Tuesday, December 6, 2016

The concerted effort to smear anti-fracking protesters as "extremists"


A report from Spinwatch has identified numerous schools, local councils and police forces that have been describing anti-fracking protests as "extremism", "extremists" and even "terrorist groups".

Labelling anti-fracking as "extremism" and "terrorism" 


The Spinwatch report identifies examples from various parts of the UK including North Yorkshire, Merseyside, Dorset and West Sussex. The unifying theme in all of these examples is that the documents and presentations equating anti-fracking protests with terrorism and extreme-right fanaticism are all linked with the Tory government's Prevent Strategy, which was signed off by Theresa May when she was Home Secretary.

Of course we know that the Tories are totally in hock to the fracking industry, so it serves their purposes to have their opponents labelled as "extremists" and "terrorists", but surely nobody in their right mind thinks that it's acceptable for multiple schools, councils and police forces to equate peaceful anti-fracking protests with savage murderers like ISIS and extreme-right fanatics like the MP killer Thomas Mair.

One of the worst examples of these smears against anti-fracking groups was identified in the Prevent policy of Chesswood School in West Sussex. The executive summary of their prevent policy identifies fracking protests as an "extremist ideology" associated with "terrorist groups" and equates environmental opposition to fracking with Al Qaida and far-right extremism.

British values


The Chesswood School Prevent document then goes on to define "extremist" as "vocal or active opposition to British values".

Whatever their opinion on the merits/harms of fracking, I'm pretty sure that most reasonable people would accept that anti-fracking protests consist of vocal or active opposition to fracking, not a vocal or active opposition to British values.

The Chesswood School Prevent strategy then goes on to define "British values" as respect for "democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty, mutual respect for and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, and those without faith".

The right to peaceful protest is an absolutely essential part of individual liberty. It's ludicrous to imagine that it's possible to have a free and liberal society without the right to protest against the actions of the government, major institutions or other individuals.

If anyone is guilty of disregarding "British values" it's clearly people who insist on smearing anti-fracking protesters as extremists and terrorists simply for opposing what they consider to be unacceptable environmental destruction. Anyone who denies the right to protest such issues is obviously denying individual liberty, and clearly opposing the Chesswood School definition of "British values".

If respect for democracy is a "British value" then many would argue that the Tory party are extremists because of their abject disrespect for democracy. Think about the Tory election fraud at the 2015 General Election, Theresa May's Supreme Court appeal to try to scrap the principle of parliamentary sovereignty and the decision by the Tory run North Yorkshire County Council to allow fracking in Ryedale despite the 131:1 scale of public opposition to the plan.

Tory extremism



This concerted effort to define opposition to fracking as "extremism" and "terrorism" ties in with another of Theresa May's appalling right-wing authoritarian schemes.

Since 2014 the Tories have been pushing an extremism strategy that would allow them to revoke the human rights of people who have committed no crime whatever.

If Theresa May's extremism policy becomes law, then law-abiding citizens could be banned from attending protests or public events, and have all of their online activities pre-vetted by the police.

All that would need to be shown in order to impose these restrictions on people's human rights is that there is a suspicion that the individual could become involved in "harmful activities".

Theresa May's definition of "harmful activities" includes "a risk of public disorder", "a risk of harassment, alarm or distress" and the extremely vague "threat to the functioning of democracy".

So if Theresa May gets her way people could have their rights to free speech, free assembly, the presumption of innocence and peaceful protest scrapped simply because some police officer says they suspect the individual may at some future point cause "alarm or distress" to specified or unspecified persons.

With such extraordinarily low thresholds it's easy to see how the government could use Theresa May's extremism orders to shut down legitimate peaceful protests. All it would take is for a police officer or fracking company employee to claim "distress" because of an anti-fracking protest, then individual law-abiding anti-fracking protesters could be rounded up and stripped of their human rights, banned from protesting again, and forced into a monitoring regime to censor everything they write on the Internet.

