Keep Calm and Carry On….to Orwell Land
“In England such concepts as justice, liberty and objective truth are still believed in. They may be illusions, but they are very powerful illusions.” – George Orwell
“It’s a big club, and you ain’t in it. – George Carlin
Contain first. Crush later. Control always.
Last weeks substack approached things from an Australian perspective, including several other observations informing the global information space. One that bears repeating, and which I take so obvious as to be axiomatic is this: Australia’s news and media content is an imported and repackaged product of what is permitted be thought and said in the global north. Ozploitation film is a rare exception. Yet it too is a reactive caricature designed for foreign consumption, an exercise in deliberate self-humiliation without any authentic motive or identity. Fiction or fake news, almost all locally manufactured content is just a low fidelity xerox copy of ideas from US, UK, Canada and less so from the EU. Makes no difference if left or right, dissident, or mainstream, content made here is not of here. We in Australia would do better to first know the north to know ourselves and where we are heading. Nonetheless information flow is a two-way street. Though Luna is not Sola, even a weak moon can reveal something of the sun in the light it reflects. And even the sun gaze at the moon for a vision of its own reflection. Propaganda from the north creates political phenomena elsewhere in turn recapitulating or refuting the primary message at its source. The establishment messaging around covid found itself playing out in the petri dishes of Australia, a heavily locked down gulag archipelago of the pacific theatre. The inescapable prison Alcatraz was 2.4kms from mainland San Francisco. Compare this with Perth-8,800kms from no lockdown Tanzania (where the malaria will get you) and Brisbane-12,500kms sailing from no lockdown Mexico (in between every south pacific island was locked down). In relative isolation, the global north was given the message our continent defeated covid with the lockdown policy of Ferguson and a U turned Johnson, or Italy and China. This was a lie fed back up the commonwealth chain to the Sceptered Isle to legitimise its own flirtations with insanity. This is despite Australia 2020-2021 having a typical Asia like pattern of ten-to-hundred-fold lower mortality regardless of the level of viral exposure and regardless the steps taken to avoid it. Stockholm is closer to London by 15,000+ kilometres, the Swedes defeating covid with common sense and pre 2020 pandemic policy. Closer also is Belgium who locked down harshly by euro standards and did far worse than Sweden (though hardly a once in a century pandemic catastrophe). Brexit notwithstanding, the mother land would have done better to look in its ultra-high latitude euro backyard. Another example of top down and bottom-up influence is political ideology itself. Alleged liberal capitalist states of the north can look to Venezuela as proof communism does not work. This vast oversimplification being true to a point, it’s convenient to leave out CIA shenanigans and even Milton Friedman in the failed free market experiment that was Chile’s Pinochet. This has nothing to do with England and nothing to do with covid, though everything to do with the use of the south by the north in information warfare. Africa, Australia and South America are just giant sites for clinical and political experiments. That is another reason why Australians need to look to the global north to see what will happen here (and is happening here).
Last week I also repeated the assertion there is no law. In times of (perceived) exception the state will do whatever it wishes. A propagandised and demoralised people will neither have the power or the numbers to provide a countervailing force, much less the desire borne of being correctly informed. Nor will they have the meta-legal awareness of how to understand a world accelerating in its exploitation of the state of emergency. Power knows the vulnerabilities of the people, to which I might add another stratagem of power in notional classical liberal democracies: i.e. democracy itself as something not gamed to powers advantage. So called conservative parties keep themselves and the two-party system viable by convincing disenchanted members internal reform is possible. Indoctrination would teach us that we lucky few in the democratic world have no reason to complain. If we do, we risk accusation of going rogue against the best of all possible political and liberal economic systems. As everything is the outcome of the public will, the only legitimate mode of complaint is at the ballot box. The eternally obvious fact is that majority opinion is neither necessarily true, necessarily good, or necessarily beautiful. Increasingly it is becoming none of these and as it becomes increasingly difficult to avoid the false, the evil and the ugly.
Another coping strategy is the false belief in the free market as a democratizing force, free market of ideas included. The assumption is that we can always raise issues within the free speech space of the digital public square. The idea begets culture begets political movement begets government begets law. That or the idea begets culture begets a media force putting pressure on the government to beget popular law. None of this is true in the real world. One votes on issues of public consciousness in the same manner any mass consumed product becomes ascendent. The dominant product line of narrative is manufactured by a narrow set of elites who purchase the public square. It gets retailed to the mass of consumers, bringing tyranny over the line to the proverbial “fifty plus one percent” vote. And if the online content is free, you are the product being consumed as elite interests consume your vote along with the perfect knowledge from big data.
