Why should I say that? I don’t mean from a technical point of view, of course. Watching or interrupting people’s access to websites and general Internet activity is surely the daily stuff of what GCHQ is supposed to do.
So I don’t mean all that kind of thing when I ask the question in the title of the post. I mean, rather, the Internet’s political dynamics: how a million clever eyes react to a perceived threat to their environment as might a flock of birds. The web’s ability to bring to the surface a bright (or subversive) idea – which then proceeds to quickly propagate itself – is hardly a new thought to keep our virtual minds engaged. Here’s one from this morning which, for example, leads me to such conclusions. On the back of prior tweets which suggest we should voluntarily forward all our communications to existing government email addresses, we then get this intriguing idea:
#TellDaveEverything Let’s all join the campaign and cc every email we send to firstname.lastname@example.org
Whilst not inclined myself to participate in such a campaign, it does, as I said earlier, make me wonder if anyone in government, the civil service or even our blessed security services understands anything at all about how the dynamics of web interaction really operate.
Surely any ordinary user of the web with a little bit of Internet nous could imagine that if a government which in a space of two weeks has just penalised four million middle-class pensioners for being pensioners; raised the standard of living for only the very richest in the country; increased the cost of using the postal service; increased the cost of cheap hot food for particularly the poorer in society; told people to go out, fill up with and store jerrycanned petrol (possibly illegally), an act which then led to widespread panic over fuel supplies; apparently encouraged ministers to believe a bit of petrol panic wouldn’t actually be a bad thing; and had a co-treasurer of its party resigning for promising ministerial access in exchange for hundreds of thousand of pounds … well, that a government like this should then proceed to propose a policy whereby every Internet interaction and transaction would be automatically observed by the selfsame government can surely only be interpreted as an example of sheer political madness and incompetence. The kind of behaviours, in fact, which in quite different contexts, and in any private company worth its salt, would lead to an immediate disciplinary.
And after a correctly due process, properly defended by the unions these incompetents so despise, a presumably summary sacking.
Thatcher had the unions to vanquish – which she did.
What Cameron hasn’t realised, however, is that his turn won’t be the unions. This won’t be a replay of either Thatcherism or Blairism. The way things are going and the foolishness with which the government proposes and disposes will surely, predictably and quite sadly mean if Cameron wants to win the next election, he’ll have to beat the Internet itself.
Cameron’s battle won’t be with Unite. Cameron’s battle will be with a million crowdsourced eyes. No centralised bureaucracy you can either strategically flatfoot or charm with beer and sandwiches. Just a decentralised yearning for true freedom of expression and communication. As well as its fair dollop of truly bad faith.
And how on earth can the centralising instincts of this evermore foolish Coalition manage to conceive a policy capable of properly containing that?
We’re not talking of technologies any more, dear friends at GCHQ. We’re talking of millions of people getting sincerely pissed off by a government which deliberately doesn’t care to care.
Here’s a suggestion, then – before you go ahead and legislate. Don’t change the legislation to force your people into pigeonholes many of them will, in any case, learn to escape. Change the government’s direction in order that the people want to get voluntarily onside.
Simples, eh? Well, that’s the way it seems to me.
But then I am a naive kind of soul. And in my own foolish way, I still – after all the above – strive to believe in the essential goodness of humankind.