When the American people found out about the secret NSA programs, they were livid. For years afterward, Europe has been pointing and laughing at Americans for disregarding the warning of one of their Founding Fathers: “Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”
Yesterday, smack dab in the heart of Europe, in one of the freest, most liberal Western democracies – Switzerland -, after years of Snowden revelations, two thirds of voters opted for a state surveillance more oppressive than anything the United States government ever dreamt of. It was not created in secret. It was not implemented over the head of Swiss citizens. Instead, it was freely accepted by the majority of my landsmen.
For decades, the question on the mind of advocates of freedom and democracy was why people oppressed by authoritarian governments accept their rights being taken away. After yesterday, that question is academic at most, and the new question is why well-off people in a functioning democracy would sign away their rights and their freedom for no tangible return of any kind.
The answer is probably not that surprising after 15 years of fear-mongering (also called “The War on Terror”, probably because “The War for Oil, Heroin and Big Bank Bonuses” doesn’t have a great ring to it). The average Swiss citizen’s mind is obviously filled with terrifying images of bearded Arabs wearing suicide vests and charging straight into a classroom (never mind that it did not happen even once). And this blind fear robs them of their faculties, their ability to think clearly.
Because if years of Snowden revelations, Wikileaks and Anonymous taught us anything, it’s that sooner or later that government agency will be hacked and all that vacuumed up data will be available online, either for all to see or to the highest bidder. State surveillance is an illusion of security that is actually less secure than no surveillance, because the number one profiters will be criminals and maybe even terrorists. They will have to put a lot less effort into gathering intel for their attacks, because the government so kindly collected and organized it all for them.
Maybe if those trying to prevent the vote going so wrong would have used the argument “no matter how much you trust your government, do you also trust the criminals who will inevitably get access to the same data?”, people might have realized they can’t vote out of misguided fear. Then again, maybe not – their thought processes were probably more like “terrorists terrorists omg terrorists refugees terrorists terrorists refugees refugees omg omg please wise military protect us from those people who would take our lives or even worse our wealth omg terrorists omg refugees omg omg”