In media as in politics, if the consumer longs for a dissident idea expressive of their own selves, elites will co-opt it and manufacture it on their own terms, covertly hostile to the idea in its rawest form ever being brought to market, the internet included. Only their idea is on the shelf. You can only play with their action figures and put their posters on the walls. You will have trouble finding a representation of your own anywhere outside the fringe and the cringe. Many of these will not be censored. They will be held up for public display as products not to consume. You will then consume them in secret, with embarrassment or not at all. The psychological coping strategy is to accept what you are given as good enough, when it is designed with precisely your coping strategies in mind. If they really do a number on you, you will attack those on your own side critical of false prophets and contained opposition. You will say the purity spiral sabotages opportunity for reform and reconciliation to the establishment. You will come to see the best and most essential elements of your original formulation and remedy as a little too extreme.
The question for the UK is who controls the dominant information capital even in the dissident or conservative space? Who polices the boundaries of what can be acceptable dissident right (or old left) opinion. How do they manoeuvre in mouthpieces that contain narratives from going so far and no further as the whole ship drifts towards the isle of a liberal centre that sits upon a tectonic plate itself slowly drifting left? How are these forces connected in turn to the agenda already controlling the major parties and mainstream media. Herein I only tantalise with a couple examples of how the narrative is contained and controlled before overt censorship needs throttle your voice or mine.
People might forget the 2011 debate between Julian Assange and Douglas Murray in which the sly feline silver-tongued Murray blended insinuation with a question. Contra Assange’s revelation of US military crimes, Murray wanted to defend neo con interests and prevent the right becoming antiwar or anti America or taking on energies triggering revival of the paleo conservative movement. He wanted the audience to doubt Assange’s bone fides, provocatively asking where WikiLeaks obtained its funding. He wanted to leave the question hanging in a masterful way and the audience searching their own minds for the subtext that Assange was never going to answer. Possibly it was Murray’s way of mentioning Russia without mentioning Russia. Channelling the inner psychoanalyst, my first thought was who funds Murray that he projects his own hidden shadows off onto a man who has now essentially been in prison for a dozen years and counting (in the heartland of the magna carta no less). As it so happens, Murray’s Henry Jackson Society was created as an explicitly left of centre liberal think tank, later coming within the orbit of funders including US neo con and Zionist groups, the UK home office (MI5?) and others with vested interests. Even the Japanese government dropped a few yen. With opaque funding, one can only go so far before venturing further into speculative territory. But when evaluating any “independent” think tank or qango, one must first ask who are its funders and friends of the executive? When and why is funding only revealed in part shadow by leftist enemies of conservatives rather than conservatives policing its own side. We must look at what mouth pieces say and more importantly do not say. We must take pause and observe how far influencers instruct their followers to go in venturing left or right before applying the brakes and setting the territory of what is taboo and extreme. Just why was the author of “the madness of crowds” almost silent on the madness of the covid cult, the greatest crowd madness of our age (madness being a metaphor, the idea of mass formation psychosis being a nonsense). It all sounds so conservative and edgy to go after the excesses of woke sexuality and race relations without touching anti conservative technocracy and the excesses of gov backed capital. Just who profits in monetary and political terms from content creators and fellow travellers who tour the talking circuit and saturate the internet of sites hungry for big names, peppering speeches with some rhetoric friendly to dissident causes? How is it that those cut from the same cloth and Oxford alumni as the power players with an electoral super majority manage to simultaneously whine about mass immigration (for example) whilst doing absolutely nothing to stop it.
Another example is Unherd. Credit where its due, they did give platform to some critics of lockdowns when the mainstream would only champion it. But is the Unherd street to freedom one that ultimately only ends with a ninety-degree turn into a cul de sac? It is to be noted that its staff are infested with those from the mainstream media and fellow travelers from the British “conservative” and other mainstream parties, the very architects and supporters of lockdown flaunting their own rules behind the scenes. Executive editor Freddie Sayers provided coverage of the grotesquely Austrian vax segregation experience in a half sympathetic way. Yet Sayers did so in a manner akin to an Attenborough wildlife documentary, providing commentary when the audience views a predator rips its prey sinew from bone. Hardly the voice of the dissident, he was jabbed himself and not subject to segregation as he floated over the medical fascism of a new Reich.
Sayers comes from YouGov, founded by Stephen Kukowski (this being his maiden name, a one time conservative candidate, fellow Oxford graduate and former member of the socialist student union) and Nadhim Zahawi (current high ranking conservative party chair and minister for vaccines under Johnson).
