The real issue I have with what went down in England today lies not in the fact that any government has little interest in extremely sensitive data being “out in the wild”. It also has little to do with the fact the Great Empire pretty much was reduced to an American enforcement unit. Like it or not, these are pretty much mandatory when it comes to that system of politics, and do not contradict with democratic values any more than the mere existence of intelligence agencies per se does.
It’s not in the “what”, it’s in the “how”.
Just raiding the place - and we are not talking about a shady organization but the Guardian - in such a fashion reminds of a mixture between a bad carricarture of communistic military police, V for Vendetta and the X-Files. There is no single trace of pretending going on here - judge, jury and executioner were bundled in one hand, and that hand struck. This is either incredibly, as dangerously naive, on a political level, or an attempt to set and example and have the state appear as a mob-like organization that does not tolerate such behavior. Either one holds a lithany of treats, both to its citizens and its political stability.
The fact that no other newspaper had this incident on page 1 either tells me that if it is not the latter, at least the awareness for the implications of such things has dropped to terrible lows. Lows which in fact undermine the understanding of the separation of powers, of authority’s limits and of the role of the state.
They do not need to pretend to give a fair trial (or any, for that matter), and that shows one horribly distorted self-image of what a state is comprised of, and who the souvereign is: Its people.
Living in a complicated world filled with tons of greys, this is one of the most blatant examples of “okay, this one’s black and white”. I am tempted to divide this matter in these two parts, “bad guy” and “good guy”, and that concerns me deeply. For one, such conclusions usually miss the spot. However, I find little argument for a divided “evilness”, i.e. the good intentions of the raid or the misdoings of the Guardian. Again, it is about the way of doing it, not the thing and goal itself. Protecting the people of “the western world” (mostly America in this case) respectively one’s allies (again) is one thing; sacrificing definite freedom and public awareness (and the potential for it, which is vital for any democratic system) for potential conflicts (which were brought upon one’s self and at the very least partly without legal basis) is another one altogether. And although I still do not see the “evil” party acting all ultra-nemesis like, going “let’s do some very bad things today!”, this at least implies a fatally flawed idea of how democracy (and the element of public deliberation) work(s), and if not, the willingness to dilute it to homeopathic levels.
As it is, England has set the stage for a rule of fear for many years: First by sowing a general fear of terrorism as means to reap more surveillance, then by a paranoia of being monitored (by both those weilding structural as well as physical violence), and now by this factual and direct action. Whether this has produced a general climate as that people simply do not care anymore or just fear being targeted themselves - at least as of now, apathy seems to be the reaction. The former scenario presents an infertile ground for democratic sensibility, the latter a highly authoritarian state intimidating its citizens. This could result in impotent rage or actual attempts to bring upon an overthrow of the current system (or at least state of affairs).
The thing is, the 1980s-Hollywood-flick-like choleric patriarch is not a failed state, or a member of the axis of evil (or whatever these are called these days). It’s England. As such, it is a state that I thought deserved its moniker - that was not a failed one, but one with a “proper” political system. Either this one is misguided big time, or the true colours of even such a state can drop from “once the most modern in the world” to the deepest blacks on a slippery slope. Without a major overthrow or revolution. The ice is getting thinner as the Leviathan degenerates.
PS: I am well aware that this may imply a laughable level of hubris (as I am not nearly important enough), but the very fact that I caught myself thinking “hmmm, could posting this in public potentially spell trouble for me?” shows the way such events cripple democratic discourse.