Before he resigned in shame after his EU referendum gamble backfired David Cameron summed up the objectives of this policy when he said that "for too long we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens 'as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone'."

It's extraordinary that a serving Prime Minister could get away with expressing such a sinister intention to interfere in the lives of law-abiding citizens, but the mainstream press gave him a free pass on it.

The mainstream media also gave a free pass to Theresa May who is the architect of this policy of stripping law abiding citizens of their human rights, and now this fanatical right-wing authoritarian is the Prime Minister, and still the mainstream media refuse to draw sufficient attention to her autocratic tendencies and her outright contempt for human rights.

Conclusion


It's impossible to not see the connection between this concerted effort to define anti-fracking protesters as "extremists" and "terrorists" and Theresa May's policy of stripping law-abiding citizens of their human rights.

The Tory party are clearly intent on serving the interests of the fracking industry. The widespread effort to brand anti-fracking protesters as "extremists" is clearly useful to the frackers, as will be the Tory policy of stripping people of their right to participate in public or online protests based on nothing more than a suspicion that "alarm" or "distress" may be caused.

You'd have to be staggeringly naive to imagine that the mainstream press would put up a fight to protect our human rights from this next Tory assault, especially given the way Theresa May's appalling Snoopers' Charter drifted into law with barely a whimper of opposition from the media. So it will be down to the public to stop the Tories from achieving their wet dream of labelling law-abiding citizens as "extremists" in order to criminalise peaceful protest.


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Monday, December 5, 2016

The Americans are winning at political farce


Politics in the United Kingdom is becoming ever more absurd. There's the leaked Tory memo demanding an end to leaks, there's the absolute fiasco of Brexit and Theresa May's "Brexit means Brexit" drivel when confronted with the evidence she doesn't have a clue what she's doing; there's Nigel Farage quitting British politics and desperately trying to set himself up as Donald Trump's butler; there's Theresa May's decision to give a massive big up to a disgusting Twitter troll by quoting him at Prime Minister's Questions; there's about half of Labour MPs still spending far more time and effort bitterly attacking their own leader than they do criticising the Tory government; there's the delusional Lib-Dems talking about "revival" because they've increased their cohort of MPs from eight to nine; and there's Theresa May's inexplicable decision to appoint Boris Johnson (a man who has insulted nearly every nation on the planet) as her foreign secretary.

But no matter how lame and ludicrous politics in the UK gets, us British folk can always cheer ourselves up by laughing at the antics of our American cousins.

Of course millions of British people used the EU referendum to send an utterly self-destructive "fuck you" to the political establishment, but us Brits really have been completely outdone in the Incoherent Political Anger Stakes by the election of the billionaire narcissist Donald Trump as President of the United States.


One of Donald Trump's early picks to work in his government is a guy called Mike Flynn who is to serve as his national security adviser.

Back in November 2016 Flynn took the extraordinary step of Tweeting a ludicrous fake news story about a Hillary Clinton paedophile ring based out of a pizza restaurant in Washington. He described the fake news item as "MUST READ!" to his Twitter followers, then thousands upon thousands of people retweeted Flynn's fake news tweet.

Eventually the inevitable happened. On Sunday December the 4th 2016 someone decided to shoot up the restaurant named in General Flynn's  "MUST READ!"  fake news story. A gunman entered the crowded restaurant, threatened staff and then began shooting the place up. After his arrest the gunman told police that he was "self-investigating" the Hillary Clinton paedophile ring.

So when Donald Trump is sworn in as President, the United States is going to have a national security adviser who spreads ludicrous fake news stories that inspire crackpot conspiracy-theory believers to go and shoot up American restaurants. America is sure going to be safe and secure with a reckless idiot like that in charge of national security!

Meanwhile Donald Trump has blundered from one display of incompetence to another before he's even been sworn in. Trump has been bragging about his Carrier deal as if it was some magnificently brilliant intervention to offer tax breaks to a company that was threatening to export American jobs to Mexico.