Unherd is run by Timothy Montgomerie, a figure who manages the amazing feat of being labelled conversative whilst advocating left of centre socially progressive policy and the think tank “Centre for Social Justice”. Despite notionally resigning from the conservative party, he continued function as an advisor direct to Downing Street long after Brexit. Unherd is financed by Paul Marshal, who despite the advantages of the silver spoon managed to launch himself in the largely Soros funded Kholberg Kravis & Roberts investment group. Not quite a billionaire, Marshal is a liberal centrist whose support of brexit was motivated by money and transatlantic opportunity. He influenced Gove and Gove in turn influenced Johnson to take up the Brexit cause and contain the powers behind alt parties like UKIP from challenging Torrie pseudo-conservatism. Needless to say, all except Zahawi are Oxford boys. Now a backer of the left of center liberal democrat party, Marshal also provided substantial funding for the Legatum institute otherwise founded and partly funded by UAE based billionaire Christopher Chandler. Its mouthpiece is none other than Jordan Peterson. Its mission is for citizens to become good beta lobsters. They are to know their place as hyper-capital, the pseudo-conservatives of the Torrie party and a menagerie of neo con grifts can engage in business as usual without genuine libertarian, old left or paleo right forces rocking the boat. Why does Peterson not take his tongue and lash the military industrial complex, Washington and Langley as savagely as he does his secondary reading of French philosophers? Why is he one day talking to trilaterals in Ljubljana and the next dining with Shapiro and Netanyahu? More on JP in a couple months when I take on the US Ministry of Truth.
The game is to appear to be the conscience of the conservative or libertarian right and give a pretence to the voice of the populist mass whilst containing the energies of authentic dissent. And if the crowd ever suspects the game afoot, just draw upon cold way psy-op anchors and blabber on a bit about Marx. Works every time.
Before we let go of Unherd, it gave platform to that sometimes self-proclaimed libertarian and sometimes self-proclaimed small “l” liberal jurist Lord Jonathon Sumption, making JS the English doyen of respectable lockdown critics. Good lord, he was quick to raise the white flag and take the jab to travel. This is despite all the while recognizing the needle as tipped with coercion. This is also despite talking up a good game of liberty and civil disobedience. By the time interviews of March 2021 and July 2021 rolled around, Sumption’s post jabbed dim flame of libertarianism had been extinguished altogether. When the gloves come off, the rhetoric is a terrifying call to liberty, suggesting:
“discrete civil disobedience in the classic English way” […] “You can invite friends round for a drink, whatever Mr Hancock says.”
If only JS was being ironic in an un-English way. Without any light available for personal insight or to see logical or moral contradiction, Unherd quotes text examples it thinks to be of special value from its own longer form interviews (see links vide infra) along with other selections from the mainstream media. From the July 2021 link I copy these in full, along with a translation for conservatives and libertarian right who think it necessary to worship those saying something you like, simply perforce of their place in the establishment.
“I do not have strong views about vaccine passports. They are an invasion of privacy, but the information in question is on government computers anyway, so the privacy concerns can be overstated”.
Translation; on matters of great moral and political principle, if the enemy has taken a mile there is nothing lost in giving them another. They know everything anyway, so why bother worrying. And next the telescreen.
“I do not like a world in which you have to produce a document in order to justify partaking in the ordinary activities of human existence any more than the next person. The trouble is that the alternative is even worse. I would prefer a system which was entirely voluntary and which trusted people, but given that I don’t think that is a politically feasible option, I think that we have got to choose the least bad thing. And to my mind a vaccine passport is a lot less bad than simply indiscriminately depriving everybody of what makes life worth living.”
Translation; In order to exercise liberty and partake in economic life, the jab is absolutely necessary. We of the establishment would prefer you take it voluntarily, but some won’t. Given some non-compliance is universal, big brother is always justified. But Jonathan, can you not think of a third option? A system punishing refusal is not a system in which “voluntary” holds meaning without contradiction? Is this not the most basic of basic moral logic?
“I think it’s inevitable, whatever government does, that private enterprises — for example theatre managers — will require some evidence of vaccination, because otherwise, people who are still afraid of being infected simply won’t come. I think it’s very unfortunate that that is how humanity behaves, but we’re not in a world where we can have the best solution. We’re in a world where we have to choose, because of the fears of so many people, between more or less bad options.”
Translation; principles of liberty and privacy need bow to fear, this being the best solution. But Jonathon, perhaps the coercion could be applied to those in fear, a form of operant conditioning, to extinguish that fear and uphold the principle of freedom and privacy. That is to say, the theatre ought not be able know who is vaccinated or and who isn’t. Let the market and patience decide if fear is to prevail over principle. Let the people discover all they had to fear was fear itself. Besides, those people confident in their vaccine should be the first to venture out. What do they have to fear? Make them responsible for their beliefs.
