The Human Stains
The bland, featureless face in the picture belongs to Andrew Burnham, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport.
Look at it - it is a tabula rasa that keeps its owner's secrets. It is the face of a conformist attempting to affect a gravitas he does not possess. It is a face that looks as if it has never lived.
It is ironic that Burnham should surface again so soon after the death of Harold Pinter; less than three months ago, I wrote of how his desire to regulate the uses of Church property made him reminiscent of a Pinter character.
In an interview in today's 'Telegraph', Burnham floats the kite of Internet censorship. According to the 'Telegraph',
"(H)e believes that new standards of decency need to be applied to the web. He is planning to negotiate with Barack Obama’s incoming American administration to draw up new international rules for English language websites."
A graduate in English whose only gainful employments seem to have been at various levels of party politics, it would be interesting to know the nature of the moral and ethical training he has received that qualifies him to pronounce weightily on the need for 'new standards of decency'. He knows that the people are far to his right - is he mumming populism? Is he trying to strike some pose as The Whitehouse Of The Web?
Or is it more the novelty of the 'new standards of decency' that he's interested in? One can already imagine what these 'new standards of decency' will be; some synthetic, ad hoc, back-of-the-fag-packet secular Summa Theologica for the 21st Century - or is that the 19th? I keep forgtting when I am.
Such 'new standards of decency' will have the predictable result that the only bloggers you'll ever be allowed to read will be Osama Saeed (for the looniest diversitoids), Sunny Hundal (for boring bores with reading ages sufficiently advanced to be able to handle 'The Daily Mirror'), and Oliver Kamm (for intellectual ballast).
And any 'new standards of decency' cooked up by Andy Burnham and Barack Obama will mean the end of VDare, Chronicles, Larry Auster, Dennis Mangan and most of the blogs and sites under the heading 'USA' on the right hand side of this blog.
The 'Telegraph' continues,
"The Cabinet minister describes the internet as “quite a dangerous place” and says he wants internet-service providers (ISPs) to offer parents “child-safe” web services.
Giving film-style ratings to individual websites is one of the options being considered, he confirms. When asked directly whether age ratings could be introduced, Mr Burnham replies: “Yes, that would be an option. This is an area that is really now coming into full focus.”
ISPs, such as BT, Tiscali, AOL or Sky could also be forced to offer internet services where the only websites accessible are those deemed suitable for children".
That would be the end of this blog. What would first be touted as a law intended to 'protect' children would appear in the draft legislation as applying to all web users. Although hopefully neither obscene nor offensive, this blog's content is written by an adult for other adults, hopefully dealing with very adult themes in a relatively adult way. It is unsuitable for children, and would in all likelihood be blocked by any ISP operating under a universal 'Let's Protect The Kiddies' law.
He goes on to say,
"If you look back at the people who created the internet they talked very deliberately about creating a space that Governments couldn’t reach. I think we are having to revisit that stuff seriously now. It’s true across the board in terms of content, harmful content, and copyright. Libel is [also] an emerging issue.
“There is content that should just not be available to be viewed. That is my view. Absolutely categorical. This is not a campaign against free speech, far from it; it is simply there is a wider public interest at stake when it involves harm to other people. We have got to get better at defining where the public interest lies and being clear about it.”
Spaces that governments can't reach include the mind and the soul: Burnham's are Burnham's and mine are mine, and he has no business mangling John Stuart Mill so that he can dictate how I should treat either of them. The families of Jeshma Raithatha and Clare Bernal, both murdered by Eastern Europeans given free access to the United Kingdom by Burnham's government, might have something to say about the public interest being involved in the formation of public policy when it might involve harm to other people. Does anyone ever ask them? Or have their tragedies just become last year's fish and chip wrapping?
I have been predicting the advent of Internet censorship for nearly four years. In some form or other, it will come - in the age of authoritarian freedom, the Internet is too powerful a tool for the individual to be able to wield at the authoritarians' expense. Yet in his litany of crimes against authoritarianism such as libel and copyright, Andy Burnham missed out a cracker.
Contempt of court.
Paul Staines is not a blogger I read with any degree of regularity. He might be a very nice guy, but I find his approach childish, charmless and bereft of meaningful insight.
Yet Staines has been on the receiving end of an injunction at the instance of lawyers acting for Zac Goldsmith. The aspect of this affair that is actually quite funny is that Staines didn't seem to know anything about this case, or the background to the matter itself, until someone told him he couldn't say anything about it. In following this course of action, all that Goldsmith and his agents have achieved is that people now know things about his business that he actually spent good money trying to suppress. Self-defeating, or what?
In case this post attracts the attention of Messrs. Peter Carter-Ruck & Partners, they are invited to peruse the terms of a couple of hoary old chestnuts called The Acts of Union; you know, the ones that preserves Scotland's status as a place where the word 'injunction' is not a competent term of art. Ask Mahzer Mahmood - he knows all about them.
As indeed did Zac's late father, Sir James Goldsmith. Fishpaste first achieved public prominence by eloping to Gretna Green with the billionheiress Isabel Patino, by that time already pregnant, thus exploiting the difference between the respective Scottish and English laws on parental consent to marriage.
There's a moral in there somewhere. It's that using the law to get what you want can be extremely productive and profitable in the short term; but over the long term you've got to be really good at it, because it's also a petard by which you must be willing to be hoist.
You know what I really loved about being a solicitor? Combing the small print.