When I met David Miranda, he was introduced to me as Glenn’s partner. I nodded and smiled and was pleased to meet him. I chatted with David about his home in Brazil, about his 10 dogs and the banana-throwing monkeys that torment them, and other things. A few minutes later, after hearing again that he was “Glenn’s husband,” I whispered to a friend “Um, who’s Glenn?” “Glenn Greenwald” I was told.
David and I didn’t talk about Greenwald, Snowden, the NSA, or any other such thing. I was quite surprised when yesterday morning, while still in the French mountains for a Telekommunisten retreat with several friends, I heard that David was detained in the UK, and that his computer, cellphone, storage media, etc., was taken away from him.
The same day I met David, another friend’s backpack, also containing cellphones and storage media, was stolen from the bar we we’re in. It seems possible these things are connected, perhaps some clumsy SIGINT looking to intercept Snowden material destined for Greenwald.
Many voices have quite rightfully come forward to protest the detainment of Miranda, especially under the specious pretence of anti-terror legislation, and rightfully so. We must all protest the further degradation of our ability to travel and to keep possession of our personal belongings and data, and to maintain our privacy.
In doing so, we must remember that the rule of law and the power of the State is not guided by wisdom or fairness, but always by the interests of the most powerful. And always against whatever adversaries they face.
The state is not a neutral, disinterested mediator, uninfluenced by regard to personal interest nor free from bias or prejudice. The state does mediate among the classes, but always on behalf of the dominant class, and what’s more, there is nothing sinister or nefarious about this, this is nothing more than a material fact, like the fact that moss grows on the damp side of the rock.
The unequal distribution of moss on the surface of a rock is not a conspiracy against the sunny side of the rock, but simply a matter of irrigation. The moss needs water to grow, there is simply more of it on the shady side.
Just as moss needs water, power needs wealth, and the wealth of the most powerful provides the irrigation for the growth of the State, which would shrivel without it. The interests of the State are always ultimately driven by the interests of wealth. We can not change this. The only thing we can change is how wealth is created and distributed in society by producing and sharing differently and thereby change what the State’s interests are.
So long as the the wealthiest members of society depend on control and exploitation, the State will serve the interests of control and exploitation. If we can instead develop ways to build social wealth based on co-operation and equality, the State, to whatever degree it is needed at all, will serve these interests instead. It is not a matter of clandestine schemes to control the state, it’s a matter of irrigation.
British Labour MP Keith Vaz called the detention of David Miranda “extraordinary.” Yet, there is nothing “extraordinary” about the State attempting to intercept communications by physically taking away media and storage devices. The hollow protestation of Keith Vaz is just part of the spin to deflect attention away from the systemic fact that the State is using its power to protect its interests, and instead frame the story as the behaviour of particular government agents, or perhaps details of law.
By calling the detention of David “extraordinary” Vaz is defending the legitimacy of the State and its power of search and seizure in the “ordinary” case. He makes this clear: “it is right that the police and security services should question people if they have concerns or the basis of any concerns about what they are doing in the United Kingdom.”
And yet, even in the ordinary case, the State will continue to develop its capacities for surveillance and control in concert with its capitalist partners, and this is what will inform the “concerns” of police.
So, while protesting injustices such as the detention of David Miranda is very important, it’s perhaps even more important to remember that it’s not enough to protest the “extraordinary” but the “ordinary” even more so.
It’s far too simple to blame tyrannical law enforcers and clueless politicians while ignoring the laws of motion of capitalism and the profit motive. We must not be under the impression that all can be fixed by simply amending some legislation and reprimanding some border guards. We must always remember that our conflict is with capitalism itself.
I’ll be at Stammtisch as usual today, at 9pm, and I look forward to seeing everybody. Though I hate to say it, please bring only what you need. Let’s watch each others stuff, and do whatever we can to keep our possessions and data safe.