Theatre play on Google, secret police and privacy

This December 2018 video from the Netherlands is the trailer of the play #niksteverbergen by theatre company De Verleiders. It says about itself (translated):

Imagine a world where all the news you see is determined by your salary, your address and who your friends are. Imagine a world where you never come into contact with new ideas. And where you cannot have any secrets. Welcome to 2019.

The specter of Orwell’s 1984 is now the disturbing reality. Without us realizing it. Without us objecting! Because we have [supposedly] nothing to hide. De Verleiders show that everyone has secrets that should not be revealed. In fact, they show that you too have secrets that you don’t even know exist.

In a 12-18 January 2019 interview in Dutch VARA Gids magazine, Verleiders actor Pierre Bokma said it is as important to play in this play as in Shakespeare’s King Lear.

He said #niksteverbergen [nothing to hide] is about the malignant power of corporations like Google, Facebook and Instagram. De Verleiders had earlier plays on social problems, like the banking crisis and Dutch real estate fraud.

In the interview, Bokma did not mention the Big Brother-like powers of Dutch ‘intelligence’ services to spy on citizens.

That issue, however, led the Dutch right-wing government to become amateur theatre critics, attacking De Verleiders. De Verleiders had said that Dutch secret services, while spying on citizens, might put innocent people on lists of supposed ‘terrorists’.

Home Affairs Minister Ollongren, supported by corporate media, called that an insult to the ‘intelligence’ bureaucrats. Earlier, Ms Ollongren had promoted a law making Big Brother spying on citizens easier. The Dutch electorate rejected that law in a referendum. However, the government did not care about the referendum result, and abolished referendums.

We saw the play on 9 April 2019 in Leiden.

The play is up to date, with allusions to recent far-right FvD political party quotes.

There are five male actors in the play.

One of them, Pierre Bokma, plays the role of sixty-year old woman Ms Pip Zaal. She is a corrupt high-level government official, the chairwoman of the government committee on privacy. She supports D66, Minister Ollongren’s party. She constantly proposes Big Brother authoritarianism, supposedly made palatable by pseudo-liberal verbiage.

The four other roles are the four other members of the committee. Like a corrupt businessman, selling software to the Dutch ‘intelligence’ services, who stands to profit if secret services will be able to ruin privacy still more. He pretends to be in love with Ms Zaal, who falls for the cheating.

Then, a corrupt social scientist who changes the percentage in his public opinion poll of Dutch people wanting more power to the secret services from 35% to 85%, for profit.

Then, a corrupt military secret service officer. He regrets that Dutch Muslims have not committed a big bloody terrorist attack, with over forty dead, and ‘limbs hanging from trees’. ‘If these Muslims would not be such sissies, then they would provide a great pretext for more taxpayers’ money to the intelligence services!’

Finally, a disabled worker on benefits. Brought into the commission as supposedly a representative of the ‘common people’. He seems to be stupid, saying all the time that he does not understand the other commission members’ jargon. And talking racism and sexism.

Near the end of the play, he suddenly tells he is not who he seems. He is in fact an investigative journalist who will write an article on how corrupt the other committee members are.

They then decide to kill him. They do, mockingly shouting: ‘Khashoggi!’ They then cut him into pieces with a bonesaw.

Then, a press conference on the governmental commission on privacy’s final report. Chairwoman Ms Zaal is the only speaker. Part standard governmental anti-privacy propaganda. Part individual grief about being cheated in love.

Finally, an actor tells about Dutch disappeared internet privacy champion Arjen Kamphuis. Months ago, he mysteriously disappeared near a NATO base in Norway.

We should care about Arjen Kamphuis, the actor said. And about fellow fighters for internet justice who are in danger, like Julian Assange and Edward Snowden.

The crowded theatre gave the play a standing ovation.

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