What Trump's actually done is sent a signal to every corporation in America that if they threaten to scrap American jobs then the Trump administration will give them a load of taxpayer funded bribes to make them stop. He's basically said that American corporations can now hold the government hostage for handouts by threatening to destroy American jobs.

Then there's the diplomatic war that Trump has started with China. Talking with the Taiwanese President was always going to rile the Chinese, but instead of admitting his diplomatic blunder, Trump has doubled down by slinging a tirade of insults and criticism at the Chinese.

Trump is clearly the kind of dangerously belligerent hothead who can never admit that they've made a mistake. He's not even been sworn in as President yet but he's determined to trigger World War Three with his loose cannon diplomatic blundering.

In 2017 us Brits have the farcical unravelling of Brexit to look forward to, but our American cousins always have to outdo us by doing things bigger and better, and when it comes to political farce, whatever lunacy and incompetence Theresa May and her Brexiteer charlatans can come up with, Donald Trump and his cronies are certain to go much further.


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The Daily Mail howls of anguish that Norbert Hofer lost


The re-run of the 2016 Austrian Presidential election ended in a reasonably convincing victory for the left-wing candidate Alexander Van der Bellen over Norbert Hofer of the extreme-right Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs.

Van der Bellen stood as an independent candidate, but he's still a member of the Austrian Green Party that he was the leader of between 1997 and 2008. This means that he will be the first Green Party politician ever to serve as an elected European head of state when he is sworn in on January 26th 2017.

The defeated candidate Norbert Hofer represents Europe's growing extreme-right fringe. His Austrian Freedom Party was founded by former Nazis and the first two leaders of the party (Anton Reinthaller and Friedrich Peters) were both members of the SS during the Second World War. The Freedom Party is aligned in the European parliament with other extreme right-wingers like the French National Front, the Italian Northern League, Geert Wilders' Dutch Freedom Party and the absolute dregs of European politics like the (so corrupt she got thrown out of UKIP) independent MEP Janice Atkinson.

Hofer dislikes being called a fascist, but over the years he has done numerous things to appeal to fascists. One of the most famous examples of Hofer appealing to fascists was the time he wore the Nazi blue cornflower symbol in public. He regularly uses Nazi era language and terminology, he hangs out with extreme-right Greater Germany fanatics who deny Austria's nationhood as a fiction, and he refuses to endorse the longstanding anti-Nazi consensus in Austrian politics.


The fact that next President of Austria will not be a representative of Europe's extreme-right fringe has come as a relief to an awful lot of people. After the UK electorate voted for the chaos of a completely unplanned Brexit and then the American public voted for the chaos of electing a clearly unstable man-child as their President, the idea of Austria electing a fascist as their President didn't actually seem as utterly far-fetched as it would have done in the past.
It's understandable that a lot of people are relieved at this defeat for the lunatic far-right fringe, but the Daily Mail are bitterly disappointed at the failure of the extreme-right candidate they championed on so many occasions.

It should come as no surprise that the Daily Mail were backing the candidate for the extreme-right party that was founded by ex-Nazis in the 1950s. After all, back in the 1930s the Daily Mail were enthusiastic supporters of another extreme-right fanatic from Austria called Adolf Hitler.

The Daily Mail reaction to Hofer's defeat was an extraordinary rambling tantrum of a headline accusing relieved liberals of "gloating" and mourning the loss of their fantasy that Hofer's election would have severely damaged the European Union.

Is Europe's Brexit revolution over? Gloating left-wing supporters wave 'Thank God' signs after far-right candidate LOSES Austrian presidential election which was set to deliver body blow to the EU the headline wailed.

The idea that a win for Norbert Hofer would have delivered a "body blow" to the EU is fantastical gibberish. Hofer knew perfectly well that he would stand absolutely no chance of winning the Austrian Presidency if he threatened to drag Austria out of the EU, so he repeatedly expressed pro-EU sentiments. He talked about a referendum on Austrian membership of the EU, but only if the EU introduces a new (and spectacularly unlikely) centralisation and federilisation treaty.

