Sunday, 28 December 2008

Ian B: yeah, what he said

I must tip my hat to Ian B on two counts: Firstly, this excellent comment chez 'Liberal Conspiracy' in rebuttal of a post entitled 'Why I am not a libertarian', and secondly for the comment I am reprinting below, with reference to the fascist labour government's proposed clampdown on internet freedom, which was made at 'Counting cats in Zanzibar', and flagged up at 'Devil's Kitchen'. Although I do not wholly share his pessimism (or at least choose not to), his diagnosis is spot on.

"It’s not much use thinking in terms of Left and Right. What we call the “Left” have always been friends with those we term the “Right”. The communists are gone, wiped out in the 80s. So what we’re left with are upper class social authoritarians, fabians, whatever you want to call them. And as the book I linked to above shows, they have always gone hand in hand with business interests. Most obviously, look at whose names those big charitable foundations who have been so crucial to the success of the modern total state operate- Rockefeller, Carnegie, RW Johnson, Ford… both “the left” and Big Biz pushing constantly for the hive society, in which we subjects are moulded by the school system to be servants of that corporate (in the broadest terms) state. Free-marketeers, genuine ones, libertarians, get little support from big business for that reason. They don’t want free citizens, they want good little workers churned out for them by the schools. And so on.

Our ruling junta are technologically and scientifically ignorant, yes. But they’re ignorant about everything they wish to control- human nature, economics, everything. It doesn’t matter.

Controlling things means pushing those things into the hands of elite-insider corporate groups. Taking the internet, their goal is to kill the small, independent site. By heaping on compliance costs, they can simply force the small website owner (like me) off the web. At the moment, I can run a website for a few pounds a year- I can buy a domain name in a few minutes, some shared hosting, I’m up and running. That horrifies them. It’s so difficult to control.

Once it’s gone, it’ll be almost impossible to get back, like the High Street killed by the out-of-town development. As the small websites vanish, the business infrastructure that supports them will disappear too, such as webhosts. Web presence will be consolidated into the hands of those who can afford the compliance- big business, big charity, NGOs, governments. Anyone else will be forced to ask for a voice at sites run by corporations- “you may have a blog if you follow our AUP”. And those corporations, even those not actively part of the Big Guv movement, can be easily brought to heel- a few people to be called in for a chat with the minister.

I don’t think there’s anything really we can do to stop this. They have, for the moment, won. I haven’t seen a single useful suggestion of strategy for stopping The Enemy, in all my travels on the web. There are blogs moaning like buggery, but nothing practical being done, because these people are ignorami at everything useful, but incredibly organised and skilled at political control- because that is all they care about. They can have a scare up and running and everyone screaming for Something To Be Done before we’re even out of the pub. They know we’re beaten. They know that there’s nothing we can do. They know that we could get ten million people marching through Trafalgar Square (licensing permitting) and it wouldn’t get mentioned on the news and would have no effect.

Probably the key historical thing about the ascent of Blair to the purple was that that marked the historical turning point when they had won; when they had reached that critical mass of control of the hegemony they had been working towards since the Webbs began their little society. They have bulldozed every resistive attempt out of the way; they know they cannot now face a mass revolt, for they have successfully remodelled the population to such a state that that cannot happen. Yes, there are still a few angry stragglers yelling swearily about it, but they can be cheerfully ignored. The memory of what was is now down the hole; even those few resisting have no personal experience of a free society and can only try to piece together narratives of how things might have been; for the rest, the past has been refashioned as such a terror that none now would dare return to any aspect of it. Even many who think they are resisting cling instead to something they call conservatism which when analysed reveals itself as nothing but a desire to return to the earlier stage of progressive authoritarianism when cruder force was used.

We’ve lost. We’re not losing. It’s over. It makes me sad, it makes me incandescent with fury, but there’s nothing I can do. The barbarians aren’t at the gates. They aren’t inside the gates. They’re in the palace, and most of the population are convinced that barbarianism is just what the place needs.

And just personally, I feel a grim sense of “I Told You So” that cheers me not a whit. Ten years ago I was saying, the governments will take control of the internet and destroy its freedom, and all I heard was utopian bollocks about how it routes around censorship and can’t be controlled and we’d be free forever now and technology had saved us. And I was saying, enjoy it while it’s here and dismissed as a depressive Eeyore. Well, the information society is going to be, already is in many ways, a tyranny of degree unimaginable to past generations, a tyranny of which historical tyrants could only dream. The first society in which there is truly, absolutely, no place to hide. We’re on its cusp now. Fun’s over, kids.

"It will soon be possible to assert almost continuous control over every citizen and to maintain up-to-date files containing even the most personal details about health and personal behavior of every citizen, in addition to the more customary data. These files will be subject to instantaneous retrieval by the authorities. Power will gravitate into the hands of those who control information."—Zbigniew Brzezinski, 1970"

(pic: 'The burial of Phocion' - not particularly relevant, but never mind)

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