“I don’t think vaccine passports imposed by the state are a good idea now. Earlier this idea when fewer people had been vaccinated, I thought there was something to be said in allowing those who had been to prove the fact and return to normal life. But at the moment, with 70% having had both jabs, including all vulnerable groups, I think it is completely unnecessary.”
Commentary; why refer to 70% uptake? Because someone told him this is the magical number creating immunity in the herd? Because in a pseudo democratic way this signals the victory of the many over the few? Translation: power has won. A supermajority has kissed the ring. The establishment is safe and job is done. Only after mass compliance can people become free. And so they never were free. And the stain of that coercion remains.
“The latest statement on nightclubs is a threat that unless they insist on vaccine passports we will force them to do so. The age group affected by nightclubs has a negligible chance of getting seriously ill or dying – if they wish to take the risk then why should they not be allowed to do so? The groups it might affect have all been offered two jabs – they are highly effective against hospitalisations or deaths. […] Getting vaccinated is a choice that one has, I don’t think this should be something we should be compelled to do.”“
Translation; according to Sumption, the young go to the nightclubs and the old to the theatre of the previous quote. The young do not die from the virus whilst the old do. The vaccine is protective. In any case, the goal is pure bio-utilitarianism, not principles of privacy, freedom and personal responsibility. Getting the vaccine is a choice he says. When the highwayman says “your money or your life”, he too offers you a choice.
“In March, with a much smaller proportion of the population vaccinated and the government imposing a full lockdown, I thought that vaccine passports were a lesser evil. At least some people would be able to return to normal life. Today, with c70% double vaccinated and 90% with antibodies, we are in a different position. Even on the logic of the control-freaks in charge, the case for vaccine passports is weak. The risk of transmitting infection remains but hospitalisations are low and deaths negligible. The problem is that the metric that ministers are using is infections, which don’t matter unless they lead to hospitalisation or death. I would have no issue with venue operators voluntarily calling for proof of vaccination in order to attract more of the fearful, although there is little sign of that (theatres are reported to be selling to capacity). But none of that justifies the state in muscling in with legislation or crude threats”
Commentary: In the UK the vaccine was not available until the very end of 2020. In referring to March 2021, Sumption retrospectively defends draconian health policy for greater than one year up to that point. He defends vaccine passports as a tool of coercion. Further and once again, how does Sumption formulate a notion of the voluntary? In refusing to voluntarily present a vaccine passport, the result can be exclusion from entering a venue. Is this not perfectly aligned with the aims of the state? Will the state defend the rights of those who are discriminated? If not, then the state is using the venue as its muscle. Why advocate for the lesser evil, when there is a good to fight for?
My motive here is not to cut down Jonathon Sumption. Enough to say that he is yet another example of whom not to place on a pedestal as a crusader of freedom, personal responsibility, and privacy. All the accolades in the world once again fail to increase the prior probability the bearer of the accolade will formulate a logical case, let alone take risks, make sacrifices and defend anything at all. The greater lessons from Sumption are twofold. Firstly, I observe conservative anti lockdown fanboys (and girls) will consistently fail to engage in any due diligence or critical thinking when a celebrity or establishment intellectual says anything in their favour. These heroes of the establishment can be 10% with you and 90% against. Makes no difference, the fanboy will defend celebrity virtue to the last drop. There are many others like Sumption who own much, say little and do less. The second point is far more important. What are the motives of Unherd and other apparently dissident media? Who owns their message? What is their class and who are their friends? What sort of world do they want and what is your place in it?
We have arrived at the black pill before the black pill. Even before OfCom censors online content, you already have a system selecting and promoting conversative independent media that are not so conservative and not so independent. Their purpose is to occupy your seat at the table of change.
Ofcom and Other Weapons of Censorship
The UK’s Office of Communications was a late 90’s product of the Blair regime, centralizing a whole array of communications under one control system before the Communications Act of 2003 was even drafted and the Office formally launched, let alone the internet becoming a rival media platform.
The ambiguity and subjectivity of its purpose is pretty much summed up rule 2.1 requiring:
“Generally accepted standards must be applied to the contents of television and radio services…so as to provide adequate protection for members of the public from the inclusion in such services of harmful and/or offensive material”.
