Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Giving up our freedom in the name of fear

The world news on the BBC or CNN is so awful these days I've taken to RT.com lately to get a different perspective on world events: and this week the station has devoted hours to new US legislation that allows journalists to be imprisoned without trial if they report about terrorists' motives with anything approaching neutrality rather than condemnation.

This year's National Defense Authorization Act - or NDAA - is already the subject of a lawsuit by civil liberties activists like Noam Chomsky, Michael Moore and Chris Hedges, and is already 'silencing' some US journalists, it has been reported.

Scary stuff. But, hey, that's America right?

No sooner had I forgotten all about the NDAA, I saw a BBC report into new plans for GCHQ to be empowered to monitor all emails, website visits and text messages sent in the UK, for the vague purpose of 'the fight against crime and terrorism'.

Of course, the security services can ALREADY access all these things if they are looking: the main difference is that the new proposal is for a general poke about in everyone's business, all the time.

Spy chiefs and Government officials are being quick to deny any plans for a general data trawl: but their main argument looks to me to be about how impractical the idea is rather than any moral or human rights-based reasoning.

Well, what's impratical today is often common-place within a year or two, so their words are no consolation to me.

Of course we need to ensure the police and security services can keep us safe from those who would blow us up - but we need to get all this in perspective. Is giving up our privacy from the Government a price worth paying?

With the price of a stamp going up to 50p a pop, and a recent report showing that 98% of families with children living in Brighton council homes have on-line access, more and more of our most personal communications take place on-line.

Admittedly there's been more 'mainstream' resistance in the UK this weekend than US politicians have seen over the NDAA - but if it dies down we'll have yet another piece of draconian legislation limiting our internet freedom.

I'm reminded of the speech V makes in V for Vendetta, in which he lays some blame for the Orwellian dystopia in which he lives on a population that had willingly given up its human rights in the name of fear and security.

Here's a clip. I don't pretend to own the copyright. If anyone who does wishes me to take it down, just get in touch and I will. As I've said before, I've no wish to go to prison or have my life destroyed or anything for violating intellectual property laws.


  1. This appalling development is 'technology driven'. A British success story, a company called Autonomy, has developed cutting edge technology to scan files at speed looking for key phrases with proper regard to context. Technology drives social change for good or bad, next in the pipeline will be new born babies implanted with chips (within 15 years).
    The Final Solution started with an aim of wiping out European Jews; it was not successful until the gases were developed - initially firing squads were uses but the 'yield' was low and it damaged morale of army units.
    Science is the catalyst and sometimes move faster than moral or ethical frameworks can.
    This is why I was appalled by Caroline Lucas urging that Inland Revenue be given details of bank accounts. I don't trust governments or politicians and like to keep back as much as possible, not just information but also money.

  2. I should point out that Autonomy's technology was not quite ready when Clegg and Cameron had their Rose Garden love-in and declared that anti civil liberty legislation would be curbed.
    Curbed because they did not quite know how to do it back then.
    Politics is the Art of the Possible as someone once said (Rab Butler in the Sixties, but actually Bismarck said it first).