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The Road From Legitimate Suspicion To Rampant Paranoia

Taking a break from housework yesterday I flicked through a few channels and found an episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation being shown.  The episode shown was “The Drumhead”, a story about a Starfleet admiral who sees everyone as consipirators and spread mistrust and paranoia anywhere and everywhere she goes.  Because of her high rank very few people have the influence or authority to challenge her obsessions while many others fall under her spell.  The witch hunt is only stopped once it became clear to a superior that she was zealously pursuing the investigation, in the absence of evidence, for personal reasons.

It struck me that there are a few similarities between the issue covered by this episode and the current political climate in the UK and how the Houses of Parliament are dealing with the Digital Economy Bill (link to Twitter search on the topic, some very relevant responses).

It’s already widely known that Sith Lord Mandelson now believes that internet users are all criminal scum who download pirated music, games, films, terrorist device plans and spread evil gossip and misinformation about this control freak government.  He believes that the bedrock of British Law, the concept of innocent until proven guilty, should not apply to internet users such as you and me.  Merely a whisper of an allegation should be enough to get sanctions taken against people.  No trial, so no due legal process before a judge.  That is what New Labour stands for.

Given Sith Lord Mandelson’s attitude one might have expected opposition parties, particularly opposition members in the House Of Lords, to run a very fine tooth comb through the Digital Economy Bill and rip the right removing sections from the legislation.

In fact the complete opposite took place.  Liberal Democrat peer Lord Clement-Jones and Conservative peer Lord Howard of Rising proposed an Amendment which would give the state power to block any website once an allegation of copyright breach had been received.  A court would decide whether the block was appropriate but legal fees are astronomically expensive – how many of us can afford a QC to tell a mega corporation that there is no copyright infringement?  Far from depoliticising the process, it gives power to the corporations at the expense of the likes of you and me.  Small site operators will shut their sites down in the face of a legal threat from a mega corporation.  That’s back door censorship.

That’s right, Lord Clement-Jones holds a Liberal Democrat seat in the House Of Lords.  Lord Howard holds a Conservative seat.  Together the LibDems and the Conservatives would have enough numbers to stop the “government” enacting this Bill onto the statue books.  But no, these two supposedly intelligent men collaborated with the “government” and pushed their Amendment through.

The idea of a Liberal Democrat and a Conservative collaborating with this “government” sickens me to my very core.  How can Nick Clegg and David Cameron justify the conduct of their respective party’s peers?

How is this Amendment consistent with Liberal Democrat values?  How about “it isn’t” as an answer?  How about a little research into Lord Clement-Jones?  After all, there must be a reason why someone claiming to be Liberal and Democratic could propose something as Orwellian as his Amendment.  Here’s what Richard Wilson at Don’t Get Fooled Again found

From the Register of Lord’s Interests

CLEMENT-JONES, Lord

*12(b) Parliamentary lobbying

Partner of DLA Piper (international law firm) and adviser to its global government relations practice.

The member is paid £70,000 in respect of his services as Co-Chairman of DLA Piper’s global government relations practice

The member acts personally for TransMedics Inc, a medical technology manufacturer

The member acts personally for Eli Lilly and Company, the pharmaceutical manufacturer

The member acts personally for University of Cambridge Local Examination Syndicate

The member acts personally for Raytheon Company a defence and homeland security technology company

*12(f) Regular remunerated employment

Partner DLA Piper UK LLP

*12(h) Secretarial research and assistance

Secretarial assistance paid for by DLA Piper UK LLP

And here’s what DLA Piper have to say about their work on “Intellectual Property”:

DLA Piper’s Intellectual Property and Technology practice is one of the largest groups of IP lawyers in the world… When disputes arise, your commercial objectives are our main concern…

Our IP experience includes IP litigation as well as representation in areas such as applications, prosecution, and filings for patents, trademarks, and copyrights…

The ability to advise on all aspects of technology law expands the efficiencies and breadth of service for our clients – we offer advice on all related IP matters such as advertising and promotion law, data security, digital media content, e-commerce/Internet transactions, and privacy protection. We also help develop compliance programs in response to new corporate policies or national and local government regulations, including IP, privacy, or quality control audits.

Wherever you are, and whatever your industry, you need people you can trust to meet your IP business objectives…

That’s right.  Lord Clement-Jones is a partner in a law firm that stands to benefit from this legislation.

Conflict of interests anyone?  More vested interest protecting vested interests.

Pathetic and self-serving.  I have no hesitation in branding Lord Clement-Jones a disgrace to his party.  25 other Liberal Democrat PPCs have made their opposition to the Amendment clear in an open letterAnother open letter is a little more direct.  Equally I have no hesitation in branding Lord Howard of Rising a disgrace to the Conservative party.

Cory Doctorow takes them to task in his Guardian column for their desire to outlaw web locker sites as wellFrancis Davey’s analysis is also worth a read.

So we have vested interests protecting vested interests, even in the House Of Lords.  Nobody challenging the paranoia spreading of this “government” with its desire to treat everyone as criminals.  Gordon Brown is incapable of using the word “innocent”, as you can see here where he says that not retaining the DNA of innocent people helps rapists.

That man is supposed to be the Prime Minister of a free and democratic country.

So how does this link to a Star Trek: TNG episode? Here are a couple of quotes for you to consider:

Lt Worf: “Sir, the Federation does have enemies! We must seek them out!

Capt Picard: “Oh, yes. That’s how it starts, but the road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think.  Something is wrong here, Mr. Worf.  I don’t like what we have become!

and

Capt Picard: “You know, there are some words I’ve known since I was a schoolboy: ‘ With the first link, the chain is forged.  The first speech censured, the first thought forbidden, the first freedom denied, chains us all irrevocably.’ Those words were uttered by Judge Aaron Satie as wisdom and warning. The first time any man’s freedom is trodden on we’re all damaged.  I fear that today…

and

Capt Picard: “We think we’ve come so far.  Torture of heretics, burning of witches, it’s all ancient history.  And then, before you can blink an eye, suddenly it threatens to start all over again.

Lt Worf: “I believed her… I helped her… I did not see what she was.

Capt Picard:  “Mr. Worf, villains who twirl their mustaches are easy to spot. Those who clothe themselves in good deeds are well-camouflaged.

Lt Worf: “I think, after yesterday, people will not be so ready to trust her.

Capt Picard: “Maybe. But she or someone like her will always be with us, waiting for the right climate in which to flourish. Spreading fear in the name of righteousness.  Vigilance, Mr. Worf.  That is the price we have to continually pay.

As I have already said, being vigilant does not excuse being stupid.

This week all the major parties have shown the kind of stupidity that is offensive to anyone who believes in a free, democratic society.

The road from legitimate suspicion to rampant paranoia is very much shorter than we think.  The House Of Lords has failed in its duty to hold the “government” to account and right the wrongs in this defective legislation.

There are some people on Twitter who are worth following for their discussions of the Digital Economy Bill and related issues:

Published inbad government ideascensorshipethicsFreedom Of Informationgovernmentparliamentaryprivacysurveillance state