This post has been coming for a while.
Regular readers will know that I am vehemently opposed to the surveillance and database states that this current Labour “government” (I use “government” in quotes because the Labour administration is unworthy of the name) is obsessed with. I believe strongly that stupidity should not be tolerated and should be highlighted and challenged. As this Labour “government” worships the ideas of the surveillance and database states and is demonstrably stupid in areas such as understanding the internet, much of my writings here are concentrated on those issues.
Anyone who values personal freedom and privacy should vote Conservative at the next General Election. If you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984 then you should.
Yes folks, crank up the Led Zeppelin classic Whole Lotta Love (used to be the countdown music on Top Of The Pops for anyone under 25 who hasn’t got a clue what I’m on about. It’s on my playlist and air guitars are not compulsory *smile*) because here are three reasons why I think Labour is unworthy of being in government*. Better get yourselves a cup of tea because this is a long post:
3. Andy Burnham – Lacking Clue
A classic illustration of someone who doesn’t understand the internet and the information age in which we live. “Let’s stop people expressing their thoughts and opinions on the internet”…
Shortly after the launch meeting of the UKCCIS, Culture and Media Secretary, Andy Burnham, was heard to remark: “We have to start talking more seriously about standards and regulation on the internet.
“I don’t think it is impossible that before you download something there is a symbol or wording which tells you what’s in that content. If you have a clip that is downloaded a million times then that is akin to broadcasting.
“It doesn’t seem over-burdensome for these to be regulated.”
These are either the words of someone who hasn’t the first idea how user-generated content works – or alternatively, a man with a very sinister plan indeed. YouTube alone is estimated to generate ten hours of new content every minute. Similar ratios are to be found on other popular user-driven sites.
So it is possible he just doesn’t get it – that he doesn’t understand how the user-driven aspects of the internet are making it into a very different place from the good old days of push-content web 1.0.
Mr Burnham is not a fan of the user-generated side of the internet. In a a speech to the Royal Television Society last week, he appeared to take another swipe at user-generated content, contrasting it unfavourably with opinion delivered by traditional channels.
“The internet as a whole is an excellent source of casual opinion,” he said. “TV is where people often look for expert or authoritative opinion.”
Excuse me? Looking to tv for authoritative opinion? Not in this regeneration! What planet are you on? Read the comments page after the article to see what other people – people who live in the real world – think of Mr Burnham’s ideas.
John Ozimek continues his piece after Mr Burnham’s comments:
While the internet contains much that is tawdry and second-rate, at its best it is also more than capable of leading the way for the rest of the world. The main difference is that government can regulate broadcasting – but at present has no such luxury over the internet.
Governments across Europe are not altogether happy with the way in which user-generated content is allowing debate to open up on issues in ways they can no longer control. Recent abortive attempts by the European Parliament to clamp down on blogs are just one example of this trend.
In the UK, government has begun to take a more active stance on taking down content deemed to be “inappropriate” – with the Home Office actively pursuing plans to block material that is not actually illegal to possess.
The Register decided to challenge Mr Burham’s ideas. Simply put, Mr Burnham’s department, the Ministry for Culture, Media and Sport, wasn’t able to provide any kind of explanation or even a draft framework.
In other words, Ministerial speculation is okay, but speculating about speculation is not. The Register took up the challenge and with the help of a pencil and the back of an envelope came to some startling conclusions.
He said: “I think there is definitely a case for clearer standards online. You can still view content on the internet which I would say is unacceptable. You can view a beheading.”
“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people.”
How Burnham proposes to promulgate his views of acceptability internationally wasn’t made clear in either interview, but he conflated any moves to do so with the incoming Obama administration. “The change of administration is a big moment. We have got a real opportunity to make common cause,” he said. “The more we seek international solutions to this stuff – the UK and the US working together – the more that an international norm will set an industry norm.”
Ah, linking his censorship ideals with the incoming Obama administration. Nice try Andy, but that tactic won’t work with me. I think I’ll write a post interpreting President Obama’s inauguration speech for the Labour “government”. Anyway, the comments page after Chris Williams’ report makes interesting reading**
Lacking clue and understanding, that’s our Culture, Media and Sport secretary.
2. Hazel Blears – Dislikes Dissenting Voices
In the face of more people blogging about how incompetent the “government” is, Hazel Blears went off on one about how all the political bloggers are all nasty Toryboys:
“mostly, political blogs are written by people with disdain for the political system and politicians, who see their function as unearthing scandals, conspiracies and perceived hypocrisy…
Until political blogging ‘adds value’ to our political culture, by allowing new voices, ideas and legitimate protest and challenge, and until the mainstream media reports politics in a calmer, more responsible manner, it will continue to fuel a culture of cynicism and despair.”