When government, mainstream media and its minority client interests seek to exploit standards to shut down speech, we really must be deconstructive and ask what words like “protection”, “harm” and “offensive” can be twisted to mean. Nonetheless and notwithstanding, OfCom was designed in a largely pre internet world where the mainstream lacked competition and the internet was more playful. Most of its initial foray into internet control consisted in boring management of infrastructure (such as bandwidth speed) and articulating itself with other acts of legislation (such as the digital economies act of 2017). Some, such as the online harms/safety bill, remain a work in progress. The kills coming only after the chess pieces are on the board, the preparatory phase and not benign motives explain why it languished and seldom used its powers before the acceleration of change beginning 2016 and 2020.
Probably another reason why OfCom did not need to bring down the iron hand is its redundancy as a tool of control. Just as in the EU, there are other pieces of legislation big brother can appeal to, to say nothing of the power of diktat or “guidelines”. Take for example section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986. It prohibits “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviors that cause, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress”.
The prohibition includes “racial and religious hatred” as well as “hatred on the grounds of sexual orientation” and language that “encourages terrorism”.
All this sounds superficially reasonable. But we have passed through the looking glass. The thread of custom behind reasonable interpretation of all words has frayed past the point of breaking. Throughout the last decade of acceleration, the police have been increasingly concerning themselves with “non crime hate incidents” and other non crime crimes as per 2014’s guidance manual of doublethink.
These alleged pre crime non crime de facto crimes have been committed by way of online platforms making the internet hazardous to free speech. We have all heard about the case of Harry Millar. A retired police officer himself, the boys in very dark blue came knocking on his door one day literally with the aim to check on Harrys thinking (those precise words). His crime? Harry posted on social media a refusal to affirm trans people their chosen identities. In word and in deed, Harry was quite literally suspected of thought crime and investigated by the thought police. We laugh at the expense of missing Orwell’s core lesson. The people of Oceania did not realize the horror of the totalitarian state. Only we from the outside could see the truth of the situation. We did not need to identify with Winston Smith to see it. We see it in virtue of our otherness to Orwell’s world. But how do we become other to our own world and become our own Winston Smith. We can always talk about totalitarianism as a future danger, long after it has already arrived.
There are tens of thousands of other cases like Harry’s across the land, the Merseyside police station so concerned they paraded a sign “being offensive is an offense”. Recent token reforms have not involved abolishing the database of non crime hate crimes. If you are English, you might be on it. From non-crime hate incidents to hate crimes proper, the crime is defined as having an element of “hostility”. The guidance defines hostility thus:
“In the absence of a precise legal definition of hostility, consideration should be given to ordinary dictionary definitions, which include ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike”
The above definition is, though terrifyingly wide, was not crafted by the police themselves. Rather this definition comes down from the crown prosecution service. We have arrived at Orwell Land!
Ofcom defines hate speech as
“all forms of expression which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred based on intolerance on the grounds of disability, ethnicity, social origin, sex, gender, gender reassignment, nationality, race, religion or belief, sexual orientation, colour, genetic features, language, political or any other opinion, membership of a national minority, property, birth or age.”
OfCom has no long term vision of tolerating its definition of hate speech. Hate, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.
OfCom and its Executions
Throughout the covid era, OfCom managed to punish some minor dissident media outlets such as Brian Roses “LondonReal” for platforming the fringe David Icke who had otherwise spoken unfettered for decades until covid came along. Though it is true that LondonReals funder Evgeny Lebedev could have been targeted to signal Russian oligarchs cannot become too comfortable in the UK’s media space, Lebedev also invested in the mainstream. Perhaps also his friendship with Boris played a role, through Ofcoms allegiance to other factions within and without the conservative party. The Pentecostal Christian network “Loveworld” also criticised the covid narrative only to be fined into submission.
All online platforms are forced to comply with “Tech Against Terrorism”, itself an instrument adopted by the UK yet crafted by the UN.
Nobody likes a terrorist, though one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. And where yesterday the UN was concerned with jihad, today its goal posts widen to include control over ridiculous “incel ideology” and anything the UN considers far right domestic ideology also (i.e. people who do not like the government). These goal posts are not fixed. It was the UN standard working through Ofcom that tamed England’s homegrown start up “bitchute” from being as free speech as it intended. The scapegoat target justifying going after bitchute was user content glorifying or denying the holocaust (don’t these contradict one another?). The real target is all dissident content.