The pathetic efforts of the right-wing press in the UK to dress Hofer up as some kind of Austrian Nigel Farage were totally undermined by Hofer repeatedly saying stuff like "It would undoubtedly damage Austria if it were to leave the EU". But then when did gullible extreme-right fanatics like Daily Mail and Express readers ever let stuff like facts, evidence, or reality get in the way of their favoured political narratives?

The Daily Mail habit of trying to warp every bit of news to suit their anti-EU agenda was already preposterous, but trying to make out that a win for Hofer would have resulted in Brexit for Austria (Öexit) is totally fantastical rubbish. Even if Hofer had've won and then conducted a total U-turn on his EU stance, there's pretty much no chance that the Austrian public would have voted to quit the EU even if Austrian Presidents had the power to call a referendum, which they don't.

As for left-wing people "gloating", I'm pretty sure most of the celebrating Austrians were just mightily relieved to avoid the absolute embarrassment of having a far-right fanatic as their head of state.

On the other hand the piteous wailing from the Daily Mail at the defeat of their favoured extreme-right candidate certainly is cause for celebration.


The thought of some dejected Daily Mail hack crying into their keyboard over the defeat for their favoured Nazi iconography wearing extreme-right fanatic is enough to lift the spirits of anyone with the remotest shred of human decency.

The most up-voted comments beneath the Daily Mail article really are indicative of the putrid right-wing mentality that is infesting political dialogue in the UK. Several comments make the same feeble excuses for Hofer, pretending that he has no history of wearing Nazi iconography or leading a political party founded by ex-Nazis. As far as these Daily Mail readers are concerned, Hofer is apparently "only slightly right of centre". The Daily Mail readership adore Hofer because he shares the same vitriolic hatred of immigrants, and especially Muslims, as they do. Therefore Hofer can do no wrong, and anyone pointing out the fascist roots of his party is a "leftie hand-wringer".

Imagining the impotent rage of these bigoted Daily Mail mind-washed fascism apologists over the defeat of their latest extreme-right demagogue is another thing to brighten the day of any decent human being.



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Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Tories just sanctioned a blind man for not being able to read


The Tories just sanctioned a blind man for the "crime" of not being able to read! Alan Moody suffers from cerebellar ataxia and blindness. The DWP hit him with a benefits sanction for missing a disability denial WCA assessment that they only informed him about by letter.

Every time you hear an appalling story like this it's vital to remember that these savage Tory punishment regimes actually cost the taxpayer far more to administer than they save in reduced benefits payments.

It's been known since January 2016 that the Tory disability denial factories cost far more in corporate outsourcing fees to administer than they will ever save in reduced benefits payments.

In December 2016 a damning National Audit Office report found that the brutal Tory benefits sanctions regime also costs far more to administer than it saves in reduced benefits payments to the unemployed.

Sanctioning a blind man for the "crime" of not being able to read the letter they sent him is appalling enough in it's own right, but anyone who pays the remotest bit of attention to the Tory sanctions regime and their disability denial regime knows full well that extraordinarily unfair cases like this are all too common (see the list of examples in this article).

I'll say it again just to be clear. Every time you hear about someone who has been unfairly thrown into absolute poverty by benefits sanctions or had their disability benefits unfairly stopped by the Tory disability denial system, it's vital to remember that this savage mistreatment of vulnerable people actually costs the taxpayer money.

The Tories are so damned malicious that they see their savagely unfair sanctions and disability denial regimes as "taxpayers' money well spent".

Maybe there are some appallingly vindictive right-wingers out there who actually enjoy the thought of their tax money being spent on abusing disabled and unemployed people, but surely anyone with a shred of human decency should be absolutely outraged at the thought of their tax money being used to treat human beings in such appalling ways.


