“…laws of this kind tend to create more people who, although not bad now, will be made bad, either by honest intention to resist State totalitarianism or by innocent association with others; by the commission of crimes not yet defined as such; or even, by mistake….“
From our Legal Correspondent, ‘Nosher’ Rosenberg ©2016. @wotmeguv?.con
Amid all the hoo-ha in the media over Trump’s election and the controversial amusement-stroke/frisson of horror of watching the reality TV star fumbling with the appointments of his ministerial team, the seven dwarfs (including at least one visibly congenital cretin), the rise and rise of ‘Lord’ Farage, Frozen Girl, and in the absence of any cohesive Parliamentary opposition, the Investigatory Powers Act was signed into law last week, making Britain one of the most intensively surveilled states in the world.
(Hi, how are you this morning?)
This is but the latest stage in a process that may be said to have begun historically with the network of informants created and operated by Sir Francis Walsingham, spymaster and counsellor to the first Queen Elizabeth.
Fitting therefore that her namesake, the second Queen Elizabeth (no relation) should have signed into law, superpowers allowing a whole range of statutory bodies, including the security services and even local authorities, unprecedented access unfettered by an increasingly alarmed judiciary to the private communications and records of everyone in the land – a strategy they have been steadily developing outside the law for a number of years.
When taken together with the accumulated powers of arrest and detention enshrined in the various anti-terrorism laws; coverage by CCTV (combined with face- and numberplate-recognition technology) being already more widely in use than in other countries; the banning of persons, trials-without-jury, extended powers of detention without trial, undercover policing and the extreme extension of criminalisation of modes of even private speech and behaviour that have come into being since 9/11 and the 7/7 bombings in London, the Investigatory Powers Act completes the total abolition of any sense or hope that the British citizen is in any way sovereign in his and her own country, or has any right to a private identity.
We are now in completely new, historically unprecedented territory.
These powers do not require there to be any suspicion that a person under investigation may be connected with terrorism or serious crime. They allow for the first time for the content of any electronic communication, spoken or written, to be inspected without a court order, as opposed to the mere facts of dates, times, locations and recipients being flagged.
Consequently the focus of the security State can be shifted towards political views, dissenting opinions, religious beliefs; material (or possibly not) facts relating to other investigations; possible indications of tax evasion, minor fraud (including benefit fraud), illegal occupation, immigration status; coercive behaviours and so on, and with an unnerving emphasis on intent: predicting tendencies to possible criminality or, indeed, voting intentions. Assumed tendencies that could, in time, themselves be made indictable in a court of law.
Add to that the powers to requisition and cross-reference current and historic data from global communication service providers, some of whom hold vast volumes of data logged from such innocent activities as online shopping, information enquiries, web profiles, subscriptions, log-ins, bona fide academic research, media viewing habits or even spelling lookups, any search terms entered being stored indefinitely against IP addresses; all social media messages and photographs (even in private folders); GPS locations, bank details, travel bookings, health records and so on and on and on – the rumoured ability of backdoor State-introduced malware to be used to commandeer and control the devices in your living-room, your workplace or even your pocket; your own technology, actively spying on you.
There is now nothing that has been evidenced by the use of any means of communication, by or under the heading of or even the mention of, anyone in the land, that cannot be known about us by any authorised body of investigators, for whatever reason; that might not, under existing or future law, be used against us.
Of course, we are blandly told, it is for our own protection. There are bad people out there, who need to be stopped.
Yes, and laws of this kind tend to create more people who, although not bad now, will be made bad, either by honest intention to resist State totalitarianism or by innocent association with others so minded; by the commission of crimes not yet defined as such; or even, by mistake: such systems being notoriously prone not only to error, but to wrongful and malicious intent.
A crime-free society is neither possible nor desirable: the element of criminality cannot be erased, anymore than can religious or ideological fundamentalism; nor should it be in a dynamic world. Without at least some ‘crime’ and concomitant efforts to combat it, without challenge a civilization atrophies. And definitions of what constitutes ‘crime’ depend on laws enacted and enforced differently in different legislatures: there is no absolute marker.
Moral relativism has led over centuries to the State we live in now. Today’s Establishment leaders were yesterday’s robber-barons. And, it can safely be argued, criminalisation of behaviours in fact creates, rather than eradicates, criminals; the so-called ‘war on drugs’ being a classic case in point. All prohibition is counter-productive.
What happens when the law changes, under a less ‘benign’ regime of the kind that are now vying for promotion in many countries of the world, including the USA and its special little friend, of course we cannot say: other than that history teaches us it will not be pleasant.
The unfortunate side-effect of passing such repressive legislation is merely to encourage the powers-that-be that they can go even further next time with minimal protest: the ‘boiled frog’ principle, that leads to the Othering of minorities, the proscription of opponents, the gulag, the torture rooms and the holocaust. The acquisition of data, uncontrolled and unaccountable, is uniquely enabling of the march to totalitarianism.
That such surveillance is becoming evermore globalised is equally disturbing. We are entering a very dark period in the human story and, as ever, Britain is leading the way – downwards.
Warning: contains confidential medical details some readers may find offputting
“The external Bogler is no longer a reliable guide to his general state of being”
I am wondering why I cannot seem to shift this feeling that my life, such as it was, has been stolen from me by cretins.
