The wolves begin to circle the bloggers

A few weeks ago, I woke up to the threats that are gradually escalating against bloggers. A European Community directive here, an abortive Italian law there, you might have thought--what was this to you?

The freedom and lack of regulation of blogland was surely safe, and the only reason for surveillance would be to combat the networks of very dark things that exploit the web as a forest behind each tree of which they might hide.

Except that, almost every day now, I hear or read a new story about how the web must be censored. In Brazil, a bill to regulate, license and control blogging and the internet in general, passed earlier this month. In Europe, the usual voices are questioning our freedom whilst living at our expense.

Things are usually expressed in the usual terms of the western controlled classes-- the grounds that 'accountability' has to be built in, that people have to have a straightforward recourse for complaints, or that there are things which people should not be allowed by the state to say.

No, no, no.

From the libertarian right to the polemical left, people are now beginning to see the outline of the threat to blogland.

In Italy, the odour of the Levi-Prodi bill, which I have assumed to have fallen, still hangs in the air. It would have licensed and taxed blogging, which is, I suppose, the most relaxing hobby I have had in decades.

The ludicrous, illegitimate European Parliament has entertained the idea of restricting blogs in direct proportion to the criticism of that body and the flattery of small-time ministers of condotierri and gendarmerie, not least from Britain. Two years ago, the European Commission proposed a serious power to censor any sites it designated as 'terrorist'. Other European 'working groups' have suggested censoring any references to cannabis (of which I do not approve) on any website.

In England, the thrashing, dying expression of the political-media class are the hacks, nepotists, second rate soixante huitards and third rate flunkies trapped in Labour and in charge of the Tories and lib dems. They are eyeing blogland hungrily.

There are I think three roots to their determination, apart from their puritanical tendency to control. One is the very legitimate desire to strike at electronic crimes involving fraud, pornography and trafficking that do have very real victims. A second is to protect intellectual property. A third is to tackle terrorism. yet the tendency of the media and governing class in this country has been to hide behind those reasons to advance precisely their wish for control.

In local government, anti-terrorist legislation has already been used against people walking their dogs, taking their children for a day trip to the continent, or not filling their rubbish bins according to government specifications. Powers to regulate blogs in the future can be expected to go the same way, and to become general tools of intimidation and social control.

This has been accompanied by incompetence and misunderstanding of a sort which has, via the libel courts, set Americans thinking that the UK protects criminal and terrorist speech but censors anyone who criticises it.

This is not of course the true reason for the case discussed on pajamas media here. It is revealing though that Americans of left and right have reacted by passing laws that try and guarantee their own freedom of speech against all comers, at least nominally.

Look at the agenda of the banners and censors governing us. They only things they seem to want to smoke are the ashes of a free society.

They have cowed professions by stripping them of self-regulation, and by encouraging groups of badly educated employees to describe themselves as 'professional'.

They have treated public servants as though they were simply commercial suppliers to consumers, and turned public administration into a series of artificial monopolies and socially nepotistic cartels.

They have imposed restriction after restriction on liberty, speech and movement whilst doing nothing to deal with the broken, poisoned society in which people now have to pay huge taxes if they work at all, unless they are very rich, whilst watching services collapse, and crime rise. They have ignored any sensible compromise.

They have attacked decent religion, families, the proper education of the young, democratic elections, and the right to a fair trial, all of which are vital within their place to a free society.

The have encouraged, through their media and economic policies, a public narcissism, a cult of pliant celebrity, an age of stupidity, and the promotion of ideas and shibboleths that independent minded people ought to be ashamed to entertain. This has been obvious for some years.

All the while they have done this, the control and administration of everyday lives has been sold off or subordinated to great financial concerns and the needs of global capital.

Blogland is next. The one consolation is that they are now so incompetent and time-limited that a determined resistance, the deployment of practised arguments, and the lengthy process of passing and implementing laws in the face of opposition is such that the odds are against the political hacks in charge.

Regardless of our differences in blogland, and it is a place where people let off steam and where offence flies around the world at nineteen ounces in the pound, we should all stay vigilant to what is going on. Surely we don't want to have to use these tools of censorship avoidance here?

It may be, of course, that we are just witnessing another chapter in the slippage and transformation of the West.

I'd prefer to hope that, given the challenge of global crash which we are predictably entering into, that we are just seeing the backwash of the cheap-oil global boom and intellectual indulgence of the past forty years as it finally sluiced out.

Yet at the root of this is a desire to identify people and targets to hate, and to make war, and to control other human beings, sometimes just for the vicarious thrill of importance as those who consider themselves sane live out the video game worlds behind their eyes.

Mind your shoes.

Here's a little bit of self indulgence:
Bobby Darin's Simple Song of Freedom from 1970


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