Buying Away Our Freedom: Who Cares?

“I’m not selling away my freedom,” wrote Polly Walshe in the Autumn 2016 edition of the Salisbury Review, “but buying it away.”

It is true that mass surveillance of purchases are only possible if people use bank accounts and debit cards. It is only possible to spy on someone’s texts if they use a mobile phone. A celebrity’s photos from iCloud can only be “hacked” if she (it’s always a woman) is stupid enough to use it, and more importantly pay for it. University offers this acute sense of idiocy in students. In an ordinary job, a worker sells his labour and is paid to work; in a university, a student pays for the privilege to study, and what a privilege it is (haw haw…). In this sense students are buying away their freedom of thought, and any truly anti-capitalist or Right-wing views are hammered out of them over the three to four years they study. We’re buying away our freedom and our liberty. Do we have a choice? I briefly mentioned modern exile in an earlier article. And in order to function in respectable bourgeois life it is necessary to obtain a degree, from a Russell group/top fifty American college at least, and work in a professional career. To follow this very neat life it is necessary to keep one’s head down firmly on the desk. A student buys away his freedom of expression in university, since it is an investment to gain access into bourgeois comfort and so insurance from modern exile. With an 2:1 in bien pensant, the sky isn’t even the limit, as he can be rocketed into the materialist stratosphere like a soviet chimp.

Submission to the smartphone and the laptop destroys our liberty, and with the expansion and development of technology, deeper and more sophisticated surveillance techniques are inevitable. Giovanni Pennacchietti writes in his essay “Beholding A New Pale Horse”: “The outsider music and art that laments over the machinations of the mass industrial consumerism model of culture is not enough, for any critique will ultimately be placed right back on the plane and space of the culture industry…” and this irony is something I rather savour. Accelerationists use capitalism to subvert capitalism, and authoritarian movements will use democracy to subvert democracy, and pop-art or internet memes will use mass production and consumption of art and memes to satirize mass production and empty consumerism. Even those against mass surveillance will buy away their freedom, and then complain about buying their freedom away on the devices they just bought. There is a spiralling down, with layers of meta-ironies laid over self-referential jokes, a negation of a negation of a negation.

In his Western Canon, Harold Bloom criticises the School of Resentment. There appears in this criticism almost a deconstruction of the deconstructionists. It is still the fashion to not only critique and pick apart the texts or cultural phenomena themselves, but to critique the critique, and study the foundations of the study of culture, and so on. These amuse me as much as any of Zeno’s paradoxes.

Since the assent of the Investigatory Powers Act, BleachBit shares have shot up and a million “anime” folders have been annihilated. (A word to the wise: don’t sign the petition against it unless you want a big red target on yourself. You would only oppose the act if you had 1TB of Lolicon on your P.C., right?) The insight that we are “buying away or freedom” has become more prominent among internet Libertarians. What does this act mean? Cyber-jackboots, your laptop keylogged, your messages watched for any sign of anti-liberal or racist attitudes? Not exactly. For those on the Right or “far-Right” I doubt that this will pose a greater threat over what already exists. The retired colonel that thinks shoplifters should be flogged, posts on A.R.R.S.E., and thinks that democracy is a poor form of governance would probably be classified as an extremist or a domestic extremist. And this part of the act is one of the most cited by anxious bloggers:

20 Grounds on which warrants may be issued by Secretary of State

[…]

2) A targeted interception warrant or targeted examination warrant is necessary on grounds falling within this section if it is necessary —

(a) in the interests of national security,

(b) for the purpose of preventing or detecting serious crime, or

(c) in the interests of the economic well-being of the United Kingdom so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security (but see subsection (4)).

[…]

(4) A warrant may be considered necessary as mentioned in subsection (2)(c) only if the information which it is considered necessary to obtain is information relating to the acts or intentions of persons outside the British Islands.

(5) A warrant may not be considered necessary on grounds falling within this section if it is considered necessary only for the purpose of gathering evidence for use in any legal proceedings.

Section 20 subsection 2c is the trigger for the alarm bells. While “economic well-being” is vague this is probably directed at cyber-espionage of the bank accounts of British Citizens, which often takes place from outside the U.K., and hence subsection 4. The fear from the Right is that counter-revolutionary or un-PC keywords will trigger a visit from military intelligence, and those on the Alt-Right thrown in jail. This false belief comes from the words: “so far as those interests are also relevant to the interests of national security.” There are many that believe that so called “domestic extremism” is classified as a threat to national security. But if one glances over the M.I.5 definition of domestic extremism, which I will quote in full…

Domestic extremism: Domestic extremism mainly refers to individuals or groups that carry out criminal acts in pursuit of a larger agenda, such as “Right-wing extremists.” They may seek to change legislation or influence domestic policy and try to achieve this outside of the normal democratic process. For the most part, they pose a threat to public order but not to national security and are investigated by the police, not M.I.5.

