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Vigilancia electrónica a gran escala y listas de alerta: ¿Productos de una política paranoica? / Electronic Large-scale Surveillance and Watch Lists: The Products of a Paranoid Politics?

Abstract : We know from the articles of Richard Hofstadter that a defensive, even paranoid style has pervaded American politics from time to time. Murray Edelman and Michael Rogin have shifted the psychological stance of this terminology to a political one, focusing on how the notion of the construction of a political spectacle can excite hysteria and paranoia to attract public attention and by so doing build a securitization that expands the executive powers of the state. Rogin described how American political discourse has emphasized counter- subversive strategies in the construction of enemies: for example, against aboriginal peoples, communists and the USSR, and more recently, illegal migrants and terrorists who have supposedly infiltrated the homeland. However, the implications of this politics have rarely been expanded to transnational or international politics.

The broad objective of this paper is to link the configuration of contemporary world politics with interesting strands of sociological research coming from the critical study of American politics. More specifically, the author argues that the compiling of watch lists from transnational databases constructs a criminalization of travellers as illegal and dangerous migrants, while also affecting everyone who uses cloud computing. States use a paranoid style to play off national sovereignty against their international obligations. Each country’s practices in this regard constitute a distinctive variation of the trend toward Global Preventive Surveillance (GPS), which has in the author’s view become a contemporary form of a transnational process of (in)security, i.e. a process that delivers insecurity through technological tools aiming to provide security.

To sustain this argument, the paper shows how the emergence of global watch lists is reorienting data base technologies to serve the ends of electronic mass surveillance. Governments justify mass surveillance, despite its illegal status in many countries, by claiming that if everyone is doing it, it cannot be illegitimate. A paranoid strain of transnational politics based on unease and fear is thereby instrumentalized in the name of sovereignty, security, citizenship and national identity. Watch lists, in the author’s view, are a concrete manifestation of the development by security professionals of a transnational stock exchange of fears, which purports to focus on migrants and border control but has much more to do with fostering domestic counter-subversive strategies than with serving as an effective response to threats.
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Didier Bigo. Vigilancia electrónica a gran escala y listas de alerta: ¿Productos de una política paranoica? / Electronic Large-scale Surveillance and Watch Lists: The Products of a Paranoid Politics?. Revista Interdisciplinar da Mobilidade Humana, 2016, 23 (2015/07-12) (45), pp.11 - 42. ⟨10.1590/1980-8585250319880004502⟩. ⟨hal-03459385⟩

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