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Sunday, June 16, 2013

Good Censor, Bad Censor

In a week that has seen both the condemnation of the US National Security Agency for surveying emails and other personal data worldwide, and major calls in the UK for the complete blocking of online pornography, the pressure to control and rein in the internet is growing stronger and stronger.

There is no such thing as good or bad censorship, as there are only good or bad people and content, visual, verbal or written, is what it is. It is how we, as adults, react, or respond to it that gives content its power, be it private, moral, political, sexual, criminal or offensive. Yet the internet with its labyrinthine pathways and myriad ideas, images, and views, reflects all mankind. It is our psyche, a huge digital Id into which we pour our thoughts and impulses.  Each day we upload the minutia of our lives, be they bland, brutal or base, good or bad, moral or immoral, legal or illegal, whatever mankind is capable of, the internet absorbs and stores it. Then, when we plug in, we have a choice, of what amongst man's cerebral detritus, to look at, read or ignore. 

Now our governments want to control, monitor and in some cases, expurgate sections of the internet in much the same way that doctors use electro-convulsive therapy to wipe out and erase parts of the brain. The result, even on a digital brain, is likely to be just as brutal and damaging.

Google is the current internet bugbear, chastised for the amount of tax it does or doesn't pay, and ordered by governments to stop this, or block that. Google is attacked relentlessly, but because of its size and financial clout, has been able to pretty much ignore these assaults on its propriety. However, the current furore around the activities of the US's National Security Agency (NSA) has caused Google's chairman, Eric Schmidt, to worry that the internet is about to suffer from a process of "Balkanisation", in which, like the countries of the Balkans, the internet begins the process of fragmenting as national governments seek to exert greater influence over it, essentially breaking it up.  Thereby creating a series of tightly controlled national networks and ending forever our current open communication platforms and the free flow of information that has been at the centre of the internet since its inception some twenty plus years ago.

This drive to control the internet and breakup the power of independent US companies like Google and Amazon with their huge stores of data, is coming not just from Authoritarian regimes like China and Iran, but from the law makers of the European Union. EU lawmakers in the wake of the National Security Agency scandal, are using the fear of data snooping to promote the idea of creating their own internet platforms separate from the likes of Google et al. Indeed for many European lawmakers the move now is to push for the ringfencing of their national networks which in turn will force internet companies like Google to comply with local rules for protecting local data and so on.

The result, according to an EU spokesman is that "You are likely to get a federation of different data centres, each fiefdom with its own different rules", which aside from its immediate aim of protecting its citizens data from the prying eyes of US intelligent agencies, becomes more sinister if used to repress political or other perceived subversions.

Indeed the fact that the National Security Agency (NSA) is spying on foreign nationals and probably eavesdropping on phone calls and reading the occasional email should not surprise or excessively worry us as this is what intelligence agencies do, and given that Facebook can already interpret everything from our taste in music to our political allegiances from analysing our 'Likes', the activities of the NSA will not make much difference to someone after your personal data. What should worry us are the calls for national security surveillance to be stopped or monitored, presumably by human rights lawyers and EU functionaries, as that will begin rendering any kind of clandestine snooping potentially unworkable, with possibly disastrous implications for our ongoing national security.

We should expect the United States, the most powerful country on earth to protect its people from attack, as likewise we expect our UK government agencies to do the same and as our main ally to share information and data when necessary. In effect, we expect our intelligence agencies to get the terrorists and our enemies before they get us and to do that successfully agencies need to snoop, spy and lie. Indeed, surveillance and data gathering are crucial, and by the very nature of their work the agencies involved need to be able to operate in secret, and monitoring the mass of internet traffic worldwide is a big part of that. Where this falls down is when those actions are perceived either as a threat to the citizens in whose name the surveillance is being carried out, or as a threat to other friendly nations, as the NSA's actions are now being made out to be.

Ironically in the name of democracy, and in a perceived benign move to protect its citizens from US data collecting, the EU's lawmakers could now begin the breakup of the Internet as we know it. Even more alarming is that the EU's desire to ringfence the internet along national borders is playing well with China, who's gleeful words on the NSA story see them sticking the knife in:  "Washington has been accusing China of cyber espionage, but it turns out that the biggest threat to the pursuit of individual freedom and privacy in the US is the unbridled power of the government". 

