In May this year, ´the Guardian´ unveiled the publications of Edward Snowden, an American computer specialist and former NSA employee, who became the first employee to give away important details of how America is working ´hand in hand´ with the rest of the world to gather spying data. However can one claim whether Snowden really spotted the Truth, or whether he simply shouted out what everybody already knew?
The stress of Snowden´s unveiling consisted in the shocking revelation of US surveillance on phone and Internet communications. Did it really need this exposure to make people aware of the enormous lack of privacy?
To contradict this theory, one can simply have a closer look at Michel Foucault, a famous French historian and philosopher of the 20th century. Foucault defined modern society as being under constant surveillance. Foucault´s ‘panopticism’ formed the main basis of his theory. The ‘panoptican’, which was first mentioned by Jeremy Bentham, is a design for a revolutionary prison system in the 18th century, revolutionary because of its structure.
Prisoners thought they were under permanent surveillance, though they could not be sure if they were actually watched. As a consequence of living in constant fear of being seen without being certain, the prisoner´s behaviour changed rapidly- it allowed power to operate efficiently. Foucault on the other side used the panoptican as a metaphor for the rest of society. According to Foucault, already in the 90s, society evolved into a metaphorically imprisoned society. The collection of the data of each human individual starts already with his birth. Everywhere we go, everything we do, we say, we write will be saved by the authorities. For what purpose one can question.
For the purpose of power, which automatically leads to knowledge. This power of surveillance is already becoming invisible. Or does anybody pay attention to the various cameras one has to cross day by day? Or did you already have a closer look at your ID-card today?
This analysis makes a clear statement that we are all subjects of the power of knowledge of today´s authorities. Snowden for his part managed to pinpoint this shocking reality. Although it was not really a piece of news since everybody was somehow already unconsciously aware of the facts.
One can therefore seriously question if the shocking aspect is really the fact of living in a surveillance society or the very fact of constantly trying to hide the truth?
By Aline Jacoby