Oligarchy and Surveillance
20th November 2016
The only people “taking back control” in any meaningful sense is the British state, which this week enacted “the most extreme surveillance law ever passed in a democracy’. A combination of mass apathy, media misdirection, an opposition in disarray – and a cultivated sense of fear and foreboding allowed the legislation to come into being with barely a shrug. Though, let’s not pretend that Labour have any credible track record in human and civil rights, they don’t. The myth of ‘Labour as protector if only Corbyn wasn’t so useless’ is as pervasive as it is wrong.
Znet described it’s content: “The law will force internet providers to record every internet customer’s top-level web history in real-time for up to a year, which can be accessed by numerous government departments; force companies to decrypt data on demand — though the government has never been that clear on exactly how it forces foreign firms to do that that; and even disclose any new security features in products before they launch.
Not only that, the law also gives the intelligence agencies the power to hack into computers and devices of citizens (known as equipment interference), although some protected professions — such as journalists and medical staff — are layered with marginally better protections.”
This week our rights were given away, and our civil liberties undermined in the most significant way possible. The Investigatory Powers Act was passed and the government didn’t have to make a single substantial concession to what’s called quaintly ‘the privacy lobby’.
US whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted: “The UK has just legalised the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy. It goes further than many autocracies.”
This isn’t some abstract debate, and with the Five Eyes (the security sharing agreement between Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the UK and the United States), we now have the prospect of GCHQ sharing our ‘data’ with an unhinged US government restrained comically, under the most favourable scenario by the moderate influence of Mitt Romney.
The erosion of civil liberties that were once held dear shambles into normality hand in hand with establishing fascists as suitable candidates for a wee chat on the telly. This could only come about with a wider culture of digital complacency and the tacit approval of large sections of the media, who are complicit in much of this build up and avert their eyes from state intrusion, just as they hyperventilate about the Nanny State. It’s a profoundly hypocritical stance. It’s one that could only come into being because of Britain’s shambolic constitutional ambiguity.
Our lack of a Bill of Rights or a written constitution is also a contributing factor to the unfolding Brexit shambles, which of course took a delicious twist this week with the announcement of the High Court ruling that the Scottish Parliament must have a say in triggering Article 50.
As Parody Britain descends into the Game of Thrones today we’re told that the government’s ‘secret weapon’ is to lure Donald and Melania Trump to Windsor Castle – and presumably dazzle them with incomprehensible bling – thus bypassing Nigel Farage, who’s fast emerging as a sort of Dick Dastardly of the far-right, a sort of louche International Wide Boy. The Windsor Plan would be funny if it wasn’t so desperate. Seems our Special Relationship isn’t so special. “Dear Britannia, It’s not you, it’s me. Yours Uncle Sam”.
If the Brexit High Court ruling brought more than a hint of constitutional schadenfreude, the Deloitte’s report that Britain would need 30,000 more civil servants to cope – was hilarious given the obsession with ‘Brussels’s bureaucracy’ – and that: ““Despite extended debate among permanent secretaries, no common strategy has emerged,” says the memo, warning that more than 500 Brexit-related projects were “beyond the capacity and capability” of Government.”
That there was ‘no plan’ was self-evident, but the Oligarchical nature of Britain unfolded before our eyes this week, as penniless Elizabeth II (sic) was on the receiving end of a state handout. She was effectively awarded a 66% pay rise to fund a £369m 10-year refit of Buckingham Palace, after the PM and chancellor agreed that an increase in the sovereign grant was the best way to fund urgent repairs. Officials warned there was a risk of a potential “catastrophic building failure” if the repairs were not carried out, a bizarre exceptionalism for one of the wealthiest individuals on the planet.
As Children in Need comes round scrabbling about to fund essential children’s charities, with slebs clambering over themselves to virtue-signal their charidy profile, the obscenity of living in a world of aristocracy funded by austerity hits home.