The case of Mark Steyn and GB news deserves special attention to illustrate what OfCom can do without expansion of its existing powers. Jointly owned by the establishment friendly Marshal and Legatum, GB news is Britain’s youngest, largest, and only mainstream platform marketed as right of center. One of its prize horses Mark Steyn, already facing sanctions from an April 2022 show, twice gave platform to the feminist activist Naomi Wolf, the author of the Vagina’s biography and other works and partner to Brian O’Shea (former US military intelligence officer, current COO of the Cyber intelligence service Centurion Intelligence, and CEO for Striker Pierce). Wolf herself had traded talking to vaginas for her own private investigations against big pharma. Her bete noire being Pfizer and the covid vaccine, Wolf has assembled a loyal crew to analyze the data she presents by way of leveraging her residual celebrity as another leftist who left the left (or was left by the left?), whilst still ipso facto remaining part of the progressive liberal left. October 2022, she was invited to Steyn’s show to comment on the alleged dangers of the jab. In the wake of the two shows, complaints were made to, or confected for, Ofcom. In all, 422 complaints were received whilst OfCom applied the pressure to GB news. GB news displaced the received strain from its own executive onto Steyn. Perhaps a result of the strain or perhaps coincidence, by December Steyn had suffered at least one heart attack and was on leave. By February Steyn was forced to resign after he refused GB news ultimatum to alter the terms of his contract and cover the legal costings and fines incurred from Ofcom’s wrath. By May, Ofcom issued its decision and a call for GB news to re-educate itself, which it dutifully did. Steyn was out. GB news lives on. Others in the station such as Neil Oliver wonder if/when they will be next. Others know they will always be safe. Each know who they are.
GB news defense, weak and laconic as it was, is a startling revelation of its character and loyalties, as is Ofcom’s response of its own. The complaints revolved partly around disclosure of the guests’ credentials, partly the rhetoric and partly the potential harms of mere words
Regarding the rhetoric, Wolf stated more than once that the covid vaccines were an object of “mass murder” and “massive crime”. Further, she compared the vaccine rollout to Nazi nasty bioweapons and as mass sterilizing devices.
GB news defence, according to Ofcom was that such comparisons were
“editorially justified and that, in relation to specific comments made in the programme, as a Jewish woman Naomi Wolf believed the comparison with doctors in Nazi Germany was “not excessive and a reasonable comparison”.
The genteel gentile English minds of Ofcom side stepped the issue of Jewish licence to compare. That was too hot a potato for them to juggle. They did however take issue with Steyn not challenging Wolfs hyperbole and the hyperbole itself as disproportionate to the real risks. Ofcom states in their report, inter alia,
“the potentially harmful impact of these claims on viewers was then increased by accusations levelled at those providing the vaccine programmes (including governments and medical organisations) who were said to be involved in the most serious, pre-meditated crimes, i.e. mass murder…” […] “These claims had the potential to impact on viewers’ decisions about their health and were therefore potentially harmful. As a result, it was incumbent upon the Licensee, when broadcasting such content, to include adequate audience protection, in accordance with Rule 2.1.”
They were not about to excuse GB news claim that Steyn and Wolfs schtick, though combative, was obviously over the top. GB news also challenged the claim that what was discussed would necessarily equate to concrete harm as it was not aimed at individuals and organizations. GB news was of the opinion harm was
“’purely theoretical, unprovable, and surely minimal’, and that ‘[e]xpressions of concern and warning do not necessarily equate to harm’.”
In appealing to rule 2.1, Ofcom infantilizes the viewer, formulating the public not as consumers of information they can maturely evaluate, but as passive victims of information. When Wolf says “they are insisting right now everybody gets the 37th booster shot”, does Ofcom think you cannot count?
Regarding the credentials, Ofcom managed to connect the possible risk of harm from claims the vaccine rollout was mass murder to what the audience would assume was the expertise behind the claim. To Steyns credit, he did not introduce Wolf as a medical doctor or vaccinologist. As it so happens, her doctorate was on historical prejudice against alternate sexualities. It was a work of very questionable scholarship, itself landing Oxford in an embarrassing scandal. To Wolfs credit, she introduced herself not as a medical expert but as a journalist. OfCom would have none of this, responding
“While the Licensee did not present Naomi Wolf as a medical expert, she made repeated references in support of her claims to evidence she said she had seen being “one of the few people along with my 3500 experts who have looked at the Pfizer documents” and further that these were “medical experts, scientific experts”. Ofcom considered that this presented her to the audience as having particular knowledge and expertise in the safety of the vaccines which would have lent credence and authority to her claims”
According to OfCom, Wolfs executive claim over her experts translates into a kind of corporate responsibility. I do wonder if these experts signed contracts justifying Wolfs claims over them, and Ofcoms acknowledgment of the same. Such logic as this, I could claim lead an army of 10,000 men. Should the tank then come rolling down the street to take me on? Maybe I do have an army. Maybe all I have is a tin soldier standing in a hall of mirrors. Maybe I caught a fish THIS big. Let the audience decide.
