The only new rights on offer in the West today seem to be the sort of rights you could well do without.
What about this “right to assisted suicide,” or the “right to be forgotten.” No thanks very much.
Many people can see these expressions as pure “Doublethink” terms for taking away the rather more useful “right to life” and “right to know.”
First it was the “Telescreens,” hidden cameras the government used to spy on unsuspecting citizens in their living rooms and bedrooms. Edward Snowden revealed the NSA and GCHQ were doing something eerily similar by secretly filming and snapping us through “dormant” webcams and laptops.
Now Britain has been stunned this week by yet another stride a morally bereft Westminster has taken towards totalitarianism. In a process begun by Bilderberg steering group member Kenneth Clarke while he was Lord Chancellor and Justice Secretary, the Justice and Security Act through “closed material procedures” has opened the way for criminal trials not just to be heard in secret, with no reporting of the trial allowed, but the mere fact of reporting that charges have been brought or that a case is planned has become an imprisoning offense.
Kafka meets Orwell at the Old Bailey, then. In reality this seems to be Clarke’s answer, with a straight face, to the failure of several “anti-terror” trials of “Muslim extremists” acquitted after being fitted up by the Met's anti-terror police. So to save the barely credible Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) from further humiliation justice in cases which might embarrass MI5 and the Anti-Terrorist Branch, it is “going underground.”
These secret courts will distort what we are allowed to know about the weighty matters of foreign interventions in Muslim lands, in real-time, but the renunciation of justice for the poor has already happened. Over the last four years a succession of Clarke’s Legal Aid cuts have been so brutal as to bring barristers and solicitors out protesting on the streets across British cities for the first time in history.
While the courtroom doors are being slammed in the faces of the poor, new ways are being found to open the solicitors' and court waiting rooms for wealthy individuals and corporations who are worried about embarrassing facts being allowed to circulate about them online.
Super-injunctions started being served in around 2008 and they allowed wealthy companies and individuals to stop the reporting of an embarrassing story. All the public knew was that there was something the paper knew about and would like to tell them but they weren't allowed to say anything about it. As The Daily Mail reported in 2011: “For the first time in more than a century, the judge-made laws have censored in advance the publication of stories that are true.”
As if super-injunctions were not bad enough, we are traveling farther down this precarious road. Last month the European Court decided to grant everyone the aforementioned “right to be forgotten,” to have embarrassing information about themselves removed from Google’s search results. A committee appointed by Google chairman Eric Schmidt will decide on who we will, and who we will not, have the right to know about.
While patronage by the rich may go up as Google gives in to arm-twisting by the reputation managers, it must also be the beginning of the end for the “Mother of all Search Engines.” By filtering out the juiciest scandal of the high and mighty, Google’s reputation is going to bite the dust.
As Professor Luciano Floridi, whom Schmidt has tasked to deal with the thousands of take-down requests a day Google is reputed to be getting, says: “A public company now has the right to decide what is in the public interest” and take down “embarrassing information.” Well, who needs the courts anyway? Let Google staff decide what we should and shouldn't know.
In case you think that's the only way the facts we need to make sense of the world are being kept from us, think again – because this week, in the centenary year since Britain entered WWI, Bristol Rugby Club played their last-ever match on their aptly named “Memorial Ground.”
The club is moving because the urban stadium they play on has been sold off to the Sainsbury’s supermarket chain by the club’s new Channel Islands tax-exile boss Stephen Lansdown.
Listening to national coverage of the ground’s closure this week on BBC Radio 4’s flagship “Today” program, there was no mention though that the sports ground was, until this week, Bristol’s chief war memorial. It was given in 1921 by the Sheriff of Bristol “to remember the dead sportsmen and women of WWI in perpetuity.”
Nothing exemplifies better our mainstream media’s contempt for past generations than deleting the entire purpose of the forgotten “Memorial Ground” as it is scrapped in WWI's centenary year.
