Tag Archives: censorship

Well, You Could Call It ‘Incompetence’, But…

Yesterday’s revelation that some key documents have either been ‘mislaid’ or have ‘gone missing’ from the National Archives would appear, at first glance, to have some plausibility. But the files, which pertain to important events in British political history, such as the notorious Zinoviev Letter, the Falklands War and the plot to undermine the Wilson governments, seem to have vanished at a most opportune moment for the Conservative government.

Ian Cobain writing in The Guardian says:

The disappearances highlight the ease with which government departments can commandeer official papers long after they have been declassified and made available to historians and the public at the archives at Kew, south-west London.

A Freedom of Information Act request in 2014 showed that 9,308 files were returned to government departments in this way in 2011. The following year 7,122 files were loaned out, and 7,468 in 2013. The National Archives says Whitehall departments are strongly encouraged to promptly return them, but they are not under any obligation to do so.

Worrying. Further down, he writes:

Some historians have been particularly distrustful of the Foreign Office since 2013, when the Guardian disclosed that the department had been unlawfully hoarding 1.2m historical files at a high-security compound near Milton Keynes in Buckinghamshire.

The hoard came to light during high court proceedings brought by a group of elderly Kenyans who were detained and abused during the Mau Mau insurgency in 1950s Kenya, when the Foreign Office admitted it had withheld thousands of colonial-era files.

A few years earlier, the Ministry of Defence refused to consider a number of files for release under the Freedom of Information Act on the grounds that they may have been exposed to asbestos.

The files concerned such matters as arms sales to Saudi Arabia, UK special forces operations against Indonesia and interrogation techniques. The MoD denied it was using the presence of asbestos in an old archive building as an excuse to suppress the documents.

When all else fails, blame it on asbestos… or foreigners, or gays or something.

Given the secrecy with which the British state operates, and the Conservative Party’s past record in undermining political parties and the democratic process, the Cat is inclined to suspect foul play. If government departments are allowed to take documents from the National Archives without being compelled to return them, then this leads one to conclude that items weren’t “misplaced”, they were taken for a reason and it’s fairly easy to work out what that reason was: to destroy them or keep them hidden from public view.

Remember that documents that are held in the National Archives are available to historians, academics and other members of the public on request. It is likely that the Tories, who have attempted to revise history for the seven years they’ve been in power, want to create a narrative that is, not only favourable to them, but one in which other legitimate political parties are cast in a negative light.

There must be a fully independent public inquiry into the disappearance of these documents. A failure to do so will only increase public suspicion of the Conservative Party and the state.

Ian Cobain’s book The History Thieves: Secrets, Lies and the Shaping of a Modern Nation is worth a read.

 

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Free Speech Warriors And The Free Speech Illusion

I call them ‘free speech warriors’ but you may know them as the ‘alt-right’ and/or as neo-Nazis and neo-fascists. Whenever they’re challenged on their racist and sexist views, free speech warriors will complain long and hard that their right to free speech is being limited. They may even whine about ‘political correctness gone mad’. What they refuse to understand is that if they should utter ill-informed opinions or hate speech, then people have a right to challenge them. That’s not closing down free speech, that is free speech. It’s the right to reply. For the free speech warriors, freedom of speech means “I say what I like and you shut up” and if you challenge them, they may even utter the juvenile “you hate free speech”. The free speech warrior’s concept of ‘free speech’ is nothing more a form of bullying, and by being over-sensitive to criticism, they are little better than the authoritarians they claim to hate.

What British free speech warriors have consistently failed to understand is that free speech is an illusion. Why? Because there is nothing on the statute books that enshrines the right to free speech. Even a first year ‘A’ Level Media Studies student knows that. Let’s just take a look at three ways in which free speech is limited in Britain.

  1. The Official Secrets Act: Everything the state does is subject to the OSA and when I say ‘everything’, I mean everything. Even the brand of toilet paper that’s used in government departments is covered by the act. Breaching the OSA can land you with a massive fine, a prison sentence or both.

This section provides the penalties and mode of trial for offences under the Act.

Section 10(2) provides that a person guilty of an offence under section 8(1) or 8(4) or 8(5) is liable on summary conviction to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to a fine not exceeding level 5 on the standard scale, or to both.

Section 10(1) provides that a person guilty of any other offence under the Act is liable, on conviction on indictment to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years, or to a fine, or to both, or, on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding six months, or to a fine not exceeding the statutory maximum, or to both.

The words “51 weeks” are prospectively substituted for the words “three months” in section 10(2) by paragraph 39 of Schedule 26 to the Criminal Justice Act 2003.

  1. DSMA-Notices (Defence and Security Media Advisory Notices), formerly called D-Notices are official requests from the Ministry of Defence to media editors advising them to not to publish or broadcast certain items for reasons of national security. The committee that oversees the DSMA Notices is always chaired by a retired senior military officer (a general, admiral or air marshal).
  2. Defamation Laws are used by the rich and powerful to silence dissent. Private Eye magazine has been subject to more libel suits than any other British publication, because it dares to ask serious questions about the powerful people that govern this country. Yet, defamation laws, when properly used, protect people whose reputations have been traduced in the public domain. Sadly, for the ordinary person on an average income, they don’t have the financial means to make use of the High Court to challenge the defamatory allegations printed about them in the tabloid press, which routinely makes up its ‘news’ from lies and smears. The LM network, being the contrarians they are, want to abolish defamation laws altogether. That’s not a surprise, given the fact that ITN successfully sued LM Magazine for libel in 2000.

