Citizens in the US are freer from a technical/legalistic perspective, which is also easier to define, but Britain is freer where it counts most - Freedom of thought/freedom of expression. Brits are mentally freer, which is most fundamental freedom and therefore Britain is generally a freer country.
Freedom can be defined in different ways. The two basic conceptions of political freedom are freedom from Government intrusion in citizens’ lives and the more Marxist conception, which sees freedom in terms of economic human rights, without which humans cannot reach their potential. In other words, people cannot develop their full potential unless their basic needs are met - shelter and food. In this view, government has an obligation to provide basic needs to its citizens, regardless of whether those citizens work.
In our Media-driven age, the right to freedom of thought and expression is especially important..
The US has more freedom according to the first definition - freedom from government intrusion. Because of the United States’ political history - a country founded by people who sought freedom from government oppression - this type of freedom is fundamental to US identity. Americans have greater rights to privacy, as a matter of law. Police cannot search citizens arbitrarily. We discovered during the Snowden affair that, as a matter of law, British government has significantly greater powers to electronically monitor citizens. In the US, government is not allowed to casually listen in on, or even collect information about communication among US citizens. Authorities need special permission to do so. Americans also have a constitutional right to bear arms, which is a political freedom in the sense that this right was created in order prevent government oppression. The US also gives its citizens greater rights to obtain information from the government, through the Freedom of Information Act. US government is, technically speaking, more transparent. But that’s just on paper.
Brits are freer where it counts most; freedom of thought and freedom of expression. In purely legal terms, both countries protect freedom of thought/expression, as do all Western democracies. You are allowed to think what you want, and to communicate what you want so long as you do not 1) compromise national security and 2) endanger other people’s lives. The famous legal opinion from the Warren Supreme Court explained that an individual’s right to free speech is limited if that speech endangers other people - you can’t shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater/theatre (for my UK friends) because that would endanger people’s lives.
The most serious violation of the right to free speech is when the government prevents media from reporting political speech. Censorship of political speech is, after all, what separates the US from North Korea/China etc… “Prior restraint” is the legal term for this violation, when the government actually prevents media from publishing a story. The high point of US post-war democracy came in June of 1971, when the Nixon administration filed an injunction, prior restraint, against The New York Times and Washington Post to prevent the papers from publishing a story, already written, about The Pentagon Papers, which was a study by the Rand Corporation that Daniel Elsberg had somehow illegally obtained, much as Ed Snowden stole documents. The study revealed that the US government was lying about the progress of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration argued that the story would threaten national security.
Because the court injunction was curtailing political speech, the case was treated with the utmost urgency by the Supreme Court. I say it was the high water mark of US democracy because the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of free speech. In one of the court’s most famous opinions on free speech, the Court ruled that the public’s right to be informed was stronger than the argument for national security. In order to curtail political speech, the government must demonstrate a CLEAR AND PRESENT DANGER the Court said. This standard applies to this day. Only if a story presented a direct and immediate threat to national security, meaning that lives would be threatened… or something along those lines, could the government block free speech.
In the nearly 50 years ago since the Pentagon Papers case, the United States has turned into an authoritarian Big Brother type of country, and most US citizens are totally brainwashed, and are totally unaware of this fact. For all intents and purposes, the United States is no longer a democracy, and that is not an exaggeration. Although the UK is less free than it once was, it is still a democracy - as is evidenced by the Brexit vote. UK citizens actually got the chance to make a substantive decision about the future of their country. Further, its citizens are much better informed, and its media is much freer. The recently published Chilicot report, a brutally honest assessment of the UK’s involvement in the Iraq war, proved that the UK was still capable of honest self-evaluation. The report blasted the Blair government, stating that he blindly followed the Bush administration into a disastrous war that had no plan other than to invade and destroy a country. Such a report could never be produced in the US.
How and when did things go so terribly wrong in the US? It began with deregulation of media during the 1980s. Whereas media used to be owned by thousands of companies, today five companies own all the newspapers and electronic media in the US. A new media catchphrase during the late 1980s and 1990s was “synergy” - which meant maximizing profits. Serious media companies, who are supposed to be the “watchdogs” of US democracy, began making deep cuts in reporting staff. Media consciously moved away from its previously “confrontational” approach towards government, meaning that it no longer challenged government and assumed that government does not lie. Increasingly, mainstream media turned into mouthpieces of the State Department.
