Hiding from us, but monitoring us.

The rich elites are pulling up the drawbridge. But the power they wield may yet be flushed out by the Coulson scandal.

During such a momentous week as this one, you could be forgiven for having missed the property PR event of the decade so far: the opening launch party in Knightsbridge for the most expensive and secure apartment development in British history.

350 of the great, rich but probably not very good turned up to be wined, dined and worked: but the owners think flogging these domiciles will be fairly straightforward. A one-bed flat costs £6.5 million, and a penthouse is just a shade more pricey at £140 million; however, what makes these apartments likely to fly off the Estate Agent’s board is that the place is impregnable.

The security is 24/7 (natch), but in addition there are ID eye-scanners in all the lifts (just in case the kidnappers have wiped out the SAS in the lobby) and panic buttons in every room. There is in addition an Olympic-sized pool and two exclusive restaurants. Valet room service is also laid on. You can live, eat, keep fit, be rich and above all be safe in this development.

As the wildly wealthy become increasingly unpopular, we are going to get a lot more of this sort of thing. But those who designate themselves members of the elite don’t always display their preferences and fears in such ways: as often as not, their feelings come out unconsciously.

Rupert Murdoch, for example, puts all his editorial content behind 24/7 security walls. But if the burgeoning Coulson case details are only half-truths, it seems the old boy also insists on the right to listen to everyone else’s news for free. Then he can print it, and ensure everyone else has to pay to see what he stole. Roop has a similar view on the shareholder money/what I want to buy dimension too. This kind of behaviour is, after all, how people become obscenely rich.

The list of similar examples in most walks of life is compelling. Bill Gates wants to make crap software that goes down like a hooker in a hurry. He then wants to invade your pc and update the stuff whether you like it or not. He just doesn’t want to answer the phone when you decide you don’t like it. ‘Silo management’ is now virtually ubiquitous among every form of software, ISP and phoneco supplier. But in the silo is a periscope, and they can see yooooo.

Government – especially the British Government – has learned this lesson well. The refined version used by Westminster and Whitehall, however, is to leave the drawbridge down – but put a website at the end of it. The site ‘says come on in and talk to us’, but you look up at the 40-foot high portcullis, and there don’t seem to be any instructions about penetrating it. Governments want your eye-DNA on every passport and a camera on every street; but once again, although they stay well out of sight, they can see yoooo.

With the banking sector – retail as much as investment – the deal is very similar, just more focused. Their shtick is ‘We look after your money, charge you for it (sometimes twice for luck) and then blow it. Then you pay again for it through bailout taxes. In return, you get to tell us all about your financial affairs, and we bombard you with offers for stuff you don’t want, along with new passwords for everything once a month.If you complain, there’s a call centre that’ll move you from Belfast to Newcastle and back to Bristol until you get fed up and bugger off’.

They’ve got websites as backup behind the call centre monkeys, and behind them are financial journalists saying we must stop bashing bankers, and behind them the PM and Chancellor saying they’re absolutely vital to the economy. You may not be able to see into one of their dark liquidity pools, but they can see yoooo.

It’s a pretty failsafe system to be honest, because without these folks, you won’t know what’s going on in the world, you don’t have any connectivity, you can’t get redress when they get your tax bill wrong, and you can’t get at your money. It is a case, in summary, of being trussed up by everyone we can’t trust.

Painstaking analysis of how we got into this position is interesting, but rarely actionable. It’s good grist for the agitprop and conspiracy theory mill, but I’m long past caring about the how and why of it. My concern these days is how it can be stopped and reversed – because if it can’t, then the fool’s paradise these New Bourbons inhabit will be shattered, and the victors will not be folks you’d take home to mother.

This can too easily sound like alarmist bloggodrivel, until you look back not at how we got here, but how others did the same….and what happened afterwards. I understand perfectly well that today the ‘authorities’ (and what a misnomer that’s turning out to be) have DNA, cameras and hitech surveillance satellites: but then the East German Stasi had a microphone in every flat, and in the end it didn’t help them.

Ancien regime France had all the weapons and lots of prisons and the lettres de cachet. The Soviets had nuclear weapons pointing at the West, and a track record of going on holiday in their tanks. But ultimately, all such authoritarian States fail because they have no feedback. They become so out of touch, they can’t even say they’re in touch without it being an obvious lie.

Armed security guards, moats, paywalls, silos and websites work for a while. But people steal boats, JCBs, bulldozers and guns; they hack computers and dig out naughty cables….and in the end, the Chateaux wind up getting sacked. The one commonality throughout history in this situation is that those who warn of the peril faced by the privileged deaf are told to stop being so ridiculous. Usually, about a week before the sky falls in.

The key to avoiding the Bastille experience is in that last paragraph: for just as Murdoch shows how hacking into mobile phones can deliver enormous power, so too have Wikileaks and other cyber-warriors demonstrated just how easy it is to put the elite on tilt. In my view, it’s becoming a case of saving the aristocrats from themselves: yes, bailing them out again if you like. But better that than the Lenisparts or knuckle-draggers taking over.

The chances of the UK Establishment allowing the citizenry proper access to the electoral and legislative systems are close to sub-atomic. That’s not meant to be inflammatory: violence breeds violence, and there are no known exceptions to that rule. It’s just a fact: The Slog was one of the first to highlight the LibDem sellout on PR last April. And more recently, this site tried to give a devastating insight into Establishment complacency about the urgent need for radical reform.

