Censorship, media surveillance, ubiquitous cameras, and the public denial of its relentless encroachment upon our freedom to be left alone
A regular Slogger writes to tell me that, apparently, The Slog’s Home Page is now the only part of the site that Britain’s local libraries will show. The rest is banned as dangerous extremism. He tells me:
‘….I popped into Bournemouth Library to check email. I had some time left & went to read your site. I can get your home page up but access is denied to any of the articles. I have just had a loud public spat with the IT guy here who tried to give me some old flannel about there is a blanket ban on certain sites that could compromise the security of the library PC’s….when I raised the complaint the librarian said I couldn’t speak to the IT dept directly, I said so not only am I denied access to the site I am denied access to finding out why I am denied access to it…’
The local libraries remit falls between two stools. One of these turds is Eric Pickles at Communities & Local Government, and the other one is Ed Vaizey at Culture, Media & Sport. There seems to be some confusion between Ed Vaizey and Maria Miller (who often calls herself the Secretary of State) but I can reassure those of you perhaps concerned about this that Ed is a man and Maria is a woman. It’s possible I need to reassure Maria about that too, but frankly I can’t be arsed.
Trouble is, you see, that yer books is like yer kulcha, roit, whereas yer libraries is yer community fing an’ shit. As to libraries, the Coalition has cut the budget massively since it got in, and local Councils have closed others to make savings….these are usually Labour councils out to embarrass the Tories at national level. So as usual, both Parties are equally to blame for under-investing in the idea of people enjoying the peace and information available in every library.
Last September, the Express ran a splash piece saying there’d been a shock fall in library visitors, and some lady who heads up the librarians’ lobby said it wuz ve cuts an’ no mistake. So spookily, three days later there was a Pickles Pledge to give the top ten innovative local libraries £450,000 to share out between them….but only if they’d been innovative about helping business. Business friendly. Open for business. Britain on the move. White heat of something or other. That sort of twaddle.
However, while Eric the Ernormous was spending half a million quid of our money to solve a political image problem (about which he couldn’t really GAF) GCHQ clearly do GAF about what old and young people read in libraries…and The Slog is on their blacklist. But it’s all a seamless security snoop really, because the library’s main competitor Google has also given British security officials special permission to monitor its YouTube site, allowing them to have content instantly reviewed if they think that it threatens national security. ISPs and GCHQ sharing bodily fluids is, of course, just another of those conspiracy theories like Jacquie Smith lying her head off to Parliament about the 13 BILLION pounds she’d already given to the media-spies in 2008, before Parliament had approved it. So I don’t think we need to let it concern us over much.
As the Irish Times confirmed yesterday, however, the usual excuse about Jihadist terrorists is trotted out as the rationale for more spook-snoop-poop. Thus our points of view on YouTube are being reviewed 24/7 by Big Brother because the Home Office couldn’t get its arse into gear under New Labour to actually keep tabs on the 15,000 Islamic nutters now alleged to be at large in the UK, we just don’t know where. There’s an irony in there somewhere, but it isn’t making me smile.
Nevertheless, I do accept that Jihadists will make their plans visible and overt on YouTube because let’s face it, it’s the sort of thing secretive terrorist cells do when trying to keep secrets. How else can one explain the fact that every time one of them puts the wrong wires together and blows himself up to the 77 Virgins in the Firmament, his family always say “We had no idea…he was always such a quiet, well-behaved boy”? So there you have it: rather than make more careful full body-checks of all Islamics coming into and out of Britain (because to do so would be racist, gratuitous victimisation) what the law-abiding UK citizen gets instead is all his video pronouncements watched by the Ministry of Truth, and most of his clothes removed during the process of trying to get on an aeroplane.
Nothing would please me more than to hang this one on the Islamist fellow travellers out there, but really they’re nothing to do with it: the real problems here are (1) fluffy pc (2) police wanting more powers (3) security services justifying their mind-boggling budgets and (4) the relentless rise and rise of GCHQ’s knowledge about everything we say, think, do and write.
For example, the Irish Times records that an estimated 400 British jihadists went to take part in the Syrian conflict. Presumably, most of them were actors and directors on the various shoots designed to make Bashar Assad look like a mass murderer. But leaving that aside, as MI5 seems to know who they are then don’t let them back in again you dozy buggers. Cue 500 comments from Human Rights lawyers explaining how the ECOHR would probably invade the UK if we dared to do such a thing.
The denial of Britain’s rapid emergence as the most surveillance camera-happy nation on the planet is remarkably similar to denial about the dysfunctionality of neoliberal economics, and the Left’s continuing belief in the Socialist Utopia. The chief similarity lies in the risible nature of the excuses offered up by Those in Charge….twinned with the astonishing willingness of Homo Wokingiens to soak it all up like blotting paper, and repeat the bollocks later on in the pub.
Here in France, two months ago I went to a commune recycling point. There was a camera there. It was, the notice beneath told me, for my own protection. What is it protecting me from – vengeful bubble-wrap hell bent on beating me to a pulp for not re-using it? Every last camera in the UK says the same thing: I clearly need protecting when I go to refill the petrol tank, buy some groceries, pick up my prescription or pass through customs. As this indignity also happens at every railway station and airport, it’s a pity the cameras don’t seem to catch the 15,000 jihadists gaily wandering in and out as if the country was a public convenience.
This last point – the general incompetence of all the Peeping Toms pulling these stunts – is the one thing that helps me relax a little about surveillance. As most of these clowns couldn’t find their buttocks after taking a dump, there surely can’t be that much to fear.
I suppose my hope is that the average spook is roughly on the same level of dogged intelligence as Mark Williams-Thomas. But then again, I’m probably being optimistic.