For the “cannon fodder” class, an old soldier and medical orderly of “The Great War” I had the pleasure to know before they passed away, only one poet, Woodbine Willie, told it like it was.
100 years on though, everything written by this extraordinarily gifted army padre, including his popular 1927 anthology, “The Unutterable Beauty” is out of print. Of the 70 or so poems in Penguin’s anthology, “Poems of The Great War,” laid out in bookshops across Britain, you’ll not find one of Woodbine Willie’s.
These half-truths circulated about the war give a disturbing picture of the people behind our mainstream media, the custodians of our culture, falling down on the job. They represent the “victory” of forgetting over remembering, of ignorance over education now here in the West.
Like the super-injunctions the founding principle of 21st century propaganda is, “You don’t know what we don’t tell you.”
From his comfortable seat in eternity, George Orwell is no doubt giving a wry “go for it” smile this week as he gazes down on the streets of Bangkok where Gandhi-like “1984 protests” have been organized against the anti-association laws and propaganda of Thailand’s new military junta. “Confrontation is not the way,” activists announce as hundreds gather, each with their own copy of Orwell’s book to read in their silent mass vigils.
The Thai people have gazed across the world to Egypt too, and seen leader of the US-backed military coup Abdel Fattah el-Sisi come to power in a sham election where the majority Muslim Brotherhood opposition is banned. They’ve seen too the bombing of the separatists in Ukraine despite their referendum vote to secede from Kiev. The message from Bangkok is that the will of the people is all that matters and any lies about “democracy” in the Western media are not fooling them.
While Orwell is best known for his dystopic 1984, other tomes, the autobiographical “Road to Wigan Pier” and “Homage to Catalonia” are full of glimpses of a future where the community has thrown off the yoke of the “owner class.” Where those in authority look after folk rather than search for new ways to control them.
He sees Machiavellian fanatics' obsession for power of as a kind of curse humanity has been struggling for centuries to shake off, and shows us where he’s seen the seeds of that newfound freedom growing. “Yes,” he seems to be telling us, “there really is plenty to go round so that everybody can fulfill their potential and live in dignity, with not one human being excluded.”
In an expression which has been picked up by Amnesty International, “It is better light a candle than to curse the darkness.” And Orwell did just that for the next generation of radicals when he handed an inscribed copy of one of the earliest books about England's 17th century Diggers to the man who was later to lead Britain’s Labour Party, Michael Foot. Orwell was cheered to see these English Civil War radicals prefiguring many of the most exciting ideas he’d picked up fighting Franco’s fascists in the Spanish Civil War.
“The Digger Movement in the Days of The Commonwealth” was one of the first books to examine the seventeenth century English collectivists who advocated a return to communal management and ownership of land, and walked the talk too. Gerrard Winstanley’s Digger pamphlets were printed on unlicensed presses and his ideas inspired Marx and social justice campaigners from Thomas Paine to the Chartists.
Some of Winstanley's original pamphlets have the mischievous words “Printed in a Corner of Freedom Close by the House of Commons” on the front page to remind readers the publisher was breaking the 17th century licensing laws. Today’s editors must stick to their principles and break these unjust super-injunctions if today’s embarrassing truths are to come out and the ambitious and powerful are to be held to account.
But we need George’s candle because we find ourselves in Oceania, in that perpetual War on Terror. Yes, and in case you hadn't noticed president Obama’s policy of troop withdrawal from Europe has just been reversed in the blink of an eye. Power has slipped from our hands into those of banks, corporations and a cult-like set whose only thing in common seems to be how little they care about the rest of us.
With copies of “Homage to Catalonia” in our hands, and the dangerous ideas of freedom the internet has brought us over the last 20 years in our heads, the poverty they want to crush our spirit is instead bringing us together.
The next generation are educating and organizing through environmental, church and neighborhood groups so not even the best-dressed, squeaky-cleanest TV politician can pull the wool over our eyes now.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.