Subscription 790/year or 190/quarter

Less monitoring, more humanity

Why is surveillance presented as the solution to the terror threat?


The surveillance we see today is not necessarily a natural or necessary response to the threat of terrorism, if we are to believe Cristina Archetti, professor at the Department of Media and Communication at the University of Oslo. Ny Tid meets her at the department's annual monitoring seminar at Fritt Ord. According to Archetti, the idea of ​​surveillance as counter-terrorism only makes sense within a constructed reality that is in many ways arbitrary. A Foucaultian truth regime forms the framework for what can be said about surveillance, what is true and what is false. "Language is very important, it has a key role," she says. "Little by little it becomes tangible. It is becoming more and more real. The words are adopted as laws, and become reality. " What happens then when the premises on which we base the language of terror and surveillance are false?

"Scary." Archetti believes that the way we approach radicalization as a phenomenon is characterized by frightening ignorance. “Suddenly, radicalization has become an ideology transfer problem, or an information problem. We can see this in the measures many countries have taken against radicalization, ”says Archetti. One example is the United States Global Engagement Center (GEC), which is working to spread messages aimed at engaging terrorism among foreigners. The idea is that while the jihadists are talking about war between Islam and the West, GEC is contrasted with stories of democracy and human rights. “Here, sending a message is considered the solution to the terror threat. That's a problem, because it's based on completely outdated theories of communication, ”says Archetti. She refers to the so-called injection needle model, which is based on the fact that when you receive a message, you will absorb the message without further questions. In reality, we choose what information we want to see, and we also interpret what we receive. "I could show you jihadist videos all day, but I'm sure none of us would be terrorists for that," says Archetti.unspecified

"Radicalization is no mystery, we know why radicalization happens."

The fact that the internet is seen as a dark place with an almost mysterious power is also an important component of the constructed reality that shapes the decision – makers' response to terrorism. The Internet is the place where young people are exposed to everything from recruitment into the ranks of jihadists to pedophiles who are looking for a new victim. For Archetti, the idea that there is an online world that is separate from the real world is completely behind target. "Those who believe that do not live in our century," she says. "The Internet is just a tool, but the focus on technology has led to the idea that there is something called 'Internet radicalization', as if this is something that is actually happening on the Internet."

The policy disappears. The demonization of the internet takes the focus away from more important things, as Archetti sees it. When radicalization is seen as a result of having come into contact with a "toxic ideology" on the Internet, monitoring becomes the obvious solution to the problem. The political and the social are censored. "This is important, because if you think young people are just reacting without thinking, as if they were robots activated by a message, then you also remove their ability to make decisions on their own behalf," says Archetti. "If they are not able to act consciously, you also remove the political and social motives they may have. It will be a purely technological solution that is about managing information. "

Archetti believes that part of the reason why the technological solution is preferable to the authorities lies precisely there. Surveillance and counter-propaganda are tangible, it can be counted. Then it looks like the authorities are doing something about the problem, while at the same time avoiding tackling the big and difficult political and social problems that make radicalization possible. "Radicalization is not a mystery, we know why radicalization is happening," says Archetti. "While the internet and social media are useful tools, it is the establishment of relationships and group feeling that is important." To get the effort back on track, we must use the right language, but Archetti still sees that the dominant language tends to lay the groundwork. It happens that research funds are advertised with guidelines of the type "online radicalization" at the bottom. "Should one refrain from applying because one disagrees with the premise?" says Archetti. «What if I need funding and can not refrain from applying? Then I will be forced by the system to buy the underlying idea. "

Shift in time. Surveillance as a strategy against terrorism is not only based on assumptions about how a terrorist is created. Below is also an expectation that the intelligence services will be able to avert all terror. Is that a reasonable expectation? Heidi Mork Lomell, head of department at the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law, points out that terrorist acts are unpredictable in nature. Nevertheless, attempts are being made to adapt the methods so that it will be possible to find the terrorist before a terrorist act has been committed. "Criminalization in this area has pushed the crime ever earlier in time. We have been criminalized in preparation for terror, which are actions that are carried out well before a possible attempt. So we are talking about surveillance and investigation at a very early stage, "says Lomell. She continues: “This suspicion that comes before something wrong has happened, is very often a categorical suspicion. It can go on skin color or appearance; certain people singles out. ”

At the bottom lies a categorization of the world in binary opposites. It is starting to become a familiar chorus that if you have nothing to hide, then you also have nothing to fear. You are either a terrorist or you are innocent. The problem arises when you have to catch someone before they have done anything wrong at all. Systems make mistakes, and not all intentions are put into practice. This dualistic view of the world is perhaps precisely what makes the majority not feel threatened by surveillance. It is designed to create distance, and the idea that one day one may be involuntarily placed in the other category feels far too distant. Archetti concludes: “Maybe we need less technology and more humanity. We need more humanity to understand why people are radicalized and what their problems are. "

Tori Aarseth
Tori Aarseth
Aarseth is a political scientist and a regular journalist at Ny Tid.

You may also like