Bfore I discuss this issue, I should declare that I am a committed Christian, and I detest the exploitation of ordinary men involved in the pornography industry. Indeed I feel that criminal prosecutions should be much more common than they are.
But today something truly sinister happened. UK users were blocked from accessing a page on Wikipedia, by a conspiracy between the ISP’s and something called the “Internet Watch Foundation.” The page contained a 1970’s pornographic album cover by the Scorpions. Since the girl was underage, the image is theoretically child-porn. The argument is that we need to be protected from this – maybe – and these people have decided to “protect us.”
The band, however, are in no danger of prosecution. If we can believe the Wikipedia article, the record company put them up to it, many years ago, but are in no danger of prosecution either. No-one in the British legal establishment believes that this is child-porn or actionable, it seems. So I have to infer that the supposed pretext is bunk.
What is really worrying is that 60m British subjects can have censorship applied to their internet access, without their knowledge, consent, without a vote in parliament, without public debate, by a group of unelected unknowns. Guido Fawkes rightly blames the establishment, the unelected people who really wield power in this country, whose decisions are made at dinner parties by “the right people”. For who else could invent such an engine of control, never mind implement it? As Guido remarks, just imagine all the politicians salivating at the chance to censor stuff they don’t like!
What reply do we have, if these people decide to censor this blog, on some pretext or other? In the UK no ordinary person has access to the courts, so that is no defence. Worse, we’ve established in the last week that parliament is increasingly irrelevant and powerless – the Shadow Home Secretary was arrested and his offices searched at the instigation of the government – so even there is no defence. To whom is this new censorship accountable?
Now we’ve all heard stale old anti-censorship invective, and many of us feel sceptical about it. Many uttering it claim that they are opposed to all censorship. We have found that this is often hypocrisy; in truth they mean only that they only want to censor things they disapprove of – as we all do! – and that they have different ideas to most of us. I don’t want to endorse that sort of thing.
Like most people I don’t want to see internet porn. I certainly don’t want to see child porn! But… I don’t want to be placed in the electronic equivalent of chains either! I don’t trust any of the censors of our day to reflect what ordinary people like myself really dislike and object to.
As I see no prospect of rational, fair and sensible regulation of internet content by people whom I trust and who share my values, I would prefer to see none. This means tolerating the inevitable evils – and they are evils – but then I see no prospect that agreeing to censorship will make matters better. When I find that the people implementing this censorship are in fact indifferent to the issue – as the lack of arrests proves -, and and are using it only as a pretext for power, I am afraid. So should we all be.
We need to ask who these people are anyway? What is their agenda? How do they come to have this power? They aren’t normal people, they aren’t elected and I think we can be certain that they are not our friends, if they act like this.
No, this must be the establishment, creating a machine for censorship of the internet. The pretext is “protect our kiddies.” We need to take this claim with a grain of salt. In more religious times, doubtless it would be “protect our morals.” No doubt someone will find a way to claim it is to “protect the planet,” given time. All these are lies, and damn lies. What this is about is power over you and I, power over what we are and are not allowed to say.
The blogosphere has given a voice to the voiceless. We need to resist attempts to take it away.
Later: I learn from this story that Wikipedia owner Jimmy Wales sought legal advice. “My first thoughts when I was told that the Internet Watch Foundation had blocked the Wikipedia page was that we should take them to court. But because they’re not a statutory body, I’ve been told we can’t necessarily challenge their decision.”
Not merely does the establishment want to censor the internet; not only is it by-passing Parliament; but it’s bypassing the courts as well. Wales is rich and can afford lawyers, unlike the rest of us. But even so it will do him no good.
What a situation the UK is in!