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Saturday, December 3, 2016

The cost of Tory malice


For the last six years the Tories have harked on endlessly about the need to save money to justify their austerity con, but when it comes to the treatment of vulnerable people they've proven themselves perfectly happy to waste hundreds of millions of pounds on schemes designed to force vulnerable people into destitution, anxiety, stress and depression.

The Tories have wheeled out their "saving money" rhetoric to justify all kinds of socially and economically ruinous lunacy like the forced closure of NHS services all over the country, massive cuts to police, military and emergency services budgets, the scrapping of university maintenance grants and NHS bursaries, savage local council cuts, the annihilation of flood defence spending, abandoned and delayed infrastructure projects, and severe cuts to wages and to in-work benefits for the working poor.

But there are now two glaring examples of the Tory government actively wasting money in order to pursue their malicious ideological vendetta against people they consider to be way below them on the social pecking order.

Disability denial factories

It's been known for almost a year that the cost of the Tory policy of putting disabled people through humiliating Work Capacity Assessments far outweighs the savings from reduced disability benefits claims. Ever since the cost to the taxpayer of this regime was revealed the Tory government has been absolutely determined to carry on wasting money in this way.

Given that the WCA reign of terror for disabled people costs far more in corporate outsourcing fees than it will ever save in reduced benefits payments, it would make sense for a government that actually cares about saving money to abandon the policy, but the Tories absolutely refuse to.

The fact that the Tories absolutely will not scrap the appalling WCA reign of terror for disabled people even though it costs far more to administer than it will ever save is indicative of the disgusting Tory mentality.

The Tories are so desperate to strip disability benefits claimants of their social security that they don't give a damn that the corporate disability denial factories they've outsourced the work to cost the taxpayer way more money to administer than the money saved.

The sanctions regime
In November 2016 it was revealed that the savage benefits sanctions regime is another Tory welfare policy that costs far more to administer than it saves in reduced social security payments.

The Tory response to the slew of criticism of their sanctions regime was to spout a load of blatant lies and express their intention to carry on regardless of the money they're wasting in order to ruin people's lives.

It clearly doesn't matter to the Tories how much taxpayers' money they waste on their programme to condemn people to absolute destitution. They consider their policy of forcing people into starvation and homelessness to be a brilliant investment that's worth every penny of the tens of millions of pounds per year it costs the taxpayer.

It's absolutely clear that the Tories are so intent on humiliating disabled people and condemning benefits claimants to absolute destitution that they're actually prepared to waste hundreds of millions of pounds of taxpayer's money to do these horrific things.

As far as the Tories are concerned these schemes to humiliate and impoverish vulnerable people are money well spent.

Mainstream media complicity

Unfortunately the majority of mainstream media commentators don't give a damn about the fact that these outrageously malicious Tory schemes actually cost the taxpayer money. Most of them are apparently way too busy whining about immigrants, propagandising against Jeremy Corbyn, fawning over Theresa May and abusing judges to care.

These schemes ruin the lives of hundreds of thousands of people every year. The decisions to put people through these appalling situations are often staggeringly unfair. Consider the ridiculously harsh reasons people have been hit with benefits sanctions or the fact that one of the disability denial decision makers was a bigoted Britain First fanatic who gleefully used her position to discriminate against disabled people from ethnic minorities.

If the mainstream press wanted to stick up for people who have had their lives absolutely devastated by these appalling Tory schemes, there are easily enough cases for them to run front page headlines every day, but they chose not to because most comfortably well-off mainstream media hacks simply don't care about the fact that "the lower orders" have to endure the taxpayer subsidised Orwellian nightmares of disability denial assessments and the sanctions regime. They're comfortable in their bubbles of privilege and they wouldn't want to rock the boat by incurring the wrath of savagely right-wing press barons like Rupert Murdoch, the Barclay brothers, Richard Desmond and Jonathan Harmsworth by daring to criticise the Tory government.
The vast majority of the mainstream media won't explain what's going on which means that it's up to people like us to spread the word.

