I continue to read all the main threads of the Snowden affair, as well as reflections by journalists and writers. British journalist Jonathan Friedland's story for the New York Times (Why Do Brits Accept Surveillance?) about what he conceives of as the differences in the reactions to the revelations in Britain and America was interesting. Basically, he says that these reactions indicate differing conceptions regarding the relationship between government and citizen in the two countries:
And this might be the heart of the matter. Britain has a fundamentally different conception of power than, say, the United States. In America, it is ‘‘we the people’’ who are held to be sovereign. Viewed like that, the N.S.A., and other arms of the government, is a servant of the people: It is meant to do what it is told.
The British system, by contrast, still carries the imprint of its origins in monarchy: Officially, it remains "Her Majesty’s Government," not the people’s. Power still emanates from the top and flows downward, with the public allowed a peek only when the state chooses. It means that Brits can be quite resigned toward the level of government power over, and intrusion into, their lives — because they don’t really see government as their servant in the first place. Britons remain subjects, not citizens.
Once again, I was reminded that despite having been born in the UK, my cultural frame is more American than British, because of the two systems he describes so well, my own way of thinking is closer to the American one. American influence on the world being so strong, it's surprising that the Brits are not swayed to a greater degree by the U.S. However in my case, the influence is not surprising since I grew up in Virginia from the age of 13.
Another area in which I have noticed such cultural influence is in spelling and syntax. For years I staunchly attempted to use British modes, until one day I read a comprehensive article on the differences between American and British usage, and realized not only that American usage came easier, but that I didn't really understand British usage in any case. And I remember being similarly surprised when spending an undergraduate year in a British university. I did not adjust well to the British system.
In their view of the Edward Snowden revelations, Israelis are closer to the British than the Americans. They are happy to accept surveillance, and assume that they are being watched. They also take for granted that the threat to the personal security does not come from their state, but from their "enemies".