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This guy thinks 1984 is an instruction manual, not a warning

Further to my brief remarks yesterday on the UK government’s plans to intensify scrutiny of the internet (although it may be that the government is changing its tack), comes this piece of crap from Dan Hodges, a Labour Party supporter who writes approvingly of the Big Brother state. This man is beyond irony.

Take this as an example of his thinking:

“I don’t want less surveillance, I want more of the stuff. My idea of the perfect society is one where every street corner has a CCTV camera, everyone has a nice shiny ID card tucked in their wallet and no extremist can even think of logging onto a dodgy website without an SAS squad abseiling swiftly through their window.”

And of course this is his idea of the killer argument:

“For one thing, I have a relatively benign view of the state. There are some things it does much better than others, and I realise it’s high time it learnt to cut its coat to suit its cloth. But on balance I view the state as a force for good, rather than some giant, menacing monolith, and that’s especially true when it comes to stopping myself, my family and my friends getting blown up by crazed terrorists.”

“I have an equally benign, if unfashionable, view of our politicians and our security services. I’m not the greatest fan of either Theresa May or David Cameron, but if they say they need to have access to my emails in order to ensure the security of the nation, I’m inclined to give them the benefit of the doubt. Just having a quick look, my last three were from Middlesex County Cricket Club, Woolworths and the editor of Total Politics magazine. And if the Home Secretary and the Prime Minister are really that bothered, they’re welcome to them.”

Ah, “only the innocent have anything to fear” argument. Mr Hodges is undisturbed by the thought of mistaken identities, or youthful radicalism catching up with anyone. No sir, ordinary good men and women of the UK can rest easy in the knowledge that their innocuous, dull messages to friends and business will not incur the suspicion of those men from GCHQ or wherever.

This sort of thing is mildly terrifying to the extent that it shows how trusting so many people are of the modern state and its apparatus. And there is simply no space in Mr Hodge’s mind, it appears, for any suspicion of how such intelligence might be misused. If the recent allegations of corruption by the UK police over the supply of data to bent journalists has taught us anything, it is that if we aggregate vast caches of data into one place, someone, somewhere, will be tempted to make wrongful use of it. It boggles the mind that Mr Hodges does not see this.

Mr Hodges also argues, not very convincingly, that recent some miscarriages of justice would not have happened had we British not been so precious about privacy:

“The civil libertarians, from both left and right, have been out in force this week. But if you look at any of the most prominent modern miscarriages of justice, they have resulted not from the state accumulating too much intelligence on its citizens, but too little. I wish, for example, the Metropolitan police Operation Kratos team had been able to access, in real time, more information about the true identity of Jean Charles de Menezes, before shooting him dead at Stockwell tube. Those wrongly incarcerated for the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings spent decades in jail precisely because the police and intelligence services did not have sufficient information on the real perpetrators of those attacks, and buckled to public pressure to bang up the first Irishmen they could lay their hands on.”

Ah, yes, if only Britain had been completely festooned with CCTV and the rest in the early 70s and later, then all those folk banged up for killing people would have been free.

I would recommend Mr Hodges spends some time reading the thoughts of security expert Bruce Schneier before opining again about the “benign” nature of an all-encompassing surveillance state.

27 comments to This guy thinks 1984 is an instruction manual, not a warning

  • “Hello, this is the Nazi Party of 1937. We’d just like to let you know that we are all pissing ourselves laughing at the antics of both “sides of politics” in your one party state.

    All the best, and Goering and Hitler in particular want to say ‘big ups’ – we were truly amateurs.”

  • Alisa

    I’ll repeat a comment I made elsewhere: this yet again puts the lie to the argument that collectivists only want to curtail others’ freedoms – nothing could be further from the truth. A true collectivist does not value his freedom nearly as highly as an individualist, if at all.

    BTW, he calls his views ‘unfashionable’ – I sure hope he’s right.

  • RAB

    There’s only one word for Dan Hodges, and that is Fuckwit! And all the comments under the article almost unanimously agree.