Not only are the Tories guilty of the savage mistreatment of disabled people and the unemployed, they're also guilty of wasting hundreds of millions of taxpayers' money to administer these utterly barbaric schemes.


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Friday, December 2, 2016

The hypocrisy of the Daily Mail knows no bounds


The hypocrisy of the Daily Mail clearly knows no bounds.

On December the 2nd 2016 the Daily Mail front page included a fond farewell to the actor Andrew Sachs who played Manuel in the 1970s comedy show Fawlty Towers.

Andreas Siegfied "Andrew" Sachs was born in Berlin in 1930 and arrived in Britain with his parents in 1938 as a Jewish refugee from Nazi Germany.

Back in the 1930s the Daily Mail was actively cheerleading for Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany. They also supported Oswald Mosley's British Union of Fascists and openly encouraged their readers to join the fascist movement in the UK.


In 1938, in the year of Andrew Sach's arrival in the UK as a child refugee, the Daily Mail ran an editorial whining about the way Jewish refugees were "pouring" into the UK and describing the arrival of these refugees as "an outrage" (see image).

If the Daily Mail would have had their way in the 1930s the eight year old Andrew Sachs would have been sent back to Nazi Germany to be persecuted and eventually exterminated in a Nazi concentration camp.

The hypocrisy of celebrating the life and career of a guy their own newspaper would have condemned to death is staggeringly hypocritical, even by the Daily Mail's woeful standards.

The most sickening thing about this utter hypocrisy from the Daily Mail is that they're still pushing exactly the same kind of disgusting anti-refugee propaganda as the 1930s, just the targets these days are refugees from the appalling Syrian civil war, not Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany.

One of the most extraordinary things about this Daily Mail front page is that they actually juxtaposed their fond farewell to the German born migrant Andrew Sachs against a front page headline whining about the current levels of migration into the UK!

Not only did the Daily Mail have the brass neck to celebrate the acting career of a guy their newspaper would have condemned to death in the Nazi concentration camps, they were also blatantly playing the game of using glaringly incompatible front page headlines to ridicule the idiocy of their own readers again.


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Another humiliating slap-down for Zac Goldsmith


As regular readers will know I'm not a big fan of the so-called Liberal Democrats. Most of my contempt for them stems from their strategically inept decision to enable the Tories back into  absolute power in 2010.

During the five years they propped up David Cameron's government the votes of elected Lib-Dem MPs and unelected Lib-Dem peers enabled 
all kind of appalling Tory malice. Years of socially and economically ruinous austerity, the flogging off of the Royal Mail at way below its true market value, "Bedroom Tax", the tripling of university student fees, the annihilation of flood defence spending (with disastrous consequences in several Lib-Dem constituencies), the NHS privatisation-by-stealth bill, Iain Duncan Smith's regime of terror for disabled people ... it was all enabled by Lib-Dem votes.


Perhaps even worse than the social and economic destruction the Lib-Dems helped David Cameron and George Osborne to inflict on the British public was the slew of gratuitously illiberal legislation that this supposedly "liberal" party helped to push trough.

No party with the word "liberal" in their name should ever have backed appalling stuff like Secret Courts, DRIPA, The Gagging Law or Theresa May's policy of tearing apart tens of thousands of British families. But that's precisely what the so-called Liberal Democrats did.

Even though the Lib-Dem's savagely illiberal actions between 2010 and 2015 speak very much louder than their cosy liberal words post-2015, I'm still pleased for their winning candidate in Richmond Park Sarah Olney.

Olney is very new to politics having only joined the Lib-Dems in July 2015. The fact that she joined them after the end of the toxic coalition with the Tories absolves her of the blame that much of the rest of the party deserve for their active participation in such a hard-right and illiberal government.

Another factor that makes Olney's victory very enjoyable is that as the de facto Liberal-Green candidate she managed to defeat the de facto Tory-UKIP candidate Zac Goldsmith.

It's an absolute pleasure to see how rapidly Zac Goldsmith's political career has collapsed after the failure of his bigoted BNP-style campaign to become the Mayor of London.

