The drink soaked expensive private members clubs of London are generally home of the UK Conservative party’s ageing but still prominent base. Here, people congregate and wax prosaically about their travels to countries lik East Germany and Ceaușescu’s Romania . They speak negatively about censorship, unnecessary bureaucracy, an intimidating Stasi and a total lack of political opposition. They often contrast it with a mid-20th century Britain where the most scary thing to happen in respect of public discourse were a punch of skinny pale kids with weird haircuts saying ‘shit’ and ‘bastard’ on television (that would be the Sex Pistols).
Many of these people are still around, although their party has changed. It has moved away from them and closer to the kinds of things they used to mock about other countries. Theresa May even more than David Cameron before her and the neo-liberal Tony Blair before that, doesn’t really like freedom of expression. She has never once talked about the importance of cherishing the right of opposing voices to speak and has frequently called for internet censorship.
Today she has said the following, echoing and hardening her previous calls for internet regulation and censorship,
“We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide.
We need to work with allies democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning”.
This is both foolish and undemocratic.
Her argument boils down to little more than: ‘Bombs don’t kill people, memes kill people’. If anyone is so foolish as to believe that people bitching on Facebook are the root cause of terrorism, rather than a foreign policy which ships young men to Libya in order to fight with al-Qaeda and by extrapolation with NATO troops against the then secular government of Libya, than one is frankly too stupid to be in a leadership position. If one is aware of the problem and ignores it, it means that one is too wicked to be in a leadership position.
ISIS did not spawn from an insane social media thread, it spawned from Tony Blair and George W. Bush’s insane war which toppled the anti-Salafist government of Iraq and allowed al-Qaeda to set its roots down in Iraq. The very group that was once called al-Qaeda in Iraq became the Islamic State of Iraq which is now of course the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State (aka ISIS).
The majority of people who use the internet hate ISIS, but all of the British citizens that the UK intelligence agencies sent to countries like Libya and Syria are either terrorists themselves or accomplices to terrorism, the White Helmets being a prime example of the latter. What’s more is that the current British Prime Minister Theresa May knows this as she was Home Secretary when these men were given safe passage to Libya and later Syria.
Although May and her cohorts are guided by a blind neo-liberal ideology which values Saudi gold more than the blood of their own citizens in London, Manchester and beyond, her anti-free speech/anti-internet policies are little different than those of East Germany, Communist Romania, or isolated Communist Albania.
Her policies are going down the road which British conservatives used to mock–it is called the road to communist censorship of free speech. Now of course, far-right dictatorships are often even worse in respect of censorship, but that argument wouldn’t be particularly powerful among British Conservatives who supported the blood-soaked CIA installed Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.
But among a generation of so-called Conservatives who grow up laughing at Erich Honecker, Nicolae Ceaușescu and Enver Hoxha, they ought to be aware that they’re sitting behind a Conservative party leader whose hatred of free speech is more similar to that of Europe’s 20th century communists than to that of Winston Churchill or even to that Margaret Thatcher and I am certainly no fan of Margaret Thatcher to put it mildly.
Censoring the internet will indeed help May’s political objectives and her far-left desires to regulate privately held companies will doubtless blossom into a corporatist-mega capitalist network of ‘donations’ to her party from companies that want to get off lightly.
There is a wider issue at play here too. The internet is difficult to regulate even in the most modern police states. Theresa May has been calling for internet clamp-downs long before she became Prime Minister. It is probably due to some deep-seated personal issue. But in a society like Britain her plan is likely to cost a lot to implement and it won’t even amount to much.
By contrast, May’s so-called left-wing opponent Jeremy Corbyn has taken an approach to terrorism that involves common sense proposals that one could say are conservative in the sense that they are the least restrictive and most effective ways to achieve public safety. Corbyen said that foreign policy must change in order to avoid a proliferation of international terrorism and that furthermore police and other emergency services should be well funded, staffed and trained.
Corbyn’s policies make sense around the world. May’s policies sound like those of a raving communist dictator fearing that she’s about to lose power.
The British election is in this sense a vote between Corbyn and Ceaușescu.