Western countries are police states because mass surveillance today is just as efficient policing as being controlled by Gestapo or Stasi

Below are several definitions of “police state” revealing that the concept is relatively vague:

Collins Dictionary: “A police state is a country in which the government controls people’s freedom by means of the police, especially secret police.”

Cambridge Dictionary: “a country in which the government uses the police to severely limit people’s freedom

Webster: “a political unit characterized by repressive governmental control of political, economic, and social life usually by an arbitrary exercise of power by police and especially secret police in place of regular operation of administrative and judicial organs of the government according to publicly known legal procedures”

Wikipedia: “Police state is a country where activities of its people are controlled by the government with the help of a strong police force. Many times these governments use a secret police unit to supervise and limit their citizens’ activities. Judicial review in a police state either doesn’t exist or is regularly manipulated by government officials.”

Oxford Languages and Google: “a totalitarian state controlled by a political police force that secretly supervises the citizens’ activities”

Totalitarian: “relating to a system of government that is centralized and dictatorial and requires complete subservience to the state.”

Oxford Languages is wrong when saying that police states have to be totalitarian. Totalitarianism, as this word was used by Hannah Arendt in The Origins of Totalitarianism, describes regimes which have the same basic structural features as Nazi Germany and Stalin’s Soviet Union. Many authoritarian regimes are police states despite not killing millions of people who don’t fit into the totalitarian model of the dictator.

I will basically define “totalitarianism” as being total control, via total surveillance in a panopticon for example. An article in Wired says that Western surveillance systems are a little closer to omniscience.

I will argue that one basic definition of a police state should be this: a regime where the police are able to control and monitor citizens to a degree which is similar to the efficiency of the Gestapo and Stasi.

London in 2021 has more surveillance cameras than Beijing.

I once frequented a bar in Oslo. It had surveillance cameras in the ceiling. If anybody stole anything or started a fight, the police would have all the evidence needed to win in court. Surveillance cameras are the long arm of the police.

Snowden says a mobile phone is a spy in your pocket (01:22):

Your Smartphone Is Worse Than A Spy in Your Pocket: Edward Snowden

If anybody does anything very noteworthy in public today bystanders will use their smartphones to capture it on camera. Smartphones are the snitches and informants of the 21st century. No wonder a former Stasi chief wished that he could have had this technology during Cold War 1.

Ex-Stasi boss green with envy over NSA’s domestic spy powers

Many “liberal” citizens in the 2020s will say it’s a good thing that mass surveillance makes it easy to catch criminals. Fascists say the same thing, and that reveals the fascistoid nature of Western hybrid “democracies” today. All this mass surveillance will be used to track dissidents, marginalize them and arrest them if necessary. But few citizens in the US/EU will see large groups of police roaming the streets or searching people’s homes when hunting criminals or dissidents, because all the monitoring and tracking are done very discretely with the help of mass surveillance. Once the target is located a team of 3-4 men can pick up the dissident, usually without any drama that might have caused the public to become worried about their own civil rights. This surgical neutralization of dissidents and rebels is the high-tech and soft version of Nacht und Nebel. Tragically, for humanity, the panopticon in the West is already developed to such a degree that it now keeps 99% of all people from rebelling. Citizens are scared, chilled, engaging in self-censorship, in fear of being flagged by the secret police (NSA etc).

Critics will argue that we still have civil rights relatively intact in the West. These rights however have been weakened during the pandemic and the culture war, just look at the state of free speech in America, but even if all our rights had been intact it’s elementary political realism to not trust any regime that builds the panopticon we see in the West today.

Authoritarian regimes evolve and change when 1) new technologies become available, and 2) common people have become immune to the old propaganda models of authoritarian regimes in the past. Consequently, it’s naive to think a police state in the West today will be based on a monolithic, uniform and one-dimensional ideology like Nazism or Stalinism. High-functioning psychopaths, Machiavellians and other cynical opportunists will use any means to get power and exploit any popular trends to achieve total control. That’s why corporate fascism today is not uniform like the regime of Mussolini but instead is similar to the polytheistic and multicultural Roman Empire.

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