…it is very unlikely that this act is designed or intended to spy on “Right-wing extremists,” which falls into the domain of the police, and even though the police can use this act to obtain an individual’s data, hate speech is not a threat to national security anyway and would not be grounds to access data. Nor is it a “serious crime”, which are normally those that appear in the Crown Court — murder, rape, pædophilia, terrorism, etc. — which are often moved from the Magistrates’ Court into the Crown, or avoid the Magistrates’ altogether. It should be intuitively clear that this act is designed to do us (the decent ‘ard werkin Bri’ish people) good. And the paranoia in the libertarian-Right should be ignored. This paranoia reaches comical proportions when it is revealed that many opposing surveillance believe that a man in an office will be sat at a computer watching your Skype messages in real time, and listening in on your phone call to Papa John’s Pizza. Your data, and my data, is sifted through by computers that look for patterns, much like the now semi-infamous YouTube Algorithms of “if you liked that you’ll love this.”

If a man comes back from a “cousin’s wedding” in Syria, and he buys ten bags of fertiliser on his card, this will be picked up as suspicious. Just as if someone buys cable ties, industrial chemicals, and a shovel at the same time it may be grounds for suspicion. Banks already track our purchases, purchasing habits and patterns which are used by the police. If this man from Syria is suspected of being involved in a terrorist cell then this act should allow M.I.5 to access his search history, which can be grounds for twenty-four hour surveillance, detention, and questioning. There is a valid criticism over whether this actually works, and I invite you to find the number of detained suspected terrorists that have actually been charged. If any budding lawyer wants to sift through this act and explain how it relates to the “Twitter police,” be my guest, I don’t have the expertise or desire to do so.

Joe Owens seems to think Tommy Mair is a spy — he’s not a spy, but certainly daft. His murder of Labour MP Jo Cox (what did he actually achieve by doing this?) is a serious crime, and we would all class him as a Right-wing extremist and probably a threat to national security. In the court case the prosecution seized his internet search history which gave fairly watertight grounds for pre-meditated murder. You don’t need to be a YouTube algorithm to predict what was coming next: “jo cox constituency”; “route jo cox takes from her constituency hq”; “what range can a 22 round kill someone?”; “is four foot close enough to kill someone with a 22 handgun?” (If you liked that you’ll love this…)

There is also a dilemma in Joe Owens’ reasoning. Are we supposed to believe that M.I.5 is planting agents provocateurs into the far-Right, creating a controlled opposition that poses no real threat to the established order; while at the same time treating those in these far-Right movements as national security threats? Frankly, I don’t think so. Why would M.I.5 waste its time trying to take down National Action when it does more harm that good to the Rightist cause? They can quite happily leave these fringe groups, a.k.a. playpens, to themselves. The establishment is frightened of local politics and grassroots movements, as these sweep the rug out from under it.

If the police and M.I.5 can use this power to catch murderers and terrorists, or to find missing persons by tracking the location of their phone, then so be it. We’re supposed to be the statists and yet the Right is so paranoid that the police and M.I.5 are coming after them that they find common ground with anarchists and liberals! We truly have nothing to hide. The foot soldiers in the F.B.I. would give their collective right ball to have access to Hillary Clinton‘s email server and laptops, and those of John Podesta, and others on her staff. It takes a group like Wikileaks, that operates illegally, to do what the so called “secret state” and law enforcement want to do. I’m sure this act goes after rouge hacktivist groups like Wikileaks too, which are a serious threat to national security. It’s important not to forget that simply because the recent attack on the D.N.C. cynically aligns with our interests for now, Wikileaks and whistle blowers are a threat to national security.

“If you have nothing to hide you have nothing to fear” is a very good piece of propaganda, popularised by Joseph Gœbbels (see this if you want a good laugh). Most of our people think it, and almost all on the authoritarian Right think it. If you want to wind up the Alt-Right from the Right, say it smiling, with the variations “what exactly do you have to hide?” or “what are you scared they’ll find out about you?” If you live a virtuous life and put things in an abstract way you really do have nothing to hide. This nonsense about “free speech” from the Alt-Right needs to end — we have never had total and unrestricted freedom of speech, and neither is it desirable. Again, the Alt-Right whinging about free speech is just playing the victim, accepting domination, and fighting from a position of weakness like a toddler’s tantrum. The last time I checked, about half of Britons support hanging for the most serious crimes. No doubt the libertarian-Right, and the antifascists, and the anarchists (whose ranks are filled mostly by undercover police officers now anyway), would be apoplectic at the thought of “hanging a pedo” — and just because Tommy Mair would be hanged for murdering “the enemy” doesn’t mean the Right should be against hanging. He would certainly be hanged for murdering an elected Member of Parliament, and many would say “good riddance.”