This means that countries like Iceland who have said that they wanted to ban access to all pornography, or in the UK where Prime Minister David Cameron or Labour MP Diane Abbott have called for a block on access to pornography in an effort to protect the young, and who have previously been mocked for their naiveté in thinking that an internet block along national boundaries was unworkable, can now look forward to a future where bans could not only be workable, but be made to work. Indeed, the calls of UK politicians for the blocking of pornography are now being championed by the Daily Mail and the Sunday Times. Therefore the chance for the UK Government to create its own server will now be perceived by many on both sides of the political spectrum as a real vote winner. State control of the internet along national borders is coming, and coming fast, and ironically it will be championed not by China or Iran, but by the unelected and unaccountable law makers of the EU and I believe, by our own government.

The former CNN journalist and writer Rebecca Mackinnon said in her book, Consent of the Networked: The Worldwide Struggle for Internet Freedom (2012), that: "We cannot assume that the Internet will evolve automatically in a direction that is going to be compatible with democracy" and prophetically that "Ten years from now, we will look back on the free and open internet with nostalgia". Yet this will all be done in the name of Democracy, of protecting personal data, and of fighting the currents totems of evil like racism, pornography, Islamophobia, homophobia, fascism, incitement to hatred and so on. As once the government and their state authorised censors are unleashed on an internet with borders, they will be unstoppable. For like the doctor who sees a once wild and dangerous patient rendered quiet and placid by the effects his electro-convulsive therapy, the glorious digital and untrammelled Id that represents our collective self, warts and all, will be blasted into submission and left, safe and inert, cured and cared for, in our new world, where nice is the new nasty and all bad thoughts have been erased. 

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© Nigel Wingrove 2013

Monday, June 10, 2013

Liberal Authoritarianism and the relentless march of the Little Man.

With every crime and outrage comes, in the guise of doing good or righting a wrong, more calls for state control, be it political, moral or social.

In the last few days, prompted in part by the death of the liberal philosopher in law, Ronald Dworkin, the indescribably ghastly, Keynesian and egotistical political economist, Will Hutton, has been lamenting what he sees as the slow death of true liberalism and liberal views. Indeed it is his belief that the tide of opinion is turning against big government and its role, or duty as Hutton sees it, in providing 'dignity'  and succour for those that fail as well as creating a free environment for others to succeed.

In a true Statist whine Hutton's article, "I despair as I watch the erosion of the liberal views I hold dear" lashes out at everything; from the fact that we apparently live in 'rightwing times', (if only), to the opinion that his philosopher hero, Dworkin's treasured totems of human dignity, that is 'Law and Justice', and more importantly the overpaid barristers who enforce them, are currently having their legal aid trough reduced a bit by the current government, or rather the current government is attempting to reduce it. To judge by the crying and wailing emanating from Lincoln Inn Fields and Middle Temple and the other legal fortresses of sumptuousness scattered around Holborn and Westminster the assumption would be that legal aid was being abolished completely. This is a legal aid budget that has soared over the last two decades and has helped umpteen barristers and QCs break into the million pound a year earnings bracket. Including several like Cherie Blair, who are as likely to commiserate with Hutton around the dining table as they are to attack the legal aid cuts in public, which she and 90 other QC’s have just done in an open letter to the Daily Telegraph.

What though is irking Hutton more than anything else in these times of austerity and cutbacks is that the great State largesse from which he and many of the chattering classes rely on for their wealth and status is at last beginning to be cutback or, in a few cases, stopped altogether. To Hutton and his ilk this is an anathema, a heinous attack on societies moral core and one which threatens not just his and his cronies bank balances but in his words could lead to a 'reversal of the century-long fight for genuine equality between the sexes', or could lead to reforms "of criminal justice and legal aid, the health service, climate change, employment law, social security' represents the 'wholesale inversion of a liberal society' which will beget 'economic stagnation, social atomisation and a destructive nationalism' peopled by 'tax-avoiding, climate-change-denying anti-feminists'. Phew!

This hysteria permeates much of the liberal left at the moment as their world, created as it was out of the embers of World War 2 and a desire to create a Europe devoid or war and free of racial, religious and sexual strife, in which all its citizens would be housed, fed, clothed and entitled to education and health care, is beginning to implode under the weight of its own sense of entitlement. A sense of entitlement championed and offered to every citizen regardless of their contribution or worth, and driven in part by many of the liberal lawyers and human rights specialists so beloved of Will Hutton and company.

Yet it is Hutton's response to the potential realignment of his idealised current values, or more importantly the potential that the State might loose control of those values, that is at the core of the liberal or soft left's nightmare scenario. For the modern liberal is a state control liberal, he is the man in the bureaucratic equivalent of the high visibility jacket, giving orders and, backed-up by an army of state-funded lawyers, few people say no to him. And like most people with power, even those that are in effect a powerful cog, they like it and they want to keep it.

