This tweet just came my way – and reminded me of a train of thought that unspools powerfully into the recent, as well as the not-so-recent, past:
It’s not good enough that
#atos are following orders but DWP and Government are setting this agenda. It’s not just atos we need to change
And if truth be told, ATOS really isn’t the problem at all. Rather, if anyone should be the focus of our ire, it is its hand-washing taskmasters in the Coalition.
It seems to me that, more and more, supposedly democratically-elected governments are getting the dirty work of less than transparent policy-making carried out on their behalf by private industry. This is, in a sense, a strategy of de facto governance where democracy is absented from the process. It works in the following way: in exchange for negative publicity which, in any case, legions of legal departments can generally vanish into relative thin air, private industries of transnational sizes are awarded humongous public-sector contracts. And as this is a business-to-business relationship – thick-skinned government to hard-sold corporate – public opinion is pretty irrelevant to either party. A perfect way of removing the need for approval from irritatingly well-informed and tech-savvy end-consumers, who were in any case beginning to make the business of corporate capitalism so very complicated and unpredictable.
Instead of selling to end-users who pick and choose, the most foresighted corporations are now choosing to focus their attentions on governments which – for various untransparent reasons – prefer to pick and stick.
The corporates get stability in long-term contracts despite the voter flak. The governments get to blame the corporates if anything too unpleasant comes to light.
A perfect exchange of complementary interests.
More examples? We have a recent story on how mobile phone access to the Internet is controlled extra-judicially by the private sector here (from the Open Rights Group of which I am a member) as well as a story from my own archive on how copyright owners can quite literally – and quite easily – make websites invisible to all sensible intents and purposes.
In conclusion, the case of ATOS – and the issues its behaviours and processes apparently raise – are not really attributable to the company itself. It is, rather, the government – deliberately employing it as a shield to hide public services from a proper democratic oversight – which is mostly to blame and which should be brought to book.
And by focussing our attention on crucifying a supplier – a supplier which, admittedly, appears to have substituted the disabled as direct customer of this sorry cohort of political actors we call the Coalition – we may be ignoring the much wider reality: that in disabled services, in welfare and health, in Internet freedoms, in law and order, communications and social media more generally, allegedly democratic governments across the world are working out how to circumvent democratic controls by using private-sector firewalls.
This is a new kind of anti-democratic governance.
A de facto governance.
A governance which our cowardly leaders have cleverly put together outside the democratic process – in order that trusting voters and citizens ignore the real reasons for their despair.