A lot of political commentators have tried to make this by-election all about Brexit, but in my opinion it represents something much bigger. It represents a resounding defeat for the bigoted right-wing dog whistle racism that Zac Goldsmith embraced in his failed bid to succeed his fellow Eton toff Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London.

The Lib-Dems have claimed that around a third of the Tory voters who abandoned Zac Goldsmith in order to vote for Sarah Olney were Brexit supporters who are disillusioned with the anti-democratic hard-right Brexit posturing and divisive immigration fearmongering of Theresa May and the Tories.

If the Lib-Dem claims are true and lots of Brexit supporters turned against the joint Tory-UKIP candidate in this by-election, it looks like a hefty slap-down for the hard-right bigotry that Zac Goldsmith was all-too-keen to appeal to during his failed mayoral campaign.

It seems that Goldsmith completely failed to learn his lesson that London doesn't want divisive extreme-right bigotry. He failed to distance himself from the Ukippers and Biffers who supported his by-election campaign, and he's lost his seat in parliament as a consequence.

If people do insist on viewing the Richmond Park by-election through the prism of Brexit, then one thing that really stands out is the way that Sarah Olney's win turns the plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative completely on its head.

Here we saw a comprehensive school educated political novice beating a well-connected, Eton educated, establishment insider from a super-rich elitist family. The novice from an ordinary background won for the Remain side and the establishment insider who took such a humiliating slap-down was a committed Brexiteer.

The idea of Brexit as an anti-establishment rebellion was ludicrous enough with people like Boris Johnson, Rupert Murdoch, Michael Gove, Iain Duncan Smith, Nigel Farage, Richard Desmond, Jonathan Harmsworth and Douglas Carswell cast as the working class anti-establishment heroes, but this by-election really did show this plucky anti-establishment Brexiter narrative up as the woeful drivel that it is.

Despite the joy any right-thinking person must feel at Zac Goldsmith's humiliation, it's vitally important to temper this surprise defeat for the hard-right with a bit of perspective. The joint Tory-UKIP candidate was beaten by a narrow margin in a wealthy liberal part of London. It's going to take an awful lot more effort to beat hard-right bigotry in places that have suffered appallingly as a result of four decades of relentless neoliberal economic dogma.

The "blame foreigners, blame refugees, blame the EU, blame lefties" snake oil of the extreme-right is obviously going to sell a hell of a lot better in politically abandoned places where huge numbers of people are desperately struggling to get by, than it does in well-to-do parts of London.

In conclusion I'd like to bid a cheery farewell to Zac Goldsmith's political career and hope that he never comes back (he'll probably soon reappear as an unelected crony in the House of Lords though, as is the Tory way), and I'd also like to wish all the best to Sarah Olney and hope that she represents a new start for the Liberal-Democrats; one that involves never again propping up hard-right illiberal Tory governments in return for a a few years of six figure ministerial salaries and chauffeur driven ministerial cars.



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Thursday, December 1, 2016

The intense gullibility of Snoopers' Charter cheerleaders


Unfortunately there are an awful lot of hopelessly gullible people in the United Kingdom. In fact these days the hopelessly gullible are clearly an important electoral demographic, hence the Tory government's ever increasing insistence on addressing the British public in glib, over-simplistic and downright misleading platitudes ("all in this together", "living within our means", "Brexit means Brexit" ...)

Out of this hopelessly gullible demographic, one group stands out above all others: the cheerleaders for Theresa May's introduction of the most invasive state surveillance regime of any democratic country on earth.

I've already written an article explaining how the Tory "catching nasty terrorists" justification is an utterly insufficient explanation for why their Snoopers' Charter gives all kinds of non-terrorism related institutions like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Gambling Commission the ability to trawl through the Internet browsing history of any innocent person they may take an interest in. You can read that here.