The death knell of US democracy was September 11, 2001 - a day when mainstream media became complicit in the Bush administration’s evil plan. I am not arguing that media were “in on it,” although some clearly were. CNN, for example, reported the collapse of WTC 7 20 or so minutes before it actually happened (as did the BBC). The Bush admin put out a few talking heads who announced, hours after the attack, who was responsible and all dissent was squashed. On the afternoon of 9/11, a few lone journalists in what was once an honorable profession made their last protests - the late Peter Jennings, and a few others (very few), noted the similarity between the building collapses and a controlled demolition. Jennings was the only journalist to ask, live on air, why there was so little rubble. Where did the buildings go? One of his reporters on the scene explained that the buildings had “evaporated”. There would be no more questions. To this day.
In the coming years, it got worse. The New York Times, once the nation’s most venerable and respected newspaper, became the play thing of the Bush administration. The paper shamelessly repeated lies about weapons of mass destruction, without ever questioning the flagrant lies. The paper would eventually apologize, but too little too late.
Behind the scenes, intelligence agents with a conscience were leaving their careers because they were horrified over what was happening; agencies were providing “evidence” (cherry picking info) that supported a politicized and biased view of reality in support of a foreign policy agenda. Behind the scenes, the NSA was creating the architecture of a totalitarian government that would spy on everyone all the time, a move made possible by provisions in the Patriot Act, which were being renewed every three months. Agents with a conscience tried to warn the public. They were silenced.
In the dystopian version of the United States, there are two kinds of people - a small group of “crazies” who are labelled “conspiracy theorists” and who try to warn people that the country has turned into a totalitarian government where political freedom is an illusion. They warn citizens that media is an illusion, that 911 was fake, that Sandy Hook was fake - and that these claims are so easy to prove… all you need to do is look at the vast mountains of evidence that point in that direction… they warn that ISIS was created by the US in order to destabilize Syria, and the region, and that you can’t believe much of the news anymore because much of it is manipulation and propaganda. You can look up in the sky and see geo-engineering planes with your own eyes… you can read about such programs… and it is really scary because there is a continuity at work, from Bush to Obama… and now the baton will be passed to Clinton… and that the people in power are totally insane because they want to impose a global system in which everyone will be dependent on a system of finance/credit - these people don’t give a shit, they rule by deceit, and the only reason you still feel that you have political freedom is because you haven’t challenged these key claims and demanded change.
This new totalitarianism is expressed as soft power through a corporate monoculture - in order to advance professionally in the monoculture, one must accept the assumptions about reality and not question the insanity. Failure to go along with the herd will result in economic marginalization. That’s how they keep everyone in line. Through institutional culture and labels. The idea that our political reality is manipulated and controlled through propaganda seems so crazy that most people can’t go there - but the evidence is real and overwhelming. All you have to do is look. The evidence is logical and scientific. And the reason that most people are not waking up out of their stupor is
1) there is no psychological incentive to see what’s really going on… you take the time to investigate the evidence and at the end, you will discover an uncomfortable truth
2) The mainstream belief system is based on a few widely held and often repeated assumptions: that people can’t keep secrets, and that if any of this were true, someone would have gone to the media and told them the whole story, and the media would have investigated these claims and told us the truth because journalists are courageous and motivated by a desire to tell the truth… and the government can’t even safely deliver a letter… how in the world can it pull off some of these events? And it’s impossible that everyone is in on this… it doesn’t make any sense.
Scratch deeper and you see that these are silly assumptions. Edward Snowden was a whistle blower, but he had a unique level of access, was able to copy a million documents to prove what he was saying, and he had to sacrifice his entire life and leave forever in order to tell us that society had become Big Brother. before Snowden, hundreds of thousands of people had kept quiet, and three previous guys had tried to warn the country, but they didn’t have documents… As for media? They are not fearless warriors, but superficial maggots driven by a desire to advance professionally. Stop believing in fairy tales.
2) evaluating the evidence requires an independent and confident personality… most people prefer to believe what everyone else believes because people don’t want to be different
3) it would be psychologically and emotionally painful to see reality