Regarding what was being harmed; GB News make multiple claims that the deadly pandemic had largely passed, and the shots were in the arms. They claim to have been obedient to Ofcom guidance and that the mainstream as a herd seems to have been permitted talk of vaccine harms now. So why the problem speaking freely and targeting GB news? For example, GB news acknowledges, inter alia,
“the risk of harm, either real or imagined, from this programme was very low, and certainly minimal compared to the time when Ofcom was actively sanctioning channels for making controversial claims about Covid and the vaccines 18-24 months earlier”
And Ofcom writes:
“ It (i.e. GB news) stated that in 2020 and 2021 the UK Government “regarded it as a matter of urgency” that the public accept lockdowns and vaccination, and it said that “Ofcom issued guidance to broadcasters that they should take care not to ‘undermine official advice’ in their coverage of Covid policy”
Ofcom responded by acknowledging that whilst it was true at time of Steyns program ”93.6% of UK adults aged 12 and over had received their first dose of a Covid-19 vaccination, 88.2% had received a second dose and 70.2% had received a booster or third dose”, nonetheless “there was a targeted autumn booster rollout aimed at certain people, including those aged 50 years or over and people with other vulnerabilities who might be at greater risk from a severe outcome from the virus”.
Now you might say that behind the slipperiness of its lawyers, GB news really cares about your position on coercive health policy. You might say that their hands are tied and they were forced to play a game to get out of trouble. Let’s get real. The most parsimonious interpretation of OfCom’s report is that government interests that are the principal object to be protected, not the public good. Ofcom was tasked to silence those who might hamper the vaccine rollout and that is precisely what it did. Further, GB news itself is all too happy to comply. It went along with all of it. Its purpose is to step up to a boundary set by the state to capture a market, make a royal pound sterling and push the boundaries only when permitted. Steyn’s sin is that he jumped the starting gun before the state had maximized vaccine update. His execution was an act of fealty so that GB news knows who’s the boss.
Future Ofcom and the Online Safety Bill
Imagine this. You are presented with a glut of articles and images on the vulnerability of children who might be exposed to, and exploited into, pornography. You read the article about some adolescent who takes their own life after being piled on by anonymous trolls. Then there’s the poor soul who lost their life savings falling for a crypto scam. There’s terrorist networks and protean threats to “democracy”. So many dangers out there online, you need leviathan’s protection.
The remedy involves instruments and cyber infrastructure that by sheer coincidence also lay the groundwork for the surveillance and the social credit state, censorship of all dissident opinion and access to profitable knowledge that can be used by insiders to predict and manipulate consumer behaviour. These latter set of concerns are conspiracy theory of course. It’s about safety…or….not safety……it’s about preventing harm. Ergo the online harms white paper of 2019 and its first iteration in the proposed online harms bill. But the psy op team might have been ambivalent thinking the word “harm” carries a negative emotional valence. Maybe they were salivating over the big nudge of covid planning and a little distracted. Will the consumer think they are accused of harming others? Is the internet harmful? But we want people on the internet, our UK internet, the safest internet in the world. Consequently, talk of online harms morphs to online safety. We all want safety. Ofcom will give us that safe space from all the trolls and paedo freaks. The road was then paved for the online safety bill 2021 and the Ofcom of the future controlling everything. Covid’s product cycle, revolving doors of four prime ministers, five digital ministers and factional infighting slows things down, as does the bounce around between the House of Commons and the House of Lords. But the online safety bill is sailing through all the same, now bloated to more than 150% its initial size.
Like changes to the powers of Australia’s own OfCom (ACMA) and Australia’s own Online safety Bill (coincidently named), the joke is on anyone thinking the regulators don’t have draconian powers already. Take for example the UK’s power to break your end-to-end encryption. That is the result of the Investigatory Powers Act of 2016, for your safety of course. Internal to the UK, Ofcom will work with ICO (information commissioner), CMA (competitions and markets authority) and FCA (Financial Conduct) to establish the (Digital Regulation Cooperation Forum) DRCF. And Ofcom works with the EU, the Global Coalition for Digital Safety (WEF), the UN (in partnership with the WEF) and the Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism (another transnational including EU and 5 Eyes interests). This list is not exhaustive.
You see it’s all connected with powers not defined by the notional limitations and letter of single bill itself. For this reason alone, forgive me if I don’t parse through all 268 pages of the UK’s safety bill. Here I’ll just point out some high lights and link to the primary document, its parent white paper and 2022 guidance document.
Right from the introduction of the current iteration of the act, the state places an explicit “duty of care” upon providers of internet content. This being a legal term of art once applying to careless acts incurring physical harm in industrial settings (and then health care), online content providers are framed as entities that can literally hurt you with information. In the roadmap, the future is chillingly described as an “online safety regime”. Regime!
