Declining Freedom in Britain
A Government on the Rampage
by Francois Tremblay (e-mail: FTremblay@liberator.net) [April 8th, 2000]
The British have officially gone off the deep end. The Most Munificent King Tony Blair is really off his rocker, and his subjects are off to never-never land.
Why do I say that, you ask? Am I being chauvinistic or irreverent? Not at all. Perhaps you remember Britain's total handgun ban back in 1997. By that time, the English Bill of Rights was pretty much forgotten under the piles of bureaucratic paper. This once-proud country, which had between one and two million handguns, is now reduced to seeing a flow of 2,500 (illegal, of course) guns imported every week. The legislation is so ridiculous that even handgun sports cannot be practiced (even though international shooting events are still legal).
Now only air toys are permitted, but legislation against these is also being considered. The reason for this is not clear: maybe they are afraid of rashes. It's a sad world when we deprive children of toys because people don't like its connotations.
At the time, people were still drying their tears from the Dunblane massacre, but it seems they refused to learn their lesson: parents of the victims were amongst those who cheered the decision. Where are the hearts of these people?, is a difficult question to answer. It seems that the people who should encourage self-defence have always been its most ferocious detractors.
Whatever the reason for banning handguns was, it didn't do any good, as we might expect. The whole period of gun scare in the UK, from around 1981 to today, saw the homicide rate get higher by 5%. The rate of home burglaries is around 50% (compared to 13% in the US). Murder, armed robberies, and other serious crimes are also generally on the rise. Same thing happened in Australia in 1997, and the same thing will happen next year in Canada when C-68 will be passed. Same old, same old...
But never mind reality! The important is to cater to the populace and stay in power. That's why laws are being proposed to outlaw rifles, shotguns, and especially toy plastic guns and beer glasses because they might be used as weapons. I swear I could never make this up, I'm not imaginative enough. It seems to me that they could do even better and ban hands - after all, nobody will be able to yield any weapon without hands. I suggest we proceed to cut off everyone's hands right now.
But gun control is not the reason why I say the UK has gone off the deep end. That is only the tip of the iceberg... and a harbinger of things to come. Indeed, the government is putting forward even more sinister and far-reaching laws. The names of these upcoming laws are the "Regulation of Investigatory Powers Bill" and the "Criminal Justice Bill". Behind these formal and innocuous names are hiding unbelievable measures.
The most important of these bills, the RIP, proposes the following measures, divided in three categories:Interception of communications -- brings interception legislation up-to-date towards new technologies
The police and intelligence agencies will now have the right to intercept email communications. ISPs will be required to have intercept capabilities, and will have to use them if the police so desires. Tipping off someone that his mail is being intercepted can get you in jail for a maximum of five years.
Intrusive investigation techniques -- extension of the police's right to use covert informants and intrusive investigation
Access to encrypted data -- encryption keys or encrypted material no longer private: must be surrendered to any police officer with a mock notice
Withholding an encryption key will be an offense punishable with up to two years in jail.
The RIP bill is expected to become law before September 2000.
The problem is one of privacy, and what this concretely amounts to is the destruction of any possible computer and Internet privacy. Anything you say or do on your computer becomes fair game for legal agencies to seize your data. And since the notices necessary for these seizures are supposed to be made by mock judges (the law states that the judge must be biased towards the prosecutor), what we have is nothing more than a direct attack on the right to a just trial and the right to be silent. A citizen can be condemned to be seized without him even knowing it, and forced to give away evidence without being able to legally refuse, by a mock trial, which does not fulfil the basic requirements of justice.
It is a principle that is not only damageable as a law, but a critically dangerous precedent. How big a step is it from saying that someone suspected of having in his possession illegal material (whatever this illegality may be) is guilty until proven innocent, to saying that anyone suspected of a crime should leave his property open to any inspector?
But the problem is even deeper than privacy or illegality. If one cannot keep even encrypted content secret, and one's email or other communications are intercepted, then any hope of free trade apart from the prying eyes of the law is gone forever. This will only help the government to get its filthy hands on Internet commerce, and stop cold the libertarian ambition to use the Internet as a tool of freedom. In the fight against socialism, this is the fatal blow in the UK -- if other countries follow suit, we will have lost the battle.
Furthermore, the problem about Internet legislation is larger in scope than only one country. Laws about the Internet in general affect the whole world. That means we have to be careful about British people, for example, in our fight against the incestuous marriage of money and state. You see the same phenomenon with the government's attempts to make official censorship laws in the United States. All the sites in the world keep a watchful eye on whenever they will lose their American customers tomorrow.
The other bill that seems very worrisome is the Criminal Justice Bill, which is mainly an attempt to destroy the jury system. I have nothing against destroying the jury system, but it goes further than that. What has travellers of all kinds angry is that the bill proposes a return of the suss law, the criminalization of squatters and beggars, the illegality of gatherings with music "characterised by repetitive beats" (I guess rap is out of fashion in the UK), as well as massive restrictions of the right to protest and demonstrate peacefully (or incite to protest, or organize a protest). Not only that, but the law also intends to forbid people from travelling to a place where the police "reasonably believes" that a protest is going to take place.
The proposed bill also criminalizes any nomadic lifestyle involving vehicles, even going to seizure of the vehicles if the people do not obey orders to leave.
