Thursday 1 December 2016

The intense gullibility of Snoopers' Charter cheerleaders

Unfortunately there are an awful lot of hopelessly gullible people in the United Kingdom. In fact these days the hopelessly gullible are clearly an important electoral demographic, hence the Tory government's ever increasing insistence on addressing the British public in glib, over-simplistic and downright misleading platitudes ("all in this together", "living within our means", "Brexit means Brexit" ...)

Out of this hopelessly gullible demographic, one group stands out above all others: the cheerleaders for Theresa May's introduction of the most invasive state surveillance regime of any democratic country on earth.

I've already written an article explaining how the Tory "catching nasty terrorists" justification is an utterly insufficient explanation for why their Snoopers' Charter gives all kinds of non-terrorism related institutions like the Food Standards Agency, the Health and Safety Executive and the Gambling Commission the ability to trawl through the Internet browsing history of any innocent person they may take an interest in. You can read that here.

Anyone who thinks that the threat of terrorism is adequate justification for allowing employees of the Food Standards Agency the opportunity to trawl through the private Internet browsing data of innocent people is obviously astoundingly naive.

One of the most common concerns about state surveillance legislation is the potential for function creep*. The astounding thing about the Tory Snoopers' Charter is that they've already built function creep into the legislation by allowing dozens of non-terrorism related government agencies and quangos to use these invasive snooping powers.

The fact that the Snoopers' Charter enables state spying that goes way beyond the stated justification is far from the only complaint, but the litany of problems with this atrocious piece of legislation simply doesn't deter the right-wing authoritarian "nothing to hide, nothing to fear" crowd.

One of the Tory trolls who regularly bombards the Another Angry Voice Facebook page with his rote learned tabloid drivel tried to defend the Snoopers' Charter by saying that he didn't mind having his private personal data nicked and kept in massive, easily-hackable data dumps, "as long as they do the same to terrorists".

The idea that this mass trawling of the private browsing data of millions of people is going to catch any terrorist aside from the feeblest kind of idiot is laughably naive because any terrorist with a grain of sense is already using VPNs, anonymous Tor networks, end-to-end encryption and the like to evade mass data trawling.

The idea that harvesting the private communications data of millions upon millions of innocent people and dumping it into easily-hackable databases is a price worth paying in order to catch only the most idiotic of terrorists is absurdly naive.

The foolishness of people who would give up their own liberties (like the right to privacy for example) out of fear is best summed up by the Founding Father Benjamin Franklin who said "those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety".

The problem with right-wing cheerleaders for intrusive state surveillance isn't just their naivety, it's also their cognitive inconsistency.

When it comes to the latest Tory privatisation scam these right-wing Tory apologists are always ever so keen to explain that "the state is too big, and too inefficient to run public services properly", hence the need for public assets to be sold-off on the cheap or simply given away for free to the private sector. However when it comes to state surveillance these Tory apologists are suddenly singing a completely different tune. When it comes to the state creating vast data dumps containing the private information of millions of British citizens and British businesses, they suddenly expect us to believe that the state is so magnificently efficient and infallible that the chances of corruption, data loss and vulnerability to hacking are 0%!

Another example of this kind of cognitive inconsistency is the way that in just a matter of days right-wing loud mouths went from damning Fidel Castro as a horrible dictator to ecstatically cheering over the introduction of an invasive state surveillance system that Castro and the Cuban communists could never have imagined in their wildest dreams.
It's clear that right-wing cheerleaders for the Snoopers' Charter are not only staggeringly ignorant about the fact that this bill would only ever catch the most inept of terrorists, they're also capable of the most extraordinary displays of Orwellian Doublethink.

On one level it is actually amusing to witness the remarkably naive and staggeringly hypocritical mental contortions these people are prepared to make in order to justify a state surveillance system that would have made the East German Stasi turn green with envy.

On another level it's deeply concerning that huge numbers of people are actually such enthusiastic supporters of Theresa May and the Tories continually stripping away our rights and liberties that they're willing to overlook the woefully flawed "preventing terrorism" justification narrative; the unlikeliness of actually catching real terrorists through mass data trawling; the dangers of corruption, hacking or data loss; the fact that function creep has actually been written into the legislation; the appalling precedent set to repressive regimes like Turkey and Egypt; and the danger of such surveillance powers eventually falling into the hands of someone even more fanatically right-wing and authoritarian than Theresa May.

What you can do

The Snoopers' Charter is now law, but you can still register your dissent at this atrocious piece of legislation by writing to your MP to complain about it, and by signing the petition to have it repealed.
You can keep yourself informed on security and state surveillance issues by following campaign groups and informative blogs like Open Rights Group, EDRi, Techdirt, Electronic Frontier Foundation... 

On the whole the mainstream media have been pathetically unwilling to give the Snoopers' Charter the critical attention it deserves, so you can also help to spread public awareness of this woeful legislation by sharing this article.

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* = The term "function creep" refers to the way that new laws often end up being used in ways that they were never intended. For example - the use of anti-terrorism legislation to throw an elderly man out of the Labour Party conference for shouting "nonsense" at Jack Straw.

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