BEHIND YOUR BACK SPECIAL: connecting narrow, specialist news to broader cultural threats

Why the Investigatory Powers Bill and Joint Enterprise Laws alone could make slaves of us all by 2020

There’s an excellent post at the Forbes site today by Emma Woollacott. For those who thought perhaps criticisms of the UK Government’s Investigatory Powers Bill might be the sole province of Jon Pilger and Jihadi John, Ms Woollacott’s piece is exemplary in its accessible deconstruction of the proposed legislation.

She writes about legal and regulatory impacts upon internet freedoms for, variously, The Times, Daily Telegraph and Financial Times, as well as BBC radio and numerous technology titles. This is her assessment of the proposed legislation being championed by Theresa May:

‘….the British public….look set for a level of surveillance that’s unprecedented anywhere in the western world….Announcing the bill, home secretary Theresa May said she’d ‘engaged’ with civil liberties groups before preparing the draft. It’s far from clear, though, how this engagement affected the final result – which goes way beyond anything seen outside the world’s most repressive regimes.’

The genetics of this legislation are very important. It is the bastard child of Newscorp criminality (bad guys the Government likes) and blogosmear lunacy (weird guys used by Leveson and the Government as an excuse to restrict diligent writers keen to hold the Executive to account). Much as May et al will try to position this as anti-terrorist in its aims, it predates both Hebdo and the November attacks on Paris.

In the hands of this or future governments of any hue, the Bill represents a clear and present danger to free speech, criticism, Opposition and resistance. In short, it has broader ramifications that go way beyond the libel laws. The neoliberally infected Conservative Party intends to give every rogue in politics, business, spying and finance sweeping rights to protect themselves from any investigation of their nefarious intent. Given the recent track record of that crew, it must be seen as a hammer-blow to free speech, and a carte blanche for the security services.

Broader still, it could be used effortlessly to suppress information that damns, contradicts or even calls into debate ideological ideas in the econo-fiscal sphere. As such, it is not governance: it is a brazen use of political power designed to render political reversal impossible.

Provenance, motives and ramifications: these are the things upon which the Good and True among us must focus at all times now….because the mass of people out there aren’t going to. Everything done in the name of a just cause has a potential knock-on effect. Ultimately, everything is capable of being connected to the power supply of unjust repression.

Such is also true when it comes to the law of ‘Joint Enterprise’. A first rate website called Jengba battles against at times seemingly overwhelming odds in a bid to stop those present at any kind of affray from being auto-convicted of ‘involvement’. Such verdicts not only happen on a horrifically regular basis: the law’s interpetation has been used to convict the entirely innocent bystander.

In immediate terms, it’s a civil rights issue. But along from there, it’s a moral hazard for target-obsessed constabularies keen to make their conviction numbers look better. And equally, it represents an open invitation for wannabe repressive governments to find one nutter chucking a petrol bomb….and bang up the other 340 peacefully demonstrating against the erosion of health services.

The revelation of provenance, motive and ramification is in theory hugely aided by the emergence of the Web. Indeed, the term itself suggests this: the movement at one end of a spider’s web alerts that predator to the existence of a fly.

I have, by the way, no problem at all with the analogy of journalist as predator…if the fly is busy defaecating on the sustenance of Justice.

But increasingly, the internet demarcates the very news it is over-supplying in the first place. And this makes it easier for those operating Behind Your Back.

Why the increasing demarcation of news is a very bad thing indeed

Go to any news/information website in 2015, and you will be hit by the design morés of the internet, which demand a strip-header dividing up the content into specialisms and genres. You won’t be aware of it any more, because the format has been around for so long now it’s like Reception for those who work in a corporate environment: it just is. It doesn’t make us think ‘why?’

Step back for a minute, however, and you’ll see that while the ‘front page’ still exists for so-called ‘breaking news’, entirely missing from most sites is the (for me) best feature of the Web. It’s the one saving grace that stops me from wishing the genie back in the bottle: the ability to source eclectic data quickly when answering the question ‘why?’

Among the blogatariat, this is commonly referred to as “joining up the dots”. It’s a phrase that always starts red lights flashing in my brain, because it is beloved of those who inhabit the lower labyrinths of the rabbit warren in search of a conspiracy theory. Their idea of joining up dots is to suggest that Prince Philip personally organised the Paris attacks in order to evoke an info crack-down, and thus protect the sexual secrets of at least one of his offspring. On the whole, I abhor the ‘democratisation’ of comment that has come with the Web: it has exponentially multiplied the smear so obviously favoured by sociopathic spin doctors and dear old Odd Uncle Algernon. Algies used to be kept under lock and key in the attic of upper class families, but today they are become The Man on the Clapham Keyboard….building the case for Cliff Richard’s species reclassification as a lizard.

However, in the hands of sane, well-educated ‘renaissance’ journalists and scrupulous contrarians like Anna Raccoon, Peter Jukes, Ian Fraser and Nicholas Wilson, the often entirely accurate  revelation of everything from paedomanic drivel and judicial corruption via media criminality and grand-scale financial fraud is given a helping hand.

Without such dedicated Truth-seekers using accessible facts to catch the powerful out, the goggle-eyed “Who, me?” gargoyle tendency out there would be holding all the cards. They already hold most of the face cards; but being neoliberal by nature, They Want it All.

What we need is more blogs, sites, collectives and publications generally out there showing not just a Big Issue, but also how that issue impinges on other liberties, and thus should be the concern of every citizen. Every citizen, that is, keen to avoid the motorway to serfdom being constructed at great speed by every élite from Washington and Canberra via Beijing, Berlin, Moscow and all stops to Westminster-on-Brussels.

18 thoughts on “BEHIND YOUR BACK SPECIAL: connecting narrow, specialist news to broader cultural threats

  1. Building the police state, nationally first, then globally.

    “Carbon combustion generates 80% of our energy. Control & taxing of carbon would give the elected ruling class more power & money than anything since Magna Carta, 1215 AD.”

    I can’t imagine our elected public servants slavering for more money & power, can you?


  2. “….repressive governments to find one nutter chucking a petrol bomb….and bang up the other 340 peacefully demonstrating against the erosion of health services.”
    And I wouldn’t put it passed a repressive government to actually provide the ‘light blue’ nutter. I’m sure it happens?


  3. Perhaps we should all present ourselves at our respective Police Stations and report ourselves for being NVE’s and auto conviction of involvement.
    Oh wait, police stations they aren’t open now are they? And after the next round of cuts, there won’t be any policemen around to deal with said crime….


  4. Yes indeed, we have the ‘boiling frog’ tactic by the Establishment freaks, on the freedoms of the people.
    Slowly but surely we are being herded into serfdom as the population is distracted by soap operas and celebrity tattle.
    Now and again we have an atrocity to sow Fear ,uncertainty and Doubt to prepare them for more repressive Laws and illegal wars.
    Nothing new here, to the aware


  5. As the consequences continue to unfold – the consequences of a harlequin set of incompetent politicians from US and EU who haven’t any clue how to govern and justify their rank – we see these clowns strutting around the theatre from city to city around the world having ‘important meetings’ that leave the MM mesmerised with their articulate rubbish .
    Meantime, there are new offerings of email encryption that are from free to inexpensive available to source on the internet. I highly recommend anyone to get encrypted tout de suite, and shut out these snooping agencies that like to sit on their backsides spying on you and me, mostly to make sure they are getting their unfair share of taxes, and in preference to shutting the borders and protecting you and me from anyone and everyone with destabilising intentions.
    Let’s shut them out – and get encrypted.


  6. At this rate the internet will be dead by 2020 but I am starting to move to encrypting everything anyway. As the race for more control over ordinary people occurs so the race to form defensive obstacles like this also grow.

    I am optimisitic a perfect encryption system can be made that cannot be broken and even better complies with their request for a key that will say “I am not an NVE” whereas the real key will say “time for war…”. Uniqueness and a 1-1 mapping does it.
    That is the defensive reaction as the keep upping the bar…


  7. I’ve been reading your blog for a couple of years now and I must say, you put what many people think into words, understandable ones at that, magnificently. Personally I know the potential of these powers, because they have always existed. I’m no expert in the legality, so I assume the Government legislation is to make evidence gathered via the powers that have always existed, legal in court, to be used as evidence? Of course the potential use of these powers is not confined to the collection of evidence, but also the manufacture of evidence and all what that could entail.


  8. This is all just an attempt to legitimise snooping that has been going on illegally for years anyway. Thomas Drake and Russ Tice both blew the whistle on blanket surveillance several years ago, but were mostly ignored by the MSM. It wasn’t until Snowden that this assault on privacy was given any press at all, (which is partly why I have reserved judgement on the purpose of his defection). The arrangements between the Five Eyes has meant that the N.S.A. can perfectly legally spy on the activities of those in the U.K./Canada/Australia/NZ (as such activity is overseas to them), and the result passed to G.C.H.Q./Canada/Australia/NZ. In turn, G.C.H.Q. can legally spy on the activity of those in the U.S./Canada/Australia/NZ and pass the results to their respective intelligence agencies.

    I have been using Tor and Tails for several years now, but I am under no illusions about the efficacy of the overfunded signals intelligence of the Septics and my native land. I have no doubt both would have been made illegal long ago if they could not be penetrated.


  9. I never did understand why, a few years ago, governments and media made a big issue out of the “unbreakability” of the Blackberry encryption. Could they maybe have wanted certain types to use Blackberrys?


  10. I’ve red this excellent post several times now but I still can’t see any way we’re going to stop these clowns other than by wheeling out the tumbrils… I can’t help it but I am really starting to wish evil upon those willing to inflict evil on this nation and its people ! You just know for sure sure the powers will be abused and I’d bet a few squids it’ll be within a year…


  11. I think what we actually need is a Constitution. If we had that (and lets hope it was a good one), the BBC would be told that their primary obligation was to uphold it.
    That might give them something they could focus on -and be judged on, unlike the present pathetic waste of money that some folks think it be nowadays. Might herald a new dawn, and also encourage them to scrutinise parliament and government a bit harder.


  12. @FTW

    I agree it might be an improvement on the current model. The problem would be who would ensure that the BBC was fulfilling its obligations under such a constitution. Unfortunately, a constitutional framework is only as strong as the integrity of those entrusted with its enforcement. The U.S. is an object lesson in what happens when finance monies are unlimited and total surveillance allows the bribery, blackmail (or if those fail, suiciding) of all those legislators/judges/journalists with a shred of conscience. History would suggest that psychopaths will usurp any large and complicated system of government eventually.


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