Towards a more genteel fascism

Here in the United Kingdom, we are entering a period in which the Conservative government has decided to throw in the chips and show its hand; Welcome to a very British fascism. I’m leery about using the F Bomb. No, not fuck. That’s just a verb. Fascism is the one we should be more careful with. I get irritated when people use it to essentially describe policies and government leaders they just happen not to like. It’s describing something that is a process of becoming.

You can see it on the rise when there’s growing censorship and closure of diverse media outlets, the need to monitor and keep large lists of different segments of society. This could be lists with a specific interest in minority groups or people with non-mainstream lifestyles, points of view or philosophies. It’s when signs targeting “others” start hitting the streets, and when self-appointed (self righteous) pious individuals of the political class seek to enforce their view of morality on the public for its own good. It’s when specific ethnic or religious (or non-religious) segments of a population are targeted as being the culprits of social and/or economic woes  as opposed to banks, government policymakers or those who actually have the access to cause such woes.

I don’t take a Pollyanna approach to the world: There are no Utopias. As dual-national folk, our family chose UK as home instead of  other options. It’s just closer to the world, it seems. It’s more mixed, and thus interesting. It’s just a little ways to the north of Africa and the Middle East, and a channel to the northwest of Europe.

But like in the U.S., there are movements afoot here to cede ground to control freaks, xenophobes and prudes. In times of economic duress, people tend to (misguidedly) view these individuals as somehow more thrifty, tough and able to “make hard decisions.” Decisiveness becomes prized at the expense of intellect. You can tell when a plan is likely to lead to disaster: It emerges quickly, and promises to be simple. It often comes with big, generic one or two-word slogans that seek to brand regular language, like “Change” or “Hope” or “Big Society.”

So let’s get into how Cameron and company’s Big Society is shaping up.

xenophobe vans
With a tour targeting neighbourhoods with by-in-large non-white residents, this is essentially telling people in these areas they’re being watched more carefully than people in other areas (Picture: Home Office)

Targeting minority communities
The “Go Home” vans set quite an atmosphere in the neighborhoods they visit. You don’t see them on Holland Park, but you may spot them around Brixton of Peckham. They even come with supposed localised arrest figures plastered on the side. What better way to encourage people to engage with the government than to send out strange white vans with narrow, windowless back rooms on them?

According to the prime minister, they’re brilliant!

Stop and Search, police powers to target individuals without warrant is so widely misused and directed at minorities that someone made a mobile app about it. For those waiting in suspense for the results of the extended consultation on the subject, Theresa May has already cut loose with a spoiler: ““I have no doubt that the police’s power to stop and search people on the street is an essential tool in the fight against crime.”

Speaking of our Mrs. May, she’s been tearing up individuals’ citizenship documents, rendering at least one person stateless. The fact that she’s able to remove national rights once bestowed creates a permanent second class of British citizens who are subject to different rules than others.

Listing people with dissident or minority interests
Internet Service Providers in UK are being forced by the Conservative government (with a lot of silence on the matter from Labour and the Liberal Democrats) to implement a “pornwall.” This is far more than just pornography, which has been used as a bogeyman. In order to access some content, you will need to opt out of different filters with your IPS. This essentially means you’re opting in to being listed as interested in specific kinds of content. The government will have access to these lists. Open Rights Group has consulted with ISPs and gathered the list that customers will have to join if they want to access unfiltered content. Porn is not the issue here. Users will have to tick boxes if they want unfiltered access to content about:

☑ pornography
☑ violent material
☑ extremist and terrorist related content
☑ anorexia and eating disorder websites
☑ suicide related websites
☑ alcohol
☑ smoking
☑ web forums
☑ esoteric material
☑ web blocking circumvention tools

I love the one called “esoteric.” Okay, so there’s other crap that we want to keep from people but we don’t know what to call it.. c’mon people, what do you got for me? Esoteric! Brilliant, run with that! So, if you’re interested in alcohol, smoking, eating disorders or suicide and there’s a list saying as much, expect insurance companies, police, social services and so forth to be interested in that. Clicking extremist content is a short cut to being put on an especially special list. Web forums is, um, most the web. An interest in blocking technology can get fast tracked to GCHQ. Esoteric just sits with me, though. An interest in minority, non-mainstream views or ideas; we’ll just filter all that out unless you specifically tell us not to.

This isn’t about pornography or protecting children. It’s not really even about censorship, though self-censorship become a defacto byproduct. It’s about lists, or the threat of lists. First off, in a public and open message to my ISP, my household will be opting out of all filters. There, now you know. We want uncensored access to content. Sorted. Secondly: Those who pose a serious public risk in any of the topics above are not going to opt out of those filters. They will simply bypass them, and do so easily. This isn’t targeting them. It’s about establishing crowd control and instilling larger scale of fear and tracking.

We get a closer idea of how the interests above will be defined by looking into the authors of the policy. We have Prime Minister Davide Cameron, who doesn’t have an understanding of how the technology works, which is useful to supporters of internet blocking. Then we have Mary Whitehouses and her Christian organisation, the Safer Media campaign, which seeks a more puritanical internet which was the original campaigner. Lead supporter is Conservative MP Claire Perry, who supports the above mentioned fundamentalist Christian group and faces potential legal action for alleged defamation of perceived critics. Do you really want these people defining what’s esoteric or extremist, let alone pornographic? The people who run the Daily Mail, do, but then they’ve got a history of supporting these kinds of initiatives.

 Secret police
It’s something we’re told is bad business for democratic societies, with boo-scary tales from Egypt and China. Britain is home to secret police as well, though. That GCHQ is part of the special group of government agencies with technology to spy on its own citizens isn’t new news at this point. Neither is the police programme that embeds under cover agents in civilian activist organisations. But it essentially amounts to a secret police that isn’t exactly protecting the population from crime as much as it’s protecting itself from the population.

Increasing anti immigrant, xenophobic and pro separatist views propulgated
The increase in UKIP‘s popularity, the huge shift in negative attitudes toward immigrants, and the constant targeting of Romanians in anti-immigrant rhetoric is creating a picture of a Britain that Britain would have stood against a little over half a century ago. With little more than the fear of foreign-sounding people going for it, anti-EU movements are pushing a referendum that would push the country into a new  Splendid Isolation, and only increase the likelihood that Scotland would want to distance itself from it to save its ties with the EU.

In summery: everything is going swell here compared to the downward spiral happening over in the U.S. And now on to some forbidden information that you’ll soon be blocked from accessing in UK unless you specifically tell your internet service provider (and your government, the police, GCHQ, etc.) that you want it: