Chomsky:1215 and all that…

Copyright Synne Tonidas

John Curran 

Professor Noam Chomsky the world`s leading public intellectual viewed by some as a wild-eyed radical is actually an old fashioned conservative. He is committed to the traditional values of Magna Carta, a document that shaped the Anglo-American legal system, ultimately establishing a presumption of innocence and the right to a fair trial. With this thought in mind, it is worth considering how traditional conservative ideas are today viewed as radical in both the USA and UK. As we know the Conservative Party in opposition went through a re-branding process as Cameron appeared to move his party leftward and in doing so rediscovered the Conservatives civil liberties antecedents. When the coalition government was formed, one significant judicial appointment was that of Dominic Grieve MP who, as Shadow Justice Spokesperson, was viewed as a politician with strong civil libertarian credentials he became Attorney General and the Coalition`s chief legal adviser. In a lecture given in 2008 Mr Grieve outlined what he saw as the essence of what it means to be British, extolling the virtues of freedom waxing lyrically about Magna Carta and the Glorious Revolution of 1688. But he was concerned that New Labour was dismissive of this heritage, as evidenced by restrictions of jury trail and permitting unacceptable periods of detention without trial. Grieve felt that the pendulum had swung too far and that the climate created by New Labour was one of tyranny. Labour he argued breached the ideals of the Bill of Rights and undermined the notion of Habeas Corpus. Grieve together with the Shadow Justice Minister, produced a policy document called `Reversing the rise of the surveillance state 2009`. Outlining concerns about a perceived reduction in citizen`s civil liberties in an eleven-point programme. Grieve now resides in a government that has generated concerns about civil liberties and Cameron has recently demonstrated the Tories have forgotten what Magna Carta means.     Read more of this post

Thoughts on the Draft Communication Bill: An Interview with Andy Phippen

The Left Central Writer

Professor Andy Phippen

As Professor Noam Chomsky points out, the internet is capable of liberating oppressed people while having the potential to be utilised for surveillance and for controlling opposition to state oppression. It is the latter observation that the pressure group Open Rights Group believe relevant, considering our civil liberties to be at risk due to the draft Communications Data Bill pointing out:

It marks a serious increase in the powers the state has to order any communications provider – whether it is an Internet Service Provider (ISP) like BT or an Internet company like Google – to collect, store and provide access to our information about our emails, online conversations and texts.

The Orwellian feature of the legislation is outlined by Open Rights Group arguing it grants the technical ability to identify the political orientations of protestors who blog or write for radical websites. An issue relevant to whistle blowers or investigative journalists who might find themselves subject to the measures outlined in this draft legislation under the guise of ‘public interest’ or their journalistic work compromised by a vague requirement of the state to investigate a crime.

Professor Andy Phippen agreed to talk about the proposed legislation:

AP: Government’s respond to social problems by avoiding the issue and focusing instead on the internet, a knee jerk reaction motivated by ‘legislative hyper-activity.’ The internet mirrors society. We need to focus on the actual social problem and criminal activity rather than focusing on the internet.

LC: What’s the motivation behind the Bill?

AP: Technological advancement brings fears for governments; even the invention of the printing press produced a hysterical reaction. Biblical scholars were concerned that they were going to lose social control over the ‘common man.’ The availability of books meant those in power lost control.

Yet from history we learn that the printing press empowered humanity and in the same way the internet democratizes information. The government today fear a loss of control in much the same way as the biblical scholars did. Knowledge is power and the internet has empowered.  To take one example, look at academic research. It is becoming more freely available and as a result it has enriched the knowledge base. Academic research and other information, once available only to elites, is now widely available.

LC: Do you think the internet enhances our democracy?

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