I haven’t looked at any news thus far today: often it’s good to do that – you don’t get distracted by the immediate, and you don’t forget to write about the important stuff.
Part of the reason is pressure of building works here: every day I go to one builders’ merchant or another to pick up wood, cement, plaster, fixative, parquet, taps, or paint. I do this because to hand-pick a team of good people and then get them to spend 90% of their time doing what they’re good at for a reasonable price, the client has to do what the expensive ‘design & build’ consultancy would include at three times the price. Also I know what I want, and nobody else does…which would be the same for anyone who’s been around the block a few times.
But mainly, I avoid the news first thing these days because it is either superficial, spun, biased, poorly analysed or, at times, all of those things. This brings me, after a little throat-clearing, to the point: that we are all, like it or not, being censored and monitored, pointed and driven, poked and discouraged, confused and misled round the clock.
Here I am in France – an allegedly democratic country where freedom of speech is a given – and I cannot write all I would like to write in this post because I have my suspicions about a major bank, but the law – yes, a French Law passed by the National Assembly – says I could receive a fine not exceeding €50,000 for suggesting certain things about that bank. The suspicions are I think well-based – on personal experience of odd behaviour over a three month period, and research into its financial position in terms of ClubMed debt and un-netted derivatives. But I will be fined if I offer that opinion and name the bank.
This is of course pure censorship. Censorship is the last resort of those in the élite who do not want The Citizen to know they have f**ked up; but if you’re not in the business of exposing such things to the Citizen then, as George Orwell memorably wrote, you’re in PR.
Anyway, without naming the bank, it had been using various ruses over the last few months to stop me spending my own money. Only when I kicked up an almighty fuss – and brought down upon the high and mighty those higher and mightier – did they at last today give me a new cheque book, and multiply by ten my daily withdrawal facility.
These are my key objections to their behaviour:
1. They forced me to revert to bullying and influence…the two things I detest above most others.
2. They gave a level of service which requires but one word, the diminutive for excrement.
3. The online access was a total shambles.
4. They ignored me for fourteen years and only paid me any attention when I imported large deposits of house restoration money from Britain. The service was no better (of course) but they pestered me with endless requests for meetings “to see how they could help me”.
But I can’t tell you which bank or what I suspect about it in detail because the Hollande government – an allegedly Socialist Government – passed a censorious Act forbidding me from so doing.
In Britain, the situation is more informal….and therefore far worse, in that it is more subtle and thus has what Nixon’s minders used to call “credible deniability”.
You will not get anything about Islamic bombings, misogyny, or intolerance published in a liberal to left newspaper; and anything criticising the underlying basis for neoliberal capitalism – or suggesting perfectly viable alternatives to it – will be spiked in all right wing newspapers. Accuse the Mirror of phone hacking, and it will not be printed in the Guardian. Accuse Telegraph journalists of the same thing, and it will not be mentioned in the Mail.
Comment at any Murdoch newspaper about delaying tactics during the Coulson/Brooks Newscorp trial, and the comment will be deleted. Offend a senior politician on Twitter, and you will be banned. Suggest that some Liverpool supporters were to blame for the Hillsborough disaster, and you will be hounded to Kingdom Come by a braying mob. And of course, get too close to the truth on your blog, and you will receive swarms of paid trolls for your trouble.
And all the while – although we can’t freely boadcast things about them – they collect more and more data about us: what we write, what we say, what we do, where we shop, what we buy and so on.
This steady slide into technological totalitarinism will not be halted until authority is smaller and more accountable….and the private citizen’s responsibilities and influence are much greater. If smaller community governmntis to interfere less in the affairs of the individual, then the individual must accept much more responsibility. This, my friends, is the unavoidable trade-off: to get more power to run our own lives and be heard, we must give government fewer reasons to control and monitor our actions.