OK Hazel, let me tell you what I write about here in VFPJ. Sometimes I write about life, but that in itself can be a bit dull. After all, everyone gets up, goes to the karzi, cleans their teeth, does the shopping, et cetera. Sometimes I write about cricket. There are no half measures with cricket, you either get it or you don’t. Sometimes I write about business matters, often from a customer service perspective. I seldom go through a service experience without thinking how it can be improved.
Sometimes I write about stupidity. OK, I write a lot about stupidity. Because it covers the surveillance state and the database state, both of which I find stupid and vehemently objectionable and offensive. Why? Because I believe in the rights to free speech and a private life free from government interference.
This blog is a relatively new voice promoting the ideas of free speech and a private life free from government interference which are legitimate challenges to the Labour “government’s” neo-Stalinist ideology. Sorry if you don’t like it Hazel, but that’s freedom of speech for you. I deeply dislike and am fundamentally opposed to this “government” and will encourage everyone I can reach through this blog to vote Conservative at the next elections.
Toryboy? I’m 37 so I don’t really count as a boy. If believing in the rule of sensible, evidence based law and the right to a private life free from government interference makes me a Tory then I’m a Tory.
Nasty? You should hear the laughter that comes from where I live. I love to laugh, I love to make people laugh. I’m a pretty easy going guy. To quote Edmund Blackadder, “At least when I’m in the mood I can be amusing!”. Friends often seek my advice because of my logical nature. Which comes in very useful for taking apart spin and poor excuses. So no, not nasty. Constructively critical is much more accurate.
And now… coming in at number 1, you knew it wouldn’t go away. That long standing chart topper of reasons to vote Conservative at the next election…
1. THE DATABASE AND SURVEILLANCE STATES – “The all knowing, all seeing trash heap”
“We’ve taken care of everything, the words you read, the songs you sing, the pictures that give pleasure to your eye” – Rush, “2112”
This Labour “government” is obsessed with knowing everything about people. The Gestapo and the Stasi were well known for their extensive keeping of files about people they viewed as threats to the state. This Labour “government” wants to go a step further: knowing everything about everybody. This will be done by the imposition of compulsory ID cards.
Where you live, what you eat, where you travel to and from, who you telephone, who telephones you, who you e-mail, who e-mails you, which websites you visit, which groups you have joined, which television programmes you watch, where you travel, your bank details, what you do when you’re out of the country, your full medical history…
Let’s ignore the abject record of this “government” in dealing with personal data safely and securely. Let us also ignore the fact that previous IT projects and this “government” haven’t exactly been altogether smooth. These are two pretty huge reasons why ID cards are a bad idea before we start.
The man who started this ball rolling is David Blunkett. Now even he is recognising that there is a growing backlash against ID cards. His solution is a typical New Labour solution: rebrand it. Same old stuff, different cover. This time it’s a more cunning plan to get people onto the all-seeing database even faster than with the ID card project: compulsory passports.
That’s right. Even people who have never been out of this country and who do not intend to leave these shores will be required to possess a passport. The days of faceless uniformed goons demanding “Papers please!” from people walking the streets of this country are coming closer.
The Surveillance society has received another “governmental” increase with the announcement of a proposal that would allow the Home Office and local councils to instruct your local pub, off licence and supermarket to install CCTV with the explicit intention of closely monitoring the purchasing of alcohol.
As an aside, I got ID’d while recently buying a half bottle of Merlot (whilst I can’t drink the stuff it does make an excellent cooking ingredient for beef). I don’t drive, my passport stays safely stored at home and I don’t have a credit card. I’m also 37. If someone tells me they think I look under 18 or under 25 then I’m going to be very suspicious of their motives and possibly their intelligence. Dorian Gray I am not. The last time I got asked for ID was when I was getting a round in at a pub with friends after an amateur dramatics performance about 15 years ago. To be fair to the landlord we’d come straight from the performance to the pub and hadn’t been as thorough as we might have in taking off the make up, so he did have a pretty good reason for asking.
Anyway, back on topic. Surveillance and database worship.
Dame Stella Rimington should know a thing or two about surveillance and the use of its technology. She is the former boss of MI5. So when she let rip and accused the “government” of creating a police state you have to accept that Dame Stella is coming to this debate with a lot more knowledge and experience of the issues than your average New Labour drone.
Nonetheless, a New Labour drone in the form of Tony McNulty did his duty and came forward to defend his “government’s” track record. Read the comments page to see the many derisory and critical responses to Mr McNulty. Who would you believe on security issues? The former (and honoured) head of MI5 or a politician? It’s a no-brainer really.
Please tell me you didn’t answer “politician”…
Here’s another example of this “government’s” obsession with the minutiae of our lives instead of dealing with the big issues: “The government will hit gangs where it hurts – on the internet and in their wardrobes.” Yes folks, we are headed down the path of government approved clothing. First it’s gangs. OK, gang crime is seen by many as an issue that needs to be dealt with. As pointed out by The Register, there is already existing legal provision for so doing.
