In this day and age, we’re all under surveilance. Many people offer various excuses, “I’ve got nothing to hide”, “They’re only hunting terrorists”, “Well, if I object, they’ll look harder at me”. All of which are terrible excuses for a horrible government program. But today I’m going to look at that last one.
“Well, if I object, they’ll look harder at me”. It looks perfectly innocent. But it’s a perfect example of the Chilling Effect. Defined as ‘the inhibition or discouragement of the legitimate exercise of natural and legal rights by the threat of legal sanction’, this effect can have disasterous consequences. People DON’T object to these programs because they believe (quite probably rightly) that they’ll be put on a ‘list’. But it also affects their behaviour.
Last night, I was watching a show on Netflix called ‘Breakout Kings’. Basically, a group of inmates help to hunt down fugitives for less time on their sentences. One of the episodes detailed a bombmaker using 34-0-0 fertilizer. What’s 34-0-0 fertilizer you ask? I don’t know. I’m fairly sure I’m on a few lists with our faithful overlords, and I’m well aware if I search 34-0-0 fertilizer, I’ll be put on some sort of list of ‘escalating terrorists’ or somesuch (notwithstanding the fact that there’s no way in hell I’d be able to buy any).
Now, many people would say “just google it, what’s the worse that can happen?” I’d agree with them, except I know what our government is capable of. I know there’d be consequences if someone of my apparent profile decided one day to flip the switch and started looking up terms that would associate one with terrorism. Even with my well meaning belief system of wanting to learn, and even though such a search would be completely legal, I withhold, because I fear what the government would do if I did make such a search.
That is the Chilling Effect. Living in fear, possibly unreasonably, of government action. I fear the government under which I live under. I fear if I step any more out of line to what the government deems normal, I’ll be on a list, I’ll be targeted for specific surveilance, I’ll be the guy nobody talks about disappearing.
Is this the government you want?