If you go around thinking that free speech means having the freedom to racially or sexually harass people online, or saying the first thing that comes into your head, then you have a lot of growing up to do. But do these people actually go out of their way to insult their friends, family and work colleagues? Probably. They would claim that they don’t want to be censored and yet, we censor ourselves all the time. How many people tell white lies in order to spare the feelings of a partner, spouse, child or parent? Plenty. Do free speech warriors tell their boss how much they hate them? If they want to keep their job, then they’ll keep schtum until they’ve found another job. However, it is unlikely that the likes of Brendan O’Neill would ever find himself in that position but would he tell his paymaster, Rupert Murdoch, to fuck off? Unlikely. He loves the money he pays him to recycle the same old articles he’s been writing for the last 10 years.

In Excitable Speech (1997), Judith Butler argues:

Language is thought of “mostly as agency-an act with consequences;’ an extended doing, a performance with effects.

Free speech warriors aren’t cognizant of causality; they think they can say what they like, when they like and without consequences, but actions – including verbal actions –  always have consequences. Those who believe that certain kinds of speech don’t hurt people should be locked in a room and subjected to hours of insults and taunts. Let’s see how they deal with it. The chances are they will suffer same kind of psychological trauma they’ve inflicted on their victims on social media and elsewhere.

The free speech warrior is a person that has refused to grow up and accept the fact that they have responsibilities. Free speech has, therefore, become the last refuge of the bully, the racist and the misogynist. Personally, I blame the parents.

References/further reading

Bourdieu, P. (2011). Language and Symbolic Power. Cambridge: Polity Press

Butler, J. (1997). Excitable speech: A politics of the performative. Psychology Press.

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Fulham Chronicle censors Andy Slaughter

Hammersmith MP, Andy Slaughter’s regular column in the Fulham Chronicle has been censored by Hammersmith & Fulham Council.  In an unprecedented move, the Chronicle was effectively bought (for £75,000) by the council so that it may continue to produce its propaganda  after the government forced the abolition of so-called council pravdas earlier this year. The paper, a title in the Trinity Mirror Group of newspapers, has effectively lost its independence and is now dancing to the tune of Greenhalgh and his town hall chums.

This latest move to censor what it doesn’t like follows on from an advert placed in the paper by the Parents Alliance for Community Schools, whichwas also censored by the council, simply because the advert didn’t sit comfortably with its embrace of Toby Young’s free school – which has the full support and approval of the council.

The Shepherds Bush blog has the full story here.

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Touchy Gardiner tries to remove all references to his connection with the Moonies

Gardiner - is he ashamed of his Moonie connections?

Nile Gardiner seems a little sensitive about his past. So much so, that he’s removed any reference of his connection to the Unification Church from his Wikipedia entry. He’s even managed to get the owners of this website to close the page of a book on which he is quoted as having cleaned up anti-Moon graffiti from the campus before Moon’s visit to Yale. No matter.  People like Gardiner leave trails on the Internet and he can’t close down all the sites that mention his connection to the Moonies.

I found this interesting article, from the ‘horse’s mouth’ so-to-speak, which I am going to quote for posterity.

One of the Unificationist graduate students in history at Yale, Nile Gardiner, and a Christian friend, took mops and buckets and proceeded to clean it all off. This of course started allegations concerning free speech, and many articles in the Yale newspapers covered this. They became quiet famous in the Yale conservative circles as “The Moppers.” Literally cleaning up Yale!

In spite of Gardiner’s attempts to expunge all Moonie references from the Internet, the above quote actually comes from the Unification Church. I’d like to see how long that stays on the Web before he orders it to be removed. At any rate, there is no way I’ll be taking it down – even if he tries to put pressure on me.

Without a sympathetic president in the White House, the Moonies – through Gardiner – have been fighting a rearguard action to smear Obama. There isn’t a week that goes by where Gardiner isn’t attacking Obama on his blog or in his columns. Sometimes the attacks on Obama look rather personal. This is from a conservative blog in the States called “The Last Tradition”. Here’s one of the more hackneyed distortions,

Barack Obama has made it clear that he doesn’t believe in American exceptionalism, and has made apologising for his country into an art form. In a speech to the United Nations last September he stated that “no one nation can or should try to dominate another nation. No world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will succeed. No balance of power among nations will hold.” It is difficult to see how a US president who holds these views and does not even accept America’s greatness in history can actually lead the world’s only superpower with force and conviction.

Sometimes, when I look at stuff like this, it’s as if I’m reading something that was written in the 19th century. To be honest, I don’t even know if Gardiner is a US citizen. As far as I know, he’s still British. So why does he get so aeriated about the US and its standing as a world superpower? Is it because he’s nostalgic for empire and is vicariously living the experience of empire (and by extension, classical liberalism) by banging the drum for US imperialism and Pax Americana?

Gardiner’s silence on his connection with the Moonies is strange. In purely psychoanalytical terms, it is this silence that says everything.

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UK Uncut’s Facebook page deleted

UK Uncut’s Facebook page has mysteriously disappeared along with a friend’s page.  No reason seems to have been given and there is no news of this anywhere on the web. If you click on this link, you will be routed to the Facebook log-in page.

Meanwhile the EDL and the BNP still have their pages on Facebook. Presumably those who operate Facebook have some very strange ideas about what constitutes as decent page. I have also heard rumours that UK Uncut’s page had been hacked by elements of the extreme right – presumably the EDL.

In the last week a group calling itself  had a Facebook page that publicized a anti-cuts demo billed as “The March of Resistance” in London for 20 December.  The demo was a trick organized by the EDL to lure unsuspecting protesters into a trap. There is an interesting discussion of it on Urban75’s forum. You can read the comments here.

As for the “UK People’s Initiative”, you can read the confused blog (well, it’s actually a screed) from the ‘organizer’ here.

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