Privacy SOS

Can democracy exist in a surveillance society?

Eben Moglen, professor at Columbia Law School, has published video and text from his not-to-be-missed lecture, 'Snowden and the Future', given in two parts during October 2013 at Columbia.

Unlike many surveillance watchers, Moglen's take on the rapidly metastasizing surveillance state is not bereft of clear-eyed economic, political, or historical analysis of power. I don't always agree with his assumptions — for example that American imperialism offers the world 'freedom' — but his conclusions are devastating. Among them: "When the morality of freedom was withdrawn, our State began fastening the procedures of totalitarianism on the substance of democratic society."

His first lecture poses the question: Can totalitarian 'procedures' coexist with representative democracy? His second lecture answers it: No.

There is no historical precedent for the proposition that the procedures of totalitarianism are compatible with the system of enlightened, individual, democratic self-governance. No one has ever previously in the history of the human race evolved an argument—and as I will show next time no argument can be evolved—that would give us any confidence in the ability of the procedures of totalitarianism to coexist with those of constitutional democratic self-governance. It is enough to say for now that omnipresent invasive listening creates fear. And I need not be Justice Brandeis to tell you that fear is the enemy of reasoned, ordered liberty.

Video of Part One, 'Westward the course of Empire', delivered on October 9, 2013, is below; full HTML text is here.

Video of Part Two, 'Oh, Freedom,' delivered on October 30, 2013, is below; full HTML text is here.

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