Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’re probably more than familiar with the horrible Charlie Hebdo massacre and everything that followed in its aftermath. Media report after media report detailed everything that happened during that day, during the following siege, and culminating with the massive march held in Paris and other capitals of the world in support of freedom of expression. But there might be a more important stance you should take now that you stood with Charlie Hebdo.
For more than a year now, Edward Snowden’s leaks have revealed the massive amount of data spy agencies with virtually limitless pockets can collect. The whole purpose of these sophisticated practices is to catch the bad guys and prevent Charlie Hebdo-like tragedies from ever happening, not to spy on your sexting and inappropriate personal online activities.
Yes, I’m actually glad — and you should be too — that agencies around the world are smart enough to have gotten that good at spying. These advanced practices certainly beat old-school spying techniques you see in the movies, and they likely work too at catching suspects.
However, in spite of what modern spy agencies can do when it comes to keeping bad guys off the streets, attacks like Charlie Hebdo can still happen, or at least that seems to be the moral of this story here.
Events like the recent attack in Paris prove that no matter how advanced spying is, not all tragedies can be prevented, and law enforcement can’t immediately catch suspects regardless of how many spy cameras are deployed on the streets, how complex face recognition algorithms have gotten, or how reliable cell phone surveillance is.
Governments in various countries might soon propose new security measures meant to prevent similar incidents and these measures might further infringe on our privacy, as spy agencies might be given additional powers of collecting and analyzing personal data on a massive scale. And some of you may support such proposals, while others may feel like that’s the next battle to fight to defend freedom of speech.
But if you stood with Charlie Hebdo on Sunday, if you marched on the streets, if your changed your Facebook profile image to that black flag with the words “Je Suis Charlie” printed on it, if you felt like you had to defend your right to speak your mind in whatever the circumstance, then you absolutely have to take a more serious stance next — and that’s neither fighting against nor supporting your government’s potentially privacy-infringing new security laws.
In France, where the terrible attack took place, an estimated 31.2 of every 100 citizens have a gun of some sort, and I’m assuming they also own bullets. That’s a staggering 20 million guns in the country that could be used in similar manner.
That means that whenever a French man or woman expresses his or her opinions on whatever matter, one in three people listening in may later use a gun against him or her. The same thing goes for any country that lets you legally buy guns and bullets, and then deplores all the gun-related incidents that result from it.
So if you still stand with Charlie Hebdo, you might want to seriously consider your stance on gun control and maybe even do something useful about it. That’s even before you start protesting against any other mass spying initiatives that, coincidentally, also somewhat infringe on your right to speak your mind.
Take those AK-47s away — powerful rifles with devastating fire that were used against Charlie Hebdo reporters and others — and all other guns, and you might do something a lot more meaningful than standing tall with Charlie Hebdo for a week. And without those guns in the wild, spy agencies might have one less reason to insist on being able to access anyone’s communication’s at a moment’s notice.