Techno-sharia, morality police and psychopolice
Adorno defined fascism in his time as “technically equipped barbarism.” While that definition stood out as one of the most precise, it nevertheless left the concept of barbarism in vagueness and ambivalence. Think, in the Marxist sphere, of the successful slogan “socialism or barbarism!”; loaded more and more with positivism and the ideology of a progressive advance toward classless society, Bordiga contrasted it with a resolute and outrageous “communism or civilization!” Not only does industrial and technological development not give birth to communism, it does not in itself “democratize” either customs or social relations.
More than a century ahead of those debates, the very young Leopardi had already centered the issue in one of the first thoughts of his Zibaldone: “Reason is a lamp: nature wants to be illuminated by reason not set on fire.” From this dazzling insight descends the reflection on the oppositional pair civilization-barbarie that runs throughout Leopardi’s work. Barbarie, for the poet-philosopher, is both that which precedes that light and the epoch of the overt and manifest fire, the triumph of a “geometrical reason” that is a “most false system of most true parts,” that is, “reasoned villainy,” the artificialization of lives and passions: in short, excess of civilization.
As the sequel showed, this was not merely a linguistic problem. The world still struggles, and more and more ruefully, with that ambivalence, although it changes its historical forms. Is not “technically equipped barbarism” Islam 4.0 under construction in Iran, a system that merges Sharia, social credit and facial recognition? We read, “Under the new hijab and chastity law enacted in Iran on Aug. 15, women who post their headscarfless photos on the Internet will suffer the temporary loss of certain social rights for a period of six months to a year. In addition, women deemed non-compliant will be barred from entering government offices, banks or traveling on public transportation. Government employees will be fired if their images on social media do not comply with what the Islamic laws dictate. Numerous women have been arrested for not complying with the dress code and forced to confess.” And again, “The Iranian government plans to use facial recognition technology on public transportation. The announcement comes directly from the secretary of Iran’s Ministry of Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice, Mohammad Saleh Hashemi Golpayegani.”
Technology, like the nature it reifies, does not make leaps. “Since 2015, the Iranian government has gradually introduced biometric ID cards that include a chip in which data such as iris scans, fingerprints and facial images are stored. Today there are concerns that such information held by the state may be used in conjunction with facial recognition technology to identify people who violate the mandatory dress code, both on the streets and on the Internet. Many analysts point out that Iran’s government is now able to track its citizens very easily wherever they are.” Meanwhile, “some of the women arrested for defying the new August 15 decree were identified after videos were posted online of them being harassed on public transportation because they were not wearing the garment properly.” In short, it is the police as automated management of the polis that makes the morality police more effective and oppressive. The servility and fanatical adherence of so many oppressed people who become oppressors themselves, on the other hand, are abjections that run through all degrees of technical development.
As I wholeheartedly participate in the courageous uprising of Iranian women, who defy both the high-tech injunctions of the moral police and the murderous lead of the uniformed police, I spit in the face of those who, instead of picking up that example to insubordinate themselves to the “technically equipped barbarism” that imprisons us too and is leading us straight to world war, ill-concealedly contrast “Western freedoms” with Iran’s algorithmic patriarchy.
Just as I am writing these notes, the judicial police notify me of the supervisory magistrate’s decision to deny me, for the third semester of my home detention, the forty-five days of early release, that is, the “sentence discount” that should be automatic in the absence of disciplinary reports in prison or violation of judicial prescriptions during the so-called alternative measures. The magistrate informs me that although my conduct was “formally correct,” I maintained “a propulsive role from an ideological standpoint” and an “anti-state drive.” Attitudes that-don’t miss the robed prose, between old-fashioned literary vexations and concepts of social orthopedics somewhere between Lombroso and Stalinism-“shine a light on the failure of the convicted person to initiate the path of critical revision of the deviant experience and the failure of him to effectively participate in the re-educational work.” Now, if the charge of a crime (not the rest itself, of course) is an “objective” fact, how does one measure the “re-education” or “repentance” of a convicted person?
In my case, through a text (https://ilrovescio.info/wp-content/uploads/2022/02/per-Matteo.pdf) about the murder of Matteo Tenni by a carabiniere in Ala (Trento, Italy), on April 9, 2021, and the subsequent dismissal. In short, I am free to write – it is not like we are in Russia or Iran -, they are free to prolong my detention because of what I write (appealing, in the absence of crimes, to the “thrusts” that my words express).
If the judicial demerit of not repenting and maintaining an anti-state attitude is a source of pride for me, I register that the policing of moral mores in our latitudes takes the form of courtroom psychopolice.
Source: Il Rovescio