Authors attack Big Brother

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

11 December 2013

A STAND FOR DEMOCRACY IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Hundreds of Writers sign Appeal condemning Mass Surveillance

Yesterday 10 December 2013 – International Human Rights Day – no fewer than 562 authors, including five winners of the Nobel prize for literature, from over 80 countries joined together to launch an appeal in defence of civil liberties and against secret mass surveillance by corporations and governments.

The authors were condemning the horrific scale of clandestine Big Brother surveillance revealed last year by former US espionage operative Edward Snowden, who is currently a political refugee in Russia.

The five Nobel laureates are Orhan Pamuk, J.M. Coetzee, Elfriede Jelinek, Günter Grass and Tomas Tranströmer.

Other signatories include Umberto Eco, Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo, Daniel Kehlmann, Nawal El Saadawi, Arundhati Roy, Henning Mankell, Richard Ford, Javier Marías, Björk, David Grossman, Arnon Grünberg, Ángeles Mastretta, Juan Goytisolo, Nuruddin Farah and João Ribeiro.

Victor Erofeyev, Liao Yiwu, David Malouf, Yann Martel, Ariel Dorfman, Amit Chaudhuri, Roddy Doyle, Amos Oz, Mikhail Shishkin, Thomas Keneally and Anna Funder are also among the signatories.

British authors who signed up include Julian Barnes, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Irvine Welsh, Hari Kunzru, Jeanette Winterson, Hanif Kureishi and Kazuo Ishiguro.

The appeal, which was published in 30 newspapers around the world, reads as follows:

 “In recent months, the extent of mass surveillance has become common knowledge. With a few clicks of the mouse the state can access your mobile device, your e-mail, your social networking and Internet searches. 

It can follow your political leanings and activities and, in partnership with Internet corporations, it collects and stores your data, and thus can predict your consumption and behaviour. 

The basic pillar of democracy is the inviolable integrity of the individual. Human integrity extends beyond the physical body. In their thoughts and in their personal environments and communications, all humans have the right to remain unobserved and unmolested. 

This fundamental human right has been rendered null and void through abuse of technological developments by states and corporations for mass surveillance purposes.

A person under surveillance is no longer free; a society under surveillance is no longer a democracy.

To maintain any validity, our democratic rights must apply in virtual as in real space.

* Surveillance violates the private sphere and compromises freedom of thought and opinion. 

* Mass surveillance treats every citizen as a potential suspect. It overturns one of our historical  triumphs, the presumption of innocence. 

* Surveillance makes the individual transparent, while the state and the corporation operate in secret. As we have seen, this power is being systemically abused.

* Surveillance is theft. This data is not public property: it belongs to us. When it is used to predict our behaviour, we are robbed of something else: the principle of free will crucial to democratic liberty.

WE DEMAND THE RIGHT for all people to determine, as democratic citizens, to what extent their personal data may be legally collected, stored and processed, and by whom; to obtain information on where their data is stored and how it is being used; to obtain the deletion of their data if it has been illegally collected and stored.

WE CALL ON ALL STATES AND CORPORATIONS to respect these rights.

WE CALL ON ALL CITIZENS to stand up and defend these rights.

WE CALL ON THE UNITED NATIONS to acknowledge the central importance of protecting civil rights in the digital age, and to create an International Bill of Digital Rights. 

WE CALL ON GOVERNMENTS to sign and adhere to such a convention.”

——–

 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.

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