    Like him though, I assumed that the State was already doing this (try dropping the words Bomb, Semtex etc into your telephone conversation and see how fast the SAS come absailing through you window). As one of the comments remarked, all this Law will do is to make what is already being done, Legal.

    We cannot give them more sticks to beat us with. The anti terrorism laws are already being abused and used to stop peaceful protests, photography etc. And the proposed Secret Trials Law is just more of the same.

    But Dan is a happy man! Like I said, Fuckwit.

  • Midwesterner

    Alisa, that was my first thought, too. The guy is transcendentally collectivist and he really means it. Bruce Schneier would be incomprehensible to him. This guy is very probably content even to be the victim of systemic errors simply because he believes the overall net result on balance is good for ‘society’ or whatever collective he sees himself (and everybody else!) as belonging to.

    It would be interesting and useful (in a tactical way) to put this guy’s other values on the record. It would probably do more to discredit his stance on privacy than any amount of thoughtful debate could.

  • Laird

    He’s one of the “useful idiots” Lenin gloated about. They are legion.

  • Hmm

    For years it has been almost like a physical pain to travel through the cities of Britain and be forced to take part in the “sickness” of the people. It is talked about and acted on ALL the time on different levels… Each level sees it quite openly as a sickness in a different way, yet each level rationalizes personal value in the sickness. Each level acts to keep the sickness strong! They are tied in knots and nots, non compliance is not acceptable. Authority rules.

    They passionately(or more often, angrily) tell how “they have done this to us”, how they have done this: “THEM!” … it’s always “THEM!”… Yet at the same time the solution given is always “THEM!” – “They must do for me”. They are afraid of THEM, yet bow to THEM.

    Britain reeks of education. The idea that they may have life as an individual free of government is blasphemy. “Someone else” has to think it through and do it for them… the State will… that is what the State does! That is what Authority does, that’s what Big Brother does: Don’t you see, Big Brother gives freedom!
    Freedom from thinking. Big Brother is my tool, my thinking tool- Big Brother works for me. Big Brother means money for me and power – Big Brother is mine! I have the power!

    British politics is akin to watching Mr Bean aiming for world domination.

  • Alisa

    He may be useful, Laird, but he’s not an idiot – see above. Never make the mistake of underestimating the enemy.

  • manuel II paleologos

    I suppose to be charitable, he’s being deliberately provocative. And I have to say I’d like to hope that some people, notably rotund Al Qaeda leaders enjoying their Human Right To A Family, are indeed having their communications scanned very carefully.

    The especially dim-witted hole in his argument for me is that Jean Charles de Menezes was killed BECAUSE of big brother surveillance, not by its absence. That ghastly episode was precisely what we have to fear from surveillance – if you look quite like a known terrorist, you’re really in terrible trouble.

  • Sam Duncan

    For one thing, I have a relatively benign view of the state

    Really? So he’s perfectly happy about the way the state handled, let’s say, the miners’ strike of the 1980s, then. The fact that much of the previous cabinet, including the Prime Minister, were Persons of Interest to MI5 in their youth (and, in his utopia, would have spent most of it banged up) doesn’t bother him in the slightest.

    Yeah, right. It doesn’t seem to occur to him that should prevailing attitudes towards socialism return to something more akin to what they were in the 19th Century, he’d be the one with the SAS on his windowsill.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    “The innocent have nothing to fear.”

    The Stasi would doubtless have adopted that as their mission statement, had they been into that kind of thing.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Total Politics magazine

    Oh boy, once TP’s editors transgress, Mr. Hodges is in trouble!

  • Brad

    Perhaps a gentle reminder is necessary that the Nazis took over from the inside? Beware what you create and assume that it will always reside in the “proper” hands. Throw in a little economic turmoil and being caught Jewish becomes a crime. This came about from the humble beginnings in 1870, through various Statist adhesions, to the 1930′s and a totalitarian state could be made after “kicking out a few of the rotted supports”. The mind spins what such sorts could, and already are, making with modern tools and methods. But we’re so much further along nowadays, so no fears.

  • AKM

    Thank you Brad. That was my immediate reaction as well; even if you trust the current batch of politicians & planners, seeing them as nice-but-dim or whatever, who is to say that the next lot won’t abuse the powers or the lot after them? If you’ve lost the right to bear arms, as we have, you’re going to be totally helpless when/if the state takes the gloves off.