Looking around, I realise that I have done nothing with my little garden since the Summer. The grass on the tiny patch of lawn is rank, paths and steps green with algae and covered in the detritus of fallen leaves, bleached dog-bones, emerging weeds and the corpses of slugs accidentally squished as I blunder around in the darkness between my studio, where I live in hiding, and the cold, uninhabited interior of the house.
Returning from an obligatory journey to London, an absence of three days during which I received stoically the news that my mother has an incurable lung cancer, I did for about one hour put on the heating to drive away the damp and musty atmosphere of absence. It hasn’t really worked. I don’t generally have the heating on as I am locked in a feud with OVO Energy, a company that – if you don’t use enough energy for their computer’s liking – will simply fake an invoice to try to bully you into paying them an extra £30 or £40 a month, ‘to avoid further surprises’….
Instead, I go to my miserable cold bed in the dark, wearing two sweaters and a cat on my feet. In recent months, the mattress seems to have reneged on its early promise of firm support, so that in the chill of pre-dawn I find various parts of myself have lost nervous connection with my brain. Fitted sheets, too, have a habit of pinging off at the corners. It’s all rather silly, but the endless discomfort suits my mood of dark despair.
Lately, waking after only two hours’ sleep I have found myself having to go to the bathroom five or six times in the night. Producing anything at all requires a muscular effort that has a Newtonian, ‘equal and opposite’ reaction – forgive the indelicacy, but where John Donne opined that ‘No man is an island’ he was ignoring the sad truth that many of us do eventually become incontinent; perpetually blowing-off while leaking some unrecognisable ichor punctuated with inadvertent slimy semi-solids has become the new normal.
Being penetrated anally by cameras and scanners and a snipping tool in front of a curious audience did at least produce the news last month that my hyperplasic prostate is not life-threatening; merely life-enhancing (see above). However, the operation has done nothing to firm things up, and I suspect that the disturbing ventral sensations and digestive irregularities I have had to put up with for the past few weeks may also be connected. Who’s to say?
As a result I have become tired and fractious. Two five-hour train journeys in three days have not helped, bringing on an attack of the ‘Farmer Giles’ that made walking from the strangely empty apartment – she lived there for 50 years – to the hospital a crabwise shuffle enlivened by the occasional requirement to stop and shove things back. Returning on the first evening, I had happily got just inside the door before pissing myself thoroughly.
The whole sordid process being accompanied by non-specific aches and pains in the nether regions, both front and rear, I have simply assumed it’s an infection and will clear itself up eventually. In the Fulham Road, I am diverted by the sight of a man I take to be a well-known local eccentric, going about with a blue Macaw parrot on each shoulder, with whom he appears to be chatting. Catching sight of me looking curious, he glares defiantly. Otherwise, I rapidly become aware that London is a bastion of privilege and wealth, even for the ordinary people, and feel provincially under-dressed. Everyone seems to be an estate agent now.
To all the above we are pleased to add the deep gloom of Brexit and Trump, neither of which came as any surprise to me, although it seems to have totally dumbfounded the rest of the overrated liberal media establishment*. Politics has become a Rocky Horror Show, but without the script. Although one casts about for diversion, it is impossible to escape the spectacle of anguished liberal handwringing, the sackcloth and ashes, the bonfire of the vanities, the dire doomsaying of the fleeing pundits.
The hale external Bogler is thus no longer a reliable guide to his general state of being.
My apologies, but I have to go to rehearsal now. I’m playing a comic pirate.
I was joyfully appalled last night (19 December) to sit through a special edition of University Challenge, in which teams not of current students but of alumni now well-embedded in agreeable jobs mostly in the media, including one fulltime Guardian journalist, failed embarrassingly to answer a series of easy-peasy, Christmas-cracker questions put to them by a fawning Jeremy Paxman.
Only the fragrant Mary, Lady Archer (wife of novelist Jeffrey) appeared to have a clue about anything, as an ennobled former wheelchair athlete now President of some commité-sportif, and the BBC’s ‘Science editor’, Rebecca Mushroom, failed to volunteer a word between them; while even highly-paid op-ed columnists gurned vacantly and shook their tousled heads at the fiendish difficulty of it all. Vivaldi? Ah, of course! Wasn’t he the Arsenal manager?
Well, not as bad as that, perhaps, but quite bad. Actually, shocking – No-one has offered me a job anywhere in the past nine years, I didn’t go to a posh university or any at all, and I managed to answer probably half the questions myself, mostly correctly and at least quicker.
Shame on the liberal elite, if this is the best they can produce no wonder the fish-porters of Sunderland had the measure of them in June (I noticed there were no questions on Brexit).
Retail Prices Index
‘Inflation’ was less than expected this month at 0.6% owing in part to ‘lower food prices’…. Today’s shop:
- Jacob’s Creek Merlot (special offer – £6.50)
- Fruit juice 650ml
- Small piece of cheese
- 240 gm pack of ground coffee
- Ham, leek and potato readymeal for 1*
- 420 gm ox-heart (dogfood – reduced item)
Morrison’s price = £19.49
*I know, but I was going to be out all evening and had no time to cook.