Saturday, 10 January 2009

Make your placards now.

OK - I've borrowed my title from Mike Butcher's article on Techcrunch. He is proposing a public rally against web censorship and snooping. I plan to be there. I've also booked my place at The Convention on Modern Liberty. The site says it plainly...

“We are entering a dangerous period in our country…”

I can't disagree. Fortunately we have inept government. As Willem Buiter eloquently puts it on his FT blog entry: In praise of government incompetence.

It was breath-taking and depressing to observe the transformation of New Labour after 1997, from the party of open government, human rights and civil liberties into an increasingly paranoid group of power-hogging and repressive political control freaks, who have done more damage to fundamental human rights in the past 11 years than any other (sequence of) government(s) in any comparable-length stretch of time since the Glorious Revolution. Fortunately, despite their worst intentions, they have not been very competent - a more competent government could have done much more damage to our freedom and civil liberties.

Just before the new year I predicted that web censorship would be a major issue this. I'm coming to think that I got it wrong, the issue is liberty. Just think about:
  • the database infatuation,
  • the phone and email snooping,
  • the ID cards,
  • the censorship, and
  • the huge legislative programme.
It is frightening - well I find it frightening. Please don't say "well if you haven't done anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear". I just don't think that is defensible.

My hope is that groups like Liberty, OpenDemocracy, NO2ID and the OpenRightsGroup will have a loud enough voice to reverse the trend, but they probably won't have any major impact before the next election. We need to make sure that there is not too much erosion of liberty in the mean time.

Follow Mike's progress in arranging a public rally and be there.


  1. Don't forget NO2ID in your list of organisations - with active local groups around the UK engaging the public and local media, we're doing an unparalleled job of raising awareness of ID cards, the Intercept Modernisation Program etcetera. We could always do with more support though!

  2. My mistake - I had omitted NO2ID from the list, and have corrected it.

  3. Do you know of and the BCgroup convention in Stoke? 24 Jan 09.

  4. 'Please don't say "well if you haven't done anything wrong, then you have nothing to fear". I just don't think that is defensible'
    It's a shockingly naive stance, infact I don't think it can be called a stance, it surely results from blind trust in authority and failure to think things through.

  5. re: Anonymous...
    It is 'shockingly naive' - but one that is very common. I have heard it from many people and it is prevalent in much of the press.