Liberalism incarnated and administered by the Hutton's of this world is personified by the interfering and spiteful invective of the little man or woman. A beastly fusion of the Stasi, Shami Chakrabarti, and Gordon Brown, with access to unlimited funds and an army of High Visibility Jacket wearing bureaucrats waiting in the wings if the going gets tough.

These are the liberals that see in every tragedy a silver lining of opportunity: the murder of April Jones, a tragedy, new legislation to crack down on 'extreme porn' and rape pornography on the internet generally, a silver lining of new laws, more bureaucrats and a more invasive society. The murder of Lee Rigby in Woolwich and Clémént Méric in France a tragedy, the silver lining, an opportunity to ban and crack down on far right groups and other rightwing politicians that threaten the current status quo. Plus add new clauses to the incitement to religious and racial hatred legislation. Next week or next month there will no doubt be another tragedy and another barrage of new 'liberal' legislation will be unleashed to protect us and further empower the state.

The list is potentially endless as everything bad has a potential 'good' solution which in itself grows the State, enables lawyers to draft new laws and a legion of employees to enforce them. Liberalism, at least as interpreted by the Hutton's of the this world, is not dead and the world is unfortunately not full of rightwing monetarists, it is, in fact, being reborn even as aspects of it are being killed off. For every cutback and saving, for every liberal lawyer with a reduced legal aid budget who has to cut back on his trainees there are, like a Keynesian Hydra, hundreds more to take their place.

Will Hutton's great fear and motivation was that without the great behemoth liberal state enforcing Law and Justice that civility would end. That we would end up not caring. That, in fact, we would become a society where anything goes and that, as Dworkin espoused, it was the law's duty to 'uphold individual and collective morality'. Which is so typical of the benign liberal chattering classes, who, having undermined the church and all the other totems by which societies moral codes were derived for centuries, have the arrogance to think that they, and they alone, can legislate it, and enforce it, in their own liberal image. From Gay marriage to abortion, to how people discuss sex and religion, all will be defined by the 'liberal' State. 

Indeed Hutton sees our mounting crisis as an opportunity for some sort of liberal, Keynesian fightback, which is interesting seeing as how he and his cronies are still very much in control. If there is any fighting to be done it needs to come from the right and be directed against the hordes of little men and the rich, liberal lawyers and wealthy Establishment players that control them. In which case it might be worth remembering a line from Shakespeare's Henry VI: The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers

© Nigel Wingrove 2013

Monday, June 3, 2013

RELIGION, RACE and RIGHTS: The three elephants in the room that the liberal West cannot, and will not see - a self inflicted blindness that if not challenged and stopped will eventually destroy us.

The West's collective Establishment has been very busy of late minimising any damage to its multicultural agenda that could have been caused by the Boston bombings; the beheading and murder of a British soldier in London; the multiple instances of child sex abuse by Muslim men in several English cities; a week of riots in Sweden's predominantly Muslim immigrant areas, and the worldwide revulsion that one of the leaders of the West's beloved Syrian rebels, and founder of the Farouq Brigade, had been filmed cutting out the heart of a dead Government soldier and eating it in between shouts of Allahu Akbar and requests for mustard. 

The above events, coming almost one after the other, could have been expected in normal times to have given the champions and cheerleaders of our ever evolving multireligious and multicultural nirvana pause for thought. Instead, the Establishment and the mainstream media have redoubled the State's efforts to clamp down on dissenters and big up Islam-lite. In so doing the State has very effectively moved the finger of blame from the perpetrators to the accusers, whilst at the same time striving to reinforce the sense collectively that a multicultural and ethnically diverse society is both desirable and irrevocable. 

It is neither.

The raping and multiple sexual abuse of young white girls barely in puberty, the bombings in Boston at a marathon in which runners had their most prized human possession, their legs, literally blown off in the most horrific and brutal way, and the beheading of a soldier in civilian dress on a London street in the middle of the afternoon took Islam and Islamic terrorism to yet more new lows. Yet within seconds of these appalling events breaking in the news the mainstream media and government spokesmen were taking steps to nullify events as much as possible. They also managed to gloss over the one key factor in all of these terrible acts; that the perpetrators were Muslim, that their victims were not, and that the motivation for these appalling crimes was the furtherance of Islam. 