Anyone who thinks that the threat of terrorism is adequate justification for allowing employees of the Food Standards Agency the opportunity to trawl through the private Internet browsing data of innocent people is obviously astoundingly naive.

One of the most common concerns about state surveillance legislation is the potential for function creep*. The astounding thing about the Tory Snoopers' Charter is that they've already built function creep into the legislation by allowing dozens of non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos to use these invasive snooping powers.


The fact that the Snoopers' Charter enables state spying that goes way beyond the stated justification is far from the only complaint, but the litany of problems with this atrocious piece of legislation simply doesn't deter the right-wing authoritarian "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" crowd.

One of the Tory trolls who regularly bombards the Another Angry Voice Facebook page with his rote learned tabloid drivel tried to defend the Snoopers' Charter by saying that he didn't mind having his private personal data nicked and kept in massive, easily-hackable data dumps, "as long as they do the same to terrorists".

The idea that this mass trawling of the private browsing data of millions of people is going to catch any terrorist aside from the feeblest kind of idiot is laughably naive because any terrorist with a grain of sense is already using VPNs, anonymous Tor networks, end-to-end encryption and the like to evade mass data trawling.

The idea that harvesting the private communications data of millions upon millions of innocent people and dumping it into easily-hackable databases is a price worth paying in order to catch only the most idiotic of terrorists is absurdly naive.

The foolishness of people who would give up their own liberties (like the right to privacy for example) out of fear is best summed up by the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who said "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety".

The problem with right-wing cheerleaders for intrusive state surveillance isn't just their naivety, it's also their cognitive inconsistency.

When it comes to the latest Tory privatisation scam these right-wing Tory apologists are always ever so keen to explain that "the state is too big, and too inefficient to run public services properly", hence the need for public assets to be sold-off on the cheap or simply given away for free to the private sector. However when it comes to state surveillance these Tory apologists are suddenly singing a completely different tune. When it comes to the state creating vast data dumps containing the private information of millions of British citizens and British businesses, they suddenly expect us to believe that the state is so magnificently efficient and infallible that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are 0%!

Another example of this kind of cognitive inconsistency is the way that in just a matter of days right-wing loud mouths went from damning Fidel Castro as a horrible dictator to ecstatically cheering over the introduction of an invasive state surveillance system that Castro and the Cuban communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
It's clear that right-wing cheerleaders for the Snoopers' Charter are not only staggeringly ignorant about the fact that this bill would only ever catch the most inept of terrorists, they're also capable of the most extraordinary displays of Orwellian Doublethink.


On one level it is actually amusing to witness the remarkably naive and staggeringly hypocritical mental contortions these people are prepared to make in order to justify a state surveillance system that would have made the East German Stasi turn green with envy.

On another level it's deeply concerning that huge numbers of people are actually such enthusiastic supporters of Theresa May and the Tories continually stripping away our rights and liberties that they're willing to overlook the woefully flawed "preventing terrorism" justification narrative; the unlikeliness of actually catching real terrorists through mass data trawling; the dangers of corruption; hacking or data loss; the fact that function creep has actually been written into the legislation; the appalling precedent set to repressive regimes like Turkey and Egypt; and the danger of such surveillance powers eventually falling into the hands of someone even more fanatically right-wing and authoritarian than Theresa May.

What you can do

The Snoopers' Charter is now law, but you can still register your dissent at this atrocious piece of legislation by writing to your MP to complain about it, and by signing the petition to have it repealed.
You can keep yourself informed on security and state surveillance issues by following campaign groups and informative blogs like Open Rights Group, EDRi, Techdirt, Electronic Frontier Foundation... 

On the whole the mainstream media have been pathetically unwilling to give the Snoopers' Charter the critical attention it deserves, so you can also help to spread public awareness of this woeful legislation by sharing this article.


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* = The term "function creep" refers to the way that new laws often end up being used in ways that they were never intended. For example - the use of anti-terrorism legislation to throw an elderly man out of the Labour Party conference for shouting "nonsense" at Jack Straw.