  • Brad wrote:

    Beware what you create and assume that it will always reside in the “proper” hands.

    It’s one of RC Dean’s Iron Laws: “Me today, you tomorrow.

  • Chip

    Why does he assume a supposedly benign state would remain so once it had total control?

    Unchecked state power is never benign.

  • Laird

    And power is never not abused, eventually.

  • Laird

    Wow, that was an awkward sentence, wasn’t it? Let’s try again: Power is always abused, eventually. I think that’s a little more clear.

  • John K

    It’s not Dan Hodge’s fault that he looks like a rodent caught in a spotlight, but it is his fault that he is a feral Labour supporter. Anyone who, given the evidence of the last 100 years, still thinks socialism and collectivism is the proper way to organise a society and an economy is clearly deranged, and I’m afraid poor Hodges is too far gone to help.

  • Andrew Duffin

    @Laird, you’re possibly correct, but here’s what Michael Portillo (remember him?) had to say about it:

    “I having been in government have every reason to know that the government routinely abuses the powers it has. It’s not a matter of the last resort, it’s the first resort. It isn’t something that happens exceptionally, it happens all the time.”

    So it’s not a matter of power being abused “eventually”. Not at all.

  • Laird

    I stand corrected, Andrew. I was being charitable, giving them the benefit of the doubt. Silly error.

  • Anyone who, given the evidence of the last 100 years, still thinks socialism and collectivism is the proper way to organise a society and an economy is clearly deranged, and I’m afraid poor Hodges is too far gone to help.

    I’d go one further and say that a society and an economy do not need to be and cannot be organised at all, and anyone attempting to do so is going to cause nothing but trouble.

  • Jerry

    ‘Why does he assume a supposedly benign state would remain so once it had total control?’
    Two possible reasons –

    1) He is a fool who is unwilling or incapable of
    learning from history and/or simple observation.

    2) He REALLY believes that people are basically good
    and moral and ethical.

    On the second one, with which I completely disagree, even if he were correct, not ALL people possess and live by those qualities. Unfortunately, the ones that don’t are the ones that will crave power and strive to obtain it, end up in government ( in power) and then his fantasy utopia STILL falls apart !!

  • Ah, “only the innocent have anything to fear” argument.

    It’s not even as if they’re coming out with anything new but they like sheeple to think it is.

  • Quite so, Jerry. If most people were basically good and moral and ethical (which i don’t believe, in fact i would say (and I may be projecting here ) most people are afraid of negative consequences ).thay would be an argument for complete anarchy.
    A total surveillance state would save the very worst negative consequences for people transgressing against the state itself, rather than those mugging old ladies for example.

  • n005

    If I may paraphrase Mr. Hodges:

    Those wrongly incarcerated for the Guildford and Birmingham pub bombings spent decades in jail precisely because the police and intelligence services did not have sufficient information on the real perpetrators of those attacks, and buckled to public pressure to bang up the first Irishmen they could lay their hands on god help them, our police and military are incorrigibly vindictive, impatient, and bloodthirsty, won’t abide frustration, and just haven’t got the moral fortitude to publicly concede that they are only human and less than omniscient and omnipotent; they just have to have some warm body, any body, upon which to pin every single crime, and the innocent be damned.

    There, I think the premise of his argument comes across much more clearly that way.

  • K

    If libertarians had the same militant attitude as the extreme left, a few dozen would be following this guy around recording and reporting his transgressions again the law – of which there must be a multitude as it is virtually impossible to not to violate some law on a weekly basis in the nanny state. The state is not so much fun when looked at from the bitey end.

  • Steven Rockwell

    I understand all the people everywhere should just bellyfeel minluv’s lastest plan to keep us safe from Eurasia, and that some ownlife-loving thoughtcriminals might think this plan to be double-plus ungood, but these people better unsub themselves to BB or else the might find themselves on their way to a joycamp.

    We need everyone to get on board. Eastasia isn’t going to defeat itself you know.