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Date: 18/10/08

The Threat Has Not Passed

Too many Rants about trivia here lately. Here's something more important than cotton buds.

There has been justified satisfaction with the recent defeat of the Régime's plans to imprison people without charge for six weeks. There was no justification for such a move - no other state which could call itself 'democratic' without being laughed at has anything similar on the books. Even the USA in its current state of belligerent paranoia refuses to go that far.

This didn't stop 'Wacky' Jacqui Smith - the latest in a long line of grandstanding thugs to hold the office of Home Secretary (see under Reid, John and Blunkett, David) - from claiming that those who succesfully opposed the measure were "...prepared to ignore the terrorist threat for fear of taking a tough [...] decision". This in a statement to Parliament which, even by modern standards, appears to have been a pinnacle of teddy-bear-ejecting petulance.

Nor has it stopped another serial nonentity from claiming that those who stand up for fundamental liberties are allied with 'the enemy'. Geoff Hoon (for it is he), yet another serial failure, having been the man who helped send UK forces into illegal invasions and occupations without even adequate equipment, went on TV the other night to defend the State's latest Big Idea in 'The War On Turrrr' - the compilation and maintenance of a database which would monitor everyone's telephone, e-mail and internet contacts. Quite apart from the sheer impracticality of such a system (given the volume of traffic involved, the certainty of overload meaning that the spooks wouldn't be able to see the digital woods for the binary trees, and the simple fact that the implementation of private encryption and proxy servers would negate the whole thing anyway, not to mention the fact that any terrorist worth his 72 virgins would avoid any obvious form of communicating his plans), the idea that the State should be allowed as a matter of daily routine to stick its nose in to our private communications is a very worrying one. It's all very well for the naïve, the innocent and the stupid to say things like, "If you've nothing to hide, then you've nothing to fear", but that statement should always, but always, be countered by saying, "If I've nothing to hide, then what frigging business does the State have knowing it?"

No, this is just another example of the datamania of our current rulers (as shown by the National Identity Database, the 'ContactPoint' database of every child in England, the DNA database which contains samples forcibly taken from tens of thousands of innocent people, and many another). They want power, they want control, and they believe that just about any method may be used to provide them with their indefinite continuation. Their paranoia leads them to assume as a matter of course that everyone is saying nasty things about them (which, for once, might not be far wide of the mark), and that such malcontents need to be neutralised.

It's not as if they could be trusted with the information anyway. Apart from incidents which could reasonably be ascribed to mere incompetence (and there now seems to be a competition amongst departments and agencies of the State and their outsourced outliers to see who can lose confidential data in the most ludicrous fashion), every single piece of legislation which has been passed in the last decade supposedly to combat 'terrorism' has gone on to be used for something else. Thus we have had the sight of an octogenarian heckler at a party conference being ejected from the hall and detained under the terms of such laws; someone reading out the names of the (known) dead of Bush/Blair/Brown's wars at The Cenotaph being arrested and convicted under those statutes; and, in the latest and most barmy twist, the use of the Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act (2001) to freeze the UK-held assets of an Icelandic bank.

It is superfluous to fear what a future régime might do with such extreme and wide-ranging powers when we can see the results of their use by those currently in office. The danger is not hypothetical; it is already here.

The régime, perhaps sensing this, and knowing that whatever they come up with as a justification for claiming such powers for themselves is not willingly believed by an increasing proportion of the population, believes that it has to go a little further to 'persuade' the public of the necessity.

Which brings me back to Looney Hoon. When tackled on BBC's Question Time about the new super communications database, the wretched oaf went off on one, claiming that those opposing the draconian interference in our private communications it would involve would be "...giving a licence to terrorists to kill people". Perhaps Hooney was feeling a bit pissed off that he hasn't been able to go off and replace Peter Mendacious as European Commissioner because Labour doesn't want to lose yet another by-election in a hitherto safe seat.

If you who are reading this are of the American persuasion, you will be more than familiar with the tactic here. All that needs to be done (in the view of those doing it) is to claim that those who oppose your policies - however extreme, however loopy those policies may, in cold light of fact, be - are 'disloyal', 'unpatriotic' or even 'on the side of the turrrrists'. "You're either with us or you're with the terrorists" was a particularly egregious and stupid thing to say even by the standards of George Walker Bush, but it has been accepted as an article of faith by the governments in Washington and London and - alas - by a goodly proportion of the populations of those lands as well, although - mercifully - less so as time goes on.

Such a method has a history stretching back far further than our current concerns, however. It was remarked upon by another devotee of unlimited state power three generations or more ago:

"Of course people don't want war. Why should a poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best thing he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same in any country."

That man's name was Hermann Goering.

It is, however, the tactic of those who know that they have either lost the reasoned argument, or who never had a reasoned argument to make in the first place. Such signs of desperation give me some hope that we may soon see the back of such attitudes and those who seek to use them to spread unnecessary fear as a means of enabling them to get their way.

The temporary setback given by Parliament to the State's plans to invade our private communications (and the vicious plan to give the Home Secretary the power to force an inquest to be held in secret without a jury should he/she deem it to be a matter of 'national security' - i.e. potentially embarrassing to the government) are, of course, to be welcomed. A loud note of caution, however. The Counter Terrorism Bill (there's the 't' word again, folks!) still contains much that is highly dangerous to not only our own liberties and sense of what is fair, but to the whole idea that no punishment should be exacted against anyone without the matter being properly tested in a court of law.

I won't detain you (without charge for 42 days) any further here, just suggest that you read David Mery's post on the subject.