There is also a more subtle effect, according to British lawyer Humfrey Malins (who was part of a Standing Committee on this very question): "(...) we are in danger of building, brick by brick, a kind of pyramid of the wording that must be used by those who pass sentence... A danger is developing that the increase of such considerations will make matters, in the long run, less intelligible". Confusion is a primordial element of a socialist state - when people don't know if what they are doing is illegal or not, they are bound to feel guilty or evil (we see the same phenomenon happening in religion, for the same reason).
Right to bear arms?
At any rate, experts are of the opinion that, since the Parliament is "completely in Blair's pocket," the bills should be enacted sooner or later. The British Prime Minister, unrestrained by the Bill or Rights or any constitution, does not face any sort of strong opposition to his propositions -- the other parties are weak and divided. This gives him enormous leverage to implement whatever popular rules he wants to. This is different from the United States, where the Constitution and Bill of Rights gave very little leverage for democratic action until the middle of the last century.
That is the real consequences of a "political monarchy" system. What we have is nothing more than the perfect recipe for a police state -- you can see that any country which refuses to acknowledge the rights of its citizens to defend themselves and even assembly, is ripe for tyranny. It is perhaps the reason why gun advocates often point out that the first move of tyrannies is to take away everyone's guns. It's much easier to impose a police state when only the police has any power.
Ironically, the alleged reason for the RIP bill is IRA terrorism. I fear to once again mention the obvious: banning guns only kills more civilians, not less. Not only that, but the law will of course stay even when the problem will have faded away in history (as we have seen with taxes, unfortunately). It's a perfect alibi to pass such laws. Invoke punctual problems, raise public outcry against these "terrible wrong" that you are going to "solve", take the credit when the problem inevitably tapers off, and build off on that successful foundation.
Even if the laws don't pass, the British government has already given a good example of how to proceed: just take the most controversial laws, mix them with more acceptable ones, and make a new bill a couple years later, when nobody is talking about it anymore. That's what they did with the points contained in the two new bills; I guess their plan is to eventually win the ad nauseam fight bit by bit, maybe seep some through the cracks.
As I said before, women whose children get killed in massacres seem to be the most vehement advocates of leaving our children defenseless. There seems to be some kind of very odd phenomenon at work here, one that is so universal that it must be instinctual. This is just a hypothesis, but maybe there's an instinctual tendency here that we don't know much about. The whole irony of gun control and political power in general -- we encourage political power to develop, at our expense. Some people have conjectured that our irresistible impulse to sacrifice ourselves to, or trust in, states is a projection of our desire to believe in a god who watches over us and changes reality around for us. There seems to be good evidence of this when we observe that modern countries that are more religious also tend to value freedom, and countries where non-belief is enforced or dominant tend to be very socialist.
On a perhaps unrelated note, UK religious leaders have recently crafted a new 150-page report on "the nature of Hell," that purports to "teach the realities of Hell to the citizens." Perhaps they are trying to steel their citizens for the upcoming Hell on earth, or trying to scare them into religion for fear of living the same thing than they experience on earth. Who knows?
The loss of another country to enemy hands is not a new phenomenon in Europe. The continent in general has been softened for a long time by the socialist atmosphere, as well as the influence of eastern communist countries. It is no wonder that the illness is propagating, with ultra-socialists countries like Sweden, France, Germany, and others -- as well as the very recent rise of neo-nazism in Austria with extreme-right president Jörg Haider. It has become very easy to take slavery for granted, and the European Union is only expected to accelerate this movement.
In fact we already observe that the EU is already used as an easy catalyst to implement continent-wide socialist measures. This is what, and for seemingly good reasons, American nationalists fear will happen with the United Nations. When you start looking at the EU's track record, the "wild rednecks" don't seem to be so wrong after all. I think we can safely say that Europe is going to pot.
We aren't doing much better in North America, by constantly restricting guns (and giving a boost to the crime rate), banning handguns, attacking gun manufacturers and fighting against the right to own arms itself -- the very foundation of America. During the 1999 State of the Union Address, Clinton clearly stated his intentions:"(...) I propose a 21st Century Crime Bill to deploy the latest technologies and tactics to make our communities even safer. Our balanced budget will help put up to 50,000 more police on the street in the areas hardest hit by crime, and then to equip them with new tools from crime-mapping computers to digital mug shots. We must break the deadly cycle of drugs and crime"
And with the Republicans to come, it'll only get uglier. Even the American government itself is out to break your back. What's new?
Seriously (because politicians are not a serious matter anyway), isn't suing gun manufacturer pretty much like suing McDonalds because you spilled hot coffee on your crotch? But wait! Guns are made of metal, therefore we should sue mine owners. Since the Earth was made by God, I guess we'll have to sue the Almighty for making it possible to have metal in the first place. But since God doesn't exist, I propose we sue the churches instead.
What can you do to stop the British government from making another totalitarian country? If you're not British, not much can be done. If you are, it's your fault for electing these people in the first place, so don't complain. But if you repent, there are some recommendations that have been proposed. Richard Stallman, of Linux Today, recommends consulting the web site www.stand.org.uk for more information about protesting the bill, purging encrypted files or using a technique called "steganography" to hide them in image files. In short, going into virtual hiding. But that doesn't do any good to your privacy, I'm afraid.
Time to hide the loot, the Gestapo is a-comin'! Welcome, British Nazis. Welcome to the world of totalitarianism. We're just behind ya'.
[Visit Francois Tremblay's personal pages at http://www.objectivethought.com.]
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