Stockholm Internet Forum ‘14

Edward Snowden, in absentia.

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt arrives at the two-day long conference on “Internet Freedom“ with 450 delegates from all over the world when there are two more hours left to go. His task is to present a closing keynote and summing up a conference he invited to, but never attended.

The minister pleads for half an hour on the importance of internet without a word condemning the totalitarian mass surveillance revealed by Edward Snowden. He chooses to turn a blind eye to western governments invasion of people’s privacy and highlights instead all the evil in the world (Russia, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.), as this could serve as an excuse for the violations. Following the speech one hour of panel discussion is set to take place according to the program.

From the audience Carl Bildt receives a question if he had changed opinion from a year ago when he explicitly stated that good states can do mass surveillance for good purposes. His answer was: No. And in the midst of the conversation, and after various half-measures in response to more audience questions about why Edward Snowden wasn’t invited to participate the Foreign Minister says he must go, to attend his son’s school activity.

Journalists looked surprised at each other. A press conference with the Foreign Minister was promised at 15:00. It is therefore canceled. Representatives of the wider public, the journalists, thus have no opportunity to question the responsible minister. The public can’t be informed as Carl Bildt has a private life to attend.

Carl Bildts disgracefulness to blame his son mixed with the nonchalance, or even contempt, for the public causes an unprecedented level of perplexity. At the same time as his act denies the public access to the position of their political representative , he — inpromptu & de facto — surrenders to his critics of surveillance: Privacy is sacred.

I am struggling to find the right words to describe the situation: Can you call it a paradoxical-ironic anomaly? Carl Bildt as a defender of human rights online seems as much a postmodern joke as Vladimir Putin being an advocate of the freedom of speech.

Thanks Edward Snowden, in absentia.