New Zealand’s 2002 Terrorism Suppression Act, terrorism has a very broad definition. You might be heading to Palestine to join the struggle to oppose Israel’s genocide against a mostly unarmed indigenous people but the democratically elected political party Hamas who governs the Gaza strip, is largely designated as a terrorist organisation by western governments. Hypothetically our New Zealand government which is proudly pro-Israel and has designated the armed wing of Hamas a terrorist organisation, could decide you are guilty of a “thought crime”/”pre-crime” and claim you intended to join Hamas and strip you of your passport.
The Terrorist Law is designed, on purpose, to erode our basic human right to leave New Zealand. It is a law that could be used to stifle dissent and legitimate resistance to oppressive governments and state violence. Cam Walker, a good friend of mine and fourth year Law student at Auckland University sent a submission (those wishing to counter the Bill only had two days to write and submit) countering the Terrorists Fighting Legislation bill before it passed in parliament, he wrote:
“My primary concern with this Bill are the sections allowing the Minister to refuse or cancel passports rely on the wide definition of terrorism provided in s 5 of the Terrorism Suppression Act 2002. This may unduly impact on New Zealanders travelling overseas to fight for a legitimate cause such as national liberation from a colonial occupation or repressive government. The section 5 definition in the Terrorism Suppression Act nets behaviour associated with traditional guerrilla wars, far removed from the grisly atrocities of ISIS.”
Our National Government has been so quick to react with extreme legislation to a perceived threat of terror on the other side of the world, but just scoffed and laughed when they were shown New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions figures by Green leader Russel Norman. Turbo charged extreme weather events and rising sea levels resulting from climate change are a real terror that threatens New Zealanders.
I would argue what poses a grave threat to our western democracy and freedom are political leaders who support laws that can strip someone of their right to movement because they might commit a terrorist act and who justify warrantless surveillance on their own citizenry. Glenn Greenwald has argued for a large extent of his journalistic career that governments who justify warrantless surveillance and commit mass surveillance do so to keep the population submissive to government powers. Greenwald wrote in his book ‘No Place to Hide:’
[…] even if one is not personally targeted, a surveillance state that collects it all [electronic information] harms society and political freedom in general. Progress both in the United States and other nations was only ever achieved through the ability to challenge power and orthodoxies and to pioneer new ways of thinking and living. Everyone, even those who do not engage in dissenting advocacy or political activism,
Surveillance cheerleaders such as our leader John Key, who committed mass surveillance against his citizenry and then lied about it, offer up essentially one justification of mass and warrantless surveillance. Greenwald wrote “it is only carried out to stop terrorism and keep people safe.” In America many Democratic senators such as Ron Wyden and Mark Udall have argued, as the New York Times reported last year
“The usefulness of bulk collection has been greatly exaggerated. We have yet to see any proof that provides real, unique value in protecting national security[…] the NSA has not provided evidence of any instance when the agency used this program to review phone records that could not have been obtained using regular court order or emergency authorization.”
The record of mass surveillance preventing terrorist’s plots is pretty fucking poor.
In the words of graffiti artist and activist Bansky “I need someone to protect me from all the measures they take to protect me.”
Post the #SydneySige our MSM in Aotearoa which now acts as a state apparatus for the right wing and National government ran articles with fear mongering titles such as ‘Sydney Siege: “similar people monitored here” – PM’ and ‘Sydney Siege attack could happen here: PM’ our MSM such as Yahoo News and Stuff asked if a “terrorist attack” like the one in Sydney could happen here? Our Prime Minister stated we could be targeted by a Lone wolf “terrorist” similar to the one in Sydney. As previously said the #SydneySiege is now conveniently being used to justify the Terror Law.
None of our MSM pointed out you have more chance of drowning in your fucking bathtub than being killed or injured in a terrorist attack.
Unlike in the film Minority Report what mass surveillance apparatuses allow governments to gather in 2014 is a “Majority Report”. A massive drag net is used to collect citizen’s metadata – wading through millions of peoples data generated while using technology to find terrorists is almost impossible.
The purpose of the state and establishment has never really been to keep us safe from terrorism. The purpose is to keep us, their citizenry complaint and quiet – and fearful.