Review Essay: Exactly Why is the Crowd Naked? Are We Strippers or Were We Robbed?
Criminal Justice Ethics, Vol. 24, pp. 47-52, 2005
6 Pages Posted: 9 Feb 2006
This essay, a response to Jeffrey Rosen's provocative book The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age, takes issue with two aspects of the common understanding of the plight of a society threatened by terrorism. As Rosen puts it, fear of terrorism induces a scramble by the public to trade in their privacy for safety, or at least the illusion of it. People living under threat will tolerate, even demand, intrusive surveillance if they believe it will protect them. This is an erroneous and incomplete account. First, what is being lost by the public is not privacy in any meaningful sense, but rather power, which increasing is shifted away from the individual and onto the government with each new or expanded security measure. Claiming that such shifts are a result of fear-driven choices by the public is too simplistic an understanding of the dynamics that drive them. This essay argues that law enforcement and national security bodies chronically seek to enlarge their powers, and times of national crisis create the opportunity to do so with the least likelihood that the significance of those changes will be understood by the public or subjected to adequate scrutiny. Rather than blaming the public for the loss of liberty, the important question is how to ensure that a critical mass of the public gets access to enough information about the steps taken to protect its freedom to allow it to act as its own guardian.
Keywords: Privacy, national security, government surveillance
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