Instead in the US there was an almost audible sigh of relief when the two young Muslim brothers were found to be Chechen, with reporters and spokesmen immediately bombarding the public with anecdotes about the brutality of the Chechen war with Russia and how this must have influenced the two men. This Chechen love-in was coupled with the usual parade of happy-clappy Imans and community leaders on TV who further distanced the two bombers from Islam and within days all was, if not sweetness and light, then at least returning to normal again, almost as if the bombing had never happened. US television even managed to interview a young dancer and runner in her early twenties who had had both her feet blown off within six days of the event. She was brave and defiant and was not going to let her awful injuries ruin her life yet her spirit, indomitable and noble as it was, lacked the one emotion that our emasculated Establishment seem determined to eradicate: Anger. 

Anger at the people that are carrying out these terrible acts and anger at their apologists among us who will not, and cannot, see the terrible seeds they and their almost evangelical faith in multiculturalism have sown. In the UK the gangs of Muslim groomers, rapists and child abusers were termed 'asian' rather than Muslim and despite some token wringing of hands, the impression given by the police, social services and politicians was that they just wanted the whole sordid business to go away as quickly as possible. For the forgotten and silent victims of 'asian' abusers yet to be found there will be no Jimmy Savile style 'Operation Yewtree' to track down and expose their oppressors, in their case there will only be an embarrassed silence.

Likewise, the two men of 'Muslim appearance' who hacked a young soldier's head off were dismissed as not representing true Islam by the world renowned Islamic scholar, David Cameron. While crocodile tears flowed from the eyes of Muslim spokesmen across the land as they rushed to distance themselves from this new take on Islamic terrorism. Afraid momentarily, Imans and Muslims felt a real, palpable anger and revulsion for their faith spread across the UK, as did our politicians. For once the people were genuinely angry.  With the prospect of retribution and violence a very real threat Islam representatives did the right thing and apologised. 

But within 48 hours as usual the UK Establishment in all its myriad guises had found a non Muslim enemy to blame, the English Defence League, whose followers, whilst not responsible for the murder, could be accused of exploiting it. With a villain that the BBC and the multifaithers could really relate to and abuse without restraint the UK media let rip and tore into every aspect of the "fascist" EDL, while at the same time, as in the US in the aftermath of the Boston bombings, the Establishment simultaneously turned events around to solidify and reinforce multiculturalism by damning the EDL as racists and Islamophobics for trying to destroy it. Lost in the mêlée of course were the two head-hackers and their Islamic faith who could now be pushed to the sidelines, dismissed as both unIslamic and unrepresentative of UK Muslims.

In Sweden, almost at the sometime as Lee Rigby was having his life taken, gangs of Muslim teenagers began the first of what would be six continuous days of rioting in Sweden's capital city, Stockholm. Sweden has had one of the most courteous and generous attitudes to immigrants and asylum seekers in the world and as a result now has large immigrate ghettos in key cities like Stockholm, Malmo and Gothenburg. Sweden is also very rich and almost as soon as the riots started the Swedish media, politicians and police all refused to use the 'R' word as in race or religion, instead the rioters were classed generically as either 'youths' or 'hooligans' or both. The fact that they were Muslim youths was silenced in the Swedish media where talk of race and immigration is virtually taboo. 

The riots in Sweden have stopped now, and as in the US and UK, the Swedish Establishment is busily rebuilding the foundations of what had been, until the riots, a kind of Scandinavian multicultural Asgard.  Predictably Sweden has chosen not to blame the rioters for the riots but to self-flaggellate  and blame instead its wealth, lack of true integration and job opportunities for the rioters. The rioters ethnicity and religion is non-existent. On this, as on so much else, the Establishment is both colour-blind and faith neutral, though Sweden's citizens may in the long run turn out not be…

Nothing it seems, no matter how horrible and vile the act, will deflect our leaders and the multicultural zealots of our Establishment from their intractable faith in the glories that stem from their experiment with mass immigration and Islam's place within it. In the 1930's, only a few saw the threat posed by an ever bolder 
and ever stronger Nazi Germany, and now some eighty years later the West seems to be pursuing a policy of Appeasement to Islam in much the same way. Indeed one wonders what it will take for our great leaders, like the Islamicist David Cameron, to turn against their new faith? A beheading at a Gay wedding? A Mumbai-style attack in London's Oxford Street, or the exploding of a nuclear or biological device in a major Western City? Perhaps then the West's Establishment will finally see the elephants in the room, for if they don't then the anger that they are so keen to suppress will find its own voice and when that happens it will not be pleasant.

© Nigel Wingrove 2013