But The Slog was also one of the first to get on Coulson’s case and wind up Fleet Street about there being an obvious cover-up behind his survival in the Number Ten job. Today, Andy Coulson is no more. With luck and a following wind, Murdoch’s bribes will be uncovered before too long. The Met police involvement in hiding the truth must surely come to light as well. If Assange can walk the walk on what he knows about the Digger, then it might even be curtains for Newscorp. That alone would be an amazing result.

The internet and the data it can unleash remain the most  powerful weapons at our disposal. And after a while, all the elite bomb disposal squads in the world cannot defuse every last electronic truth.

Remember: it truly is David versus Goliath – but David won. As the infamous showman Old Holborn is fond of saying, “There are sixty million of us, and only a few thousand of them”.

Related: The Internet is for Opposition

9 thoughts on “Hiding from us, but monitoring us.

  1. Richard Webster, David Rose and Diane Simon, all so called journalists, who have been writing propaganda articles about the child abuse at Haut de la Garenne, articles which have had the effect of making the public think that a piece of material which ought to have been properly and scientifically tested, and wasn’t, was a piece of coconut shell, rather than a piece of human skull.

    David Rose worked for Mi5, Richard Webster has conflicting interests with FACT and BFMS, both being organisations which try to disprove institutional child abuse. It is interesting to note that there was no disclaimer about his conmflict of interests in any of the newspapers which published these articles. I would like to know what can be done about this, as because of these articles a very good man is being hounded to hell and back, Stuart Syvret, and the child abuse/murder enquiry has been inappropriatly brought to a full stop, with only a few of the abusers being brought to justice, and not one of the politicians who have been named to the police investigators in statements by many of the abuse survivors has been brought to stand trial for these allegations.

  2. Another thing that is of grave concern is that everyone who tries to help the survivors of this institutional abuse – and what the survivors want more than anything is simply that the cover up is exposed, that they have access to all their paperwork, that people stop lying to them and fobbing them off, but anyone who tries to help them is persecuted. When I say everyone I mean everyone. Lenny Harper had death threats and intimidation and obstruction even as he tried to do his job as investigating police officer at Haut de la Garenne. Stuart Syvret has had death threats, and a threat to razor his face with a Stanley knife, plus loads of intimidation. Even the survivors of the abuse have had death threats, I’ve had two so far. I’ve had my computer hacked, I’ve had cars sitting directly outside my house then zooming off as soon as I make myself visible, wierd telephone calls, clicks and funny noises while I am talking on the telephone. I just wonjder how much money is being spent on all this bloody MI5 undercover nonsense, because it seems to me that they are spending more on that than if theinstitutional acuse was properly investigated without all this secrecy and perversion of the course of justice, and surely everyone would be better off all round?

  3. Who wants an olympic sized pool? The only time I swam in one I was humiliated by my inability to get to the other end without sinking, and doing”sides” does definitely qualify one as a whimp. Hope they all drown.

  4. Fascinating stuff, John.
    The British structure and system of government is so secretive and top-down that about 10 years ago I thought it would be a very useful exercise to produce an organisation chart of it. The intention would be to produce the sort of wallchart that many of us from the private sector are used to. I thought it would be useful to schools and citizens to know what the management system is, where the authority lies and who to write to when something goes wrong. Therein lies a major problem: they don’t want to hear from us.

    I never went ahead and more recently I read an article on the TA website about this very subject. It stated that NO ONE in government has an overall view (let alone control) of govt organisation. Not even the Prime Minister. Meaning that there is no meaningful management system and when one minister wants to do X, he just creates a new dept/agency/quango to do it, and the taxpayer pays the bill.

    But none of that should mislead us into thinking that many depts of govt, most notably the Home Office/MI5 et al, don’t have us under surveillance and have created plenty of powerful laws to protect themselves from ‘us’. The various anti-liberty laws and CCA passed by New Labour and money laundering laws from Thatcher are just a few examples.

    The system has survived for so long because it has ridden on the back of broad economic growth and improved prosperity. But as we all know, this era is fast coming to an end, mainly because of their incompetence/corruption. This will put immense pressure on to the fake democracy we have. The great fear must be that when the house of cards falls down, it will be replaced by ‘the fascist mob’.

  5. every Empire throughout history has suffered the same fate,the elite giving the serfs entertainment to keep their minds off of the deep brown stuff they wallowed in.The upper classes gambling while everything burned,twas ever thus,and I share your fears,but think we are a lot nearer to Armageddon than we guess.Roll on Mad Max.

  6. Good and insightful post John.

    Do you get the faint whiff of Rome burning and its elite living in LaLa Land and cosseting themselves from the meltdown of the peasants outside?

    If you want to know how Microsoft and the banks got so big, ask Govt. The body politic was a criminal ponzi scheme set up by the elite to ratchet their wicked ways on society and it has done its job. Central banking and big corporate monopolists the world over have never had it (and their way) so good.

    The miracle of China is no such thing. It is the ‘miracle’ of the Govt getting out of the f’ing way. Here in the West we’re going the exact opposite. Regulated to hell to kil jobs and kill primarily small business competition for the elite.

    Need proof? It’s coming out of our ears. British banks are massive because Govt regulation has shut out new small competitors for 100 years. We have the bloated bankrupt dinosaurs the Govt and elite designed in their own image.

    Only freedom and free (competitive) markets provide human progress and wealth creation. Govt and monopolists are the real cheats (scum) in society

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