So how is “gang” being defined here and how far will this extend? A group of football supporters all wearing their team’s strip? A group of Torchwood fans going to a convention all wearing RAF greatcoats? A group of Jehovah’s Witnesses all wearing the same shirts and trousers? Read the comments following that report and then think about the logical extension of this…
“Attention! You are an illegal gathering under the Approved Clothing 2009 legislation. You have 30 seconds to remove your clothing and disperse!”
After which, having removed their clothing, whichever group is being picked on gets arrested for being indecently dressed and exposing themselves. Which then gets them put on the Sex Offenders’ Register. You could end up being arrested for wearing a loud shirt, a leather jacket or satirical t-shirt and it ruining your life and career.
Mention of the Sex Offenders’ Register brings me nicely to another point:
The government could be planning to up the ante when it comes to material it doesn’t approve of – it may become illegal to even look at images, not merely possess them.
Let me repeat the bold part of that for your further consideration:
it may become illegal to even look at images, not merely possess them
Now I’m no legal expert here but surely the rule of law in this country is based upon evidence? Actual proof that something in breach of the law was committed. Not hearsay, gossip or some malicious report but evidence resulting from an investigation carried out under due legal process.
This suggestion strikes me as so inherently wrong and so obviously the desires of those of a dictatorial bent that I can barely find the words to express my thoughts. So here are 117 of them from other people.
And finally (for now) here’s a stark warning from The Register
Be careful who your online friends are, as they could well damage your career. That is the slightly chilling warning sent to us this week by a reader who works at a senior level providing IT support on a range of Government projects…
He writes: “I’m not clear on what the official line is on Facebook regarding vetting but we are being told to remove ourselves from social networking sites if we are going to Developed Vetting (DV or Positive Vetting) clearance. I think this is mainly because the interviewers are asking candidates to justify their relationship with everyone on their ‘friends’ list”.
He adds: “Social engineering is a complicated art for the boys south of the river and I don’t profess to understand all of their knowledge/paranoia. Next they’ll be going through our address books. I understand they need to be cautious about who they allow access to top level information but I think there are better ways of establishing trust than this.”
The article goes on to discuss ways of vetting people. Now I accept that the security services need to take further steps to verify the fit and proper nature of a person to undertake their kind of work, but are we seeing a reliance on yet another faceless system, this time one of statistical analysis?
Speculation aside, the message is clear: what you put out on social networking sites can come back to haunt you. When it comes to vetting, it’s not just the embarrassing pictures that matter; embarrassing friends – and possibly even friends of friends – may matter as well.
That’s why this Labour “government” wants to know all about you.
In conclusion, if you haven’t twigged it yet I’ll spell it out for you in simpler language.
In the eyes of this Labour “government” we are all criminals, they just haven’t yet written a law to criminalise what we do. They will soon enough if given a chance. Censorship. The restriction of free speech. The merciless and continuing invasion of privacy. The desire to lock you up on hearsay or about something you may have seen but do not possess so have no evidence to prove that charge. The imposition of compulsory identification documents. The desire to monitor every website visited, e-mail sent, phone call made and e-mail sent. The overwhleming desire to control every aspect of our lives isn’t the sign of a democratic goverment which exists to serve its citizens, it is the sign of a dictatorship intent on imposing its will on the citizens.
Talking of monitoring e-mails, I urge people to join the CC Jacqui Smith campaign. The premise is simple enough – for one day (June 15th) everyone will copy every e-mail they send and receive to Jacqui Smith. That’s assuming a) this lot are still in power and b) Jacqui Smith is still Home Secretary.
I will repeat what I said at the start of this article: Anyone who values personal freedom and privacy should vote Conservative at the next General Election. If you haven’t read George Orwell’s 1984 then you should.
So yes Hazel Blears, I am a strong critic of your “government”. I am a strong critic of stupidity, wherever I find it and in whatever form it takes. It just happens that this Labour “government” is doing its best to monopolise stupidity.
* Please be warned that some of the comments pages I’ve linked to here do contain strong language which may not be suitable for minors or workplaces. Given that we’re discussing the Labour “government’s” stupidity in law making, the invasion of privacy and the destruction of civil liberties by those politicians some strong language is perhaps understandable even if undesirable.
** I’m not in favour of viewing beheadings on the internet or on television in general. It’s not the sort of stuff I go out seeking. I didn’t get up this morning and think “I could just do with watching a beheading to go with my Coco Pops”. If a news website in another country chooses to put such footage online then that is their decision, not ours. Let’s just ignore the “Why the hell do you let your kids on the internet unsupervised for hours at a time?” debate for now.