No to "Total Security"

At the beginning of the 1990s, video cameras were supposedly installed in Levallois to facilitate "the circulation of automobiles." P. Balkany, Mayor of Levallois, installed the first open-air laboratory for video-surveillance research with the support of Pasqua, then Minister of the Interior, who passed the infamous Pasqua Law. Meanwhile, the CNIL, which is supposed to protect our liberties, closed its eyes and gave its approval. Despite local opposition, a hundred cameras invaded the town; others were installed at street corners. Several years later, when he appeared before "the judge for the diversion of public goods" (an audit ordered by his successor), Balkany clearly emphasized the inefficiency of the video surveillance system in his new plan, which he said was designed "to fight delinquent behavior." Despite this and since then, ten more towns in France have installed and intensified the use of video surveillance systems in public places, and have put the entire population under permanent video control. Today, when cameras equipped with face recognition software add their spectres to the pantheon of the failed illusions of security, the government is trying to pass liberty-killing laws under the fallacious pretext of the "fight against terrorism."

Here, we are made to live in the psychosis of continual control: filmed, surveilled and filed all day, as if we are all criminal suspects, and asked to accept the "fact" that -- in the name of our security -- men, women and children will have to be killed. We denounce the drift towards totalitarianism of this State [France], which is said to be democratic, but votes to implement -- for an indefinite period of time, without true parliamentary debate or an attempt to inform the public -- laws that would attack our freedoms and would so do according to particularly opaque criteria. We denounce those truly responsible for this masquerade, those thirtsty for political power who do not hesitate to use demogoguery and opportunism to inflame fears of "the Other" and who, even before 11 September, were playing the "Total Security" card in an attempt to get votes. We demand the rejection, from now on, of politics in the service of the maintenance of the market-economy and social inequalities, of politics that have as their guiding principles the enslavement of the general population and the restriction of human possibilities.

We hope to live in a different world, one in which we don't have to submit ourselves to the government-subsidized industrial companies that pollute our air, land and water, that rapaciously enrich themselves by riding the backs of workers, those in precarious socio-economic situations and poor countries, and that set up the market in the surveillance of private citizens. The images of money-traffickers and fiscal paradises, political operatives who can act with total impunity, and deal-makers working in the rich soils of the powerful will not be captured by surveillance cameras, despite the facts that they are the ones who are responsible for the world in which we are forced to live, and who should be held accountable for it. Those killed on the highways -- more than 600 in September [2001] -- would still be alive today, were it not for the irresponsibility and frivolousness of the politicians who caved into the pro-automobile lobby. And yet the roads, streets and city squares are surveilled by video cameras. The supermarket is surveilled, as are the offices and factories. What a plethora of images! And why are they captured? In the supermarket, each movement and gesture of the apathetic consumer is filmed and analyzed so as to discover the unknown factor that will facilitate the sale of mad-cow-infected meats, spoiled cheeses, and aseptic chickens. At the office and at the factory, we are surveilled in the name of profits; in the street, we are surveilled so that we never lose the sense of being watched! Today, universities are installing surveillance cameras instead of investing money in education and job-creation. "If you want a job, become a surveillant" is becoming the slogan of the dominant social order.

For those who have any doubts, the uselessness of security technologies in all their many forms is easily demonstrated, especially in the last month. Clear up the muddle, stop the investment in this indignant "democratic" road, stop the acceptance of the sale of our lives and liberties. We call for a crisis of conscience among all citizens, so that today we can oppose the politics that is clicking its totalitarian heels. September 11 should not be used as the occasion for reinforcing the politics of sterile, dangerous and useless security, but rather the occasion for a thorough re-examination of the global nature of our society.

When will we address ourselves to the real problems, the ones that erode our capacity for life? When will we have the intelligence -- which is lacking in this society, which turns in the wrong direction -- to refuse to accept these conditions, neither for us nor for the generations to come? The progress of digitalization and computerized information profits the type of social control that we fear will exist in the future. Aren't people already enmeshed in the gears of the market, which without hesitation supports every political manipulation so as to have servile consumers? We say "No" to the liberty-killing laws that would legalize this fuckery.

Today, we say that it is still possible to re-think what animates us and what would be a human society truly worthy of the name.

[By the French group Souriez vous etes filmes, dated 10 October 2001, and translated into English by Bill Brown.]

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