Ofcom will basically cover everything online except basic SMS, email, one to one live links, services with limited functionality such as basic booking services, those provided by state accredited educational bodies and (naturally) anything done by the government itself.
Though the target will be larger sites most able influence the masses, it possesses the power to take out smaller players also. Via self-regulation, large platforms must work on Ofcom’s behalf, doing the UK governments dirty work for them. Essentially, sites and platforms sharing individual creators’ content are deputised by the state to control you, the payment being access to the game and whatever profit it hopes to gather from the 67 million head UK market.
It is the online providers job to properly align itself with government values (via Ofcom reporting and direction) so as to avoid liability claims and penalty. They claim (in bold) not to have the power to compel sites to remove “legal but harmful” content. Duties are to engage in partnership with Ofcom instead, in a “risk based supervisory approach”. However, in an extraordinary example pf doublethink/speak Ofcom is given powers to investigate, audit, demand reporting and impose fines “up to £18m or 10% of qualifying worldwide revenue (whichever is greater) where we find non-compliance” to the duties Ofcom says is not compulsory!
In the abridged roadmap, we read:
“In the most serious cases of non-compliance we can seek a court order imposing business disruption measures, which may require third parties (such as providers of payment or advertising services, or ISPs) to withdraw, or impede access to, their services to the non-compliant service. While we will use our enforcement powers in a proportionate, evidence-based and targeted way, these powers are vital to ensure we can take effective action when necessary to protect users.”
The red tape and costs of lawfare alone can be the death by a thousand cuts before more severe actions such as fines and complete shutdown of your site.
So the “legal but harmful” can involve punitive action involving legal instruments, where the harmful act arguably is not be in the sites harm to the consumer but in the harm Ofcom can deliver to the site. Ofcom’s job is to help sites refrain from harming consumers by threatening to harm the site. These are the relational dynamics of the protection racket.
Notwithstanding the ambiguity and subjectivity of what is “harmful”, (the definition set by power as in Steyn’s case), lets return to the poster child issue. Just how does Ofcom protect children from watching adult porn or being preyed upon by adult deviants? Children are vulnerable by definition. Yet the bill also considers a category of “vulnerable adult users” of online services. Whether to distinguish child from adult or vulnerable adult from non-vulnerable adult, the latitude in part 4 of the bill opens the door wide to compulsory digital identity and the end of online anonymity. This includes the end to anonymity of the user from the site and the anonymity of site/user relationship from the site/state relationship. In truth, the sites and the state will be happily enjoined in the public private partnership. Probably in London as in Canberra’s short lived national covid tracking app, data will pass through servers owned by amazon.
The UK government will make all manner of assurances to limit its powers and that of the big tech it works with. Though living in a post Brexit world, it appeals to continental human rights act. But how can you know these assurances are made in good faith? Why should you be forced to trust them? When they say they will protect political speech then define the political as a health matter, everything that is political is placed outside of politics and within the crosshairs of censorship. First they came for the paedophiles. Then they came for the pornographers. Then they came after trolls and to supervise your safety from scam advertisers. Then they came after the antivaxxers. And last, they will come after you, for perfect knowledge and perfect control. Try escape to an offline world and you will find a human standing in line with a tablet device. The UK government are aiming to have the safety bill passed and ready in 2024, coincidentally the same year the WHO is to complete construction of its own monster.
So that, dear reader, is the free speech of dissident and conservative right of Great Britain. It’s Nigel Farage having his bank account closed for wrong think. It’s the Machiavellian money monsters and party interests behind your trusted alt media. It’s the Churchillian cigars and loosened bow ties at Oxford Alumni parties. It’s limited hangouts from the 77th brigade you know about and the other brigades you don’t know about. Its Jacob Rees Mogg lounging supine on the leather of parliament. It’s Peter Hitchens defeatist obituary to an ever-dying England. It’s Sumption’s comatose civil disobedience. It’s tentacles from the home office to MI5 all the way to Brussels, Davos, Washington, and Langley. It’s the handsome faces of Freddie Sayers and Douglas Murray and their handlers. It’s every edgy lockdown sceptical news presenter who took the jab, donned the mask and pissed off to Heathrow to fly over Assange in Belmarsh. It’s French chateaus and condos in Marbella. It’s the state protecting you from everything, including your own freedom and responsibility. It’s GB news handing Steyn’s heart and its own testicles to Ofcom on a silver platter over high tea. Yes, it’s a big club and you ain’t part of it. But you can stop tuning into it.
This article first appeared on Robert’s substack, Robert Against the Machine here.