Who cares if we buy away our freedom? Most people don’t, and I don’t have the energy to listen to Libertarian/Alt-Right whinging. M.I.5 has been infringing the privacy of Irish immigrants for decades and one of the reasons we have had so few Islamist attacks is that the security services have had experience of amateur terrorism from the Irish for nearly a century. I’ve met older Irish people that were followed by police, and had their bags blown up at airports because they didn’t pack them themselves and all this sort of thing. I don’t think M.I.5 were trying to arrest N.F. members as much as they were trying to arrest I.R.A. members. Would you really care if all Muslim migrants were surveilled by the F.B.I. or the C.I.A. or M.I.5 or G.C.H.Q. or the European equivalent? Of course there would be no Muslim terrorists if there were no Muslims in the U.K., but that ship has sailed. Mass C.C.T.V. surveillance would probably not be needed if we actually had police on the streets.

Are you opposed to surveillance in and of itself or do you dislike that the “wrong sort of authoritarianism” is in power, one that doesn’t agree with your views? If our people were in power on a council, local, and national level, then the weapons of the state would be turned on those we perceive as the enemies of the nation, and not its most passionate defenders. This takes drumming the streets and riding the Trump/U.K.I.P. wave for now, to pave the way for a harder edged and more vital national movement, lead by a few good men (local politics for local people…).

I doubt that the government will shut down Millennial Woes, or N.P.I., or Adam Wallace. I doubt it will close down W.C.R. and arrest its British authors. But if I’m wrong and the New World Order shut us down, I can always try my hand at selling water filters…

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Alexander

Beethoven, Bruckner, and Wagner are my philosophers. I am a (busy) student interested in economics and the arts. My YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCm_fN39CwOHBgt2hlMmX_jQ

4 thoughts on “Buying Away Our Freedom: Who Cares?

  1. Only a society with extreme instabilities and issues requires the level of surveillance which presently exists. It is a symptom of a serious social ailment. Is the answer to that ailment more surveillance, more record-keeping, more spying, more logging, however? I am not sure. We are already experiencing a sort of “1984 wears the mask of Brave New World” situation with the culture industry, as Pennacchietti and NOBODY™ have thoroughly shown us. Is, then, the solution to defend this reality with guns and bytes? I am sceptical.

    1. I don’t think it’s the “answer”, I just don’t think there’s anything we can really do other than enjoy the ride. Surveillance is not so bad, there’s a lot of paranoia around surveillance. Besides, there are benign uses like finding missing persons and fighting crime. You are viewing this all though the lens of social and cultural subjugation. The main purpose of surveillance is not to impose an SJW liberal agenda on the masses, it’s used to catch murderers and terrorists. There has always been crime. We can attack the causes of crime: taking lead out of petrol, re-establishing the married family, returning to “broken-window theory” policing, and so forth, but there will always be criminals. The tools used to fight and prevent crime change over time. Forensic science for example, would you be opposed to taking a suspect’s fingerprints because taking fingerprints in a criminal investigation is a “symptom of serious social ailment”? I doubt it. The question we have to ask now, in the circumstances we find ourselves in, is surveillance a viable short term prevention of criminality and an efficient means to catch criminals? This act, and others like it are useful in the short term. There would be no need for police or lawmen if no one committed crime, true, but it would be ridiculous to assume we could live in that state of affairs. I’m coming at this issue pragmatically, obviously.

      Yes, we need to urgently address the structural causes of our ailments, but that takes time, maybe the length of an entire generation or more. Repealing these acts and shutting off the CCTV overnight is hardly a solution. This act can be repealed in the long run, the cameras can be taken down, but if a bomb rips though your street tomorrow because you have disarmed your own security services, then on your head be it.

  2. It’s true that surveillance is one of the only forms of crime prevention that actually works, and by the far the least intrusive (it doesn’t actually restrict your liberty or even stop you from committing crime, if that’s what you really feel like doing). But there are good reasons people don’t like it, namely that, at least here in North America, it’s become unbelievably easy to get into serious trouble with authorities and moreover, to be sent to prison over it (esp. in the USA). Life is so completely juridified that it’s effectively impossible for people to go through it without breaking the law, often with no idea that they’re doing it and no way to even know what the law is – which of course is no defense as far as the State is concerned. The result is that the law-abiding citizens can’t be sure that that’s what they really are; as the distinction between the law-abiding citizen and the criminal is effaced, people increasingly go through life wondering if they’re going to be next. And part of the process of learning to think of themselves as potential criminals is to…think like criminals, and despise surveillance, the police, etc. accordingly.

    1. I agree that the general anxiety people feel in modernity is unhealthy, and compounded by the feckless police and government. This could be solved though police on the street in my opinion. Walking though London, or Bristol, or Birmingham at night feels like walking into the album “Kid A” on ecstasy , CCTV doesn’t make me FEEL safer, which is more important to the psyche of people than actually being safe.

      But the general thrust of your comment seems to be aimed at legislation and not enforcement. There seems space for you to write an article about the copious amount of laws that make us scared to even leave the house, lest we break some unknown law. Lawmakers seem to be paid on commission…

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