Through the PRISM of Hypocrisy

GCHQ satellite array at Bude

A young British soldier is mown down in a London street and then hacked to death.  Mosques and Islamic centers across England are attacked.  The liberal elite in London mouth their concerns and trot out the usual reality-defying, free speech quenching politically correct nonsense.  And then it is alleged that the US National Security Agency (NSA) and Britain’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) are using a new computer program called PRISM to tap into emails and web-sites and that self-same elite go into over-drive.  Who is the problem here?

In Britain conspiracy theorists and other assorted nutters are of course having a field day with the revelation that US and UK security services are basically doing their job.  To their mind the workings of the secret state have been revealed and ancient liberties are being undermined.  At GCHQ they are apparently actively conspiring with the NSA to circumvent English law. And the left-leaning parts of the media are all too happy to give this nonsense credence.

In fact the total number of email accounts accessed by GCHQ has thus far been very small.  There are 6000 people who work at GCHQ and nothing like enough of them to deal with the exponential growth in electronic hatred that spawn some 2000 plots and potential attacks being monitored at any one time.  And, there are more than enough legal and procedural safeguards to ensure proper accountability under law.

In the frenzy of false self-righteousness the big picture has as usual been missed.  It is the failed policy of multiculturalism that has created the broken and fearful society which extremists are now exploiting.  Islamists are telling decent members of the Muslim community (the massive majority) that white Britons do not want them there.  White extremists are talking of an immigrant occupation of Britain.  The fact that this patent nonsense is gaining ground across poorer communities is a mark of the failure of governments of all persuasions to promote the integration, tolerance, and mutual respect upon which any functioning liberal society must rest.  Having created the problem government has gone AWOL.

The simple truth is that there are an awful lot of very nasty people out there of all political and faith hues.  The Internet has given them the means to connect, plan, and carry out their campaigns of hatred. Rather than confront these issues and trust British society with this reality successive governments have simply retreated behind a cloak of political correctness and at times come dangerously close to appeasing extremism.  Now, Britain is facing an action-reaction cycle of violence as extremists feed off each other in an increasingly symbiotic relationship of hate.

The job of government is to protect the cohesion of society from enemies within and without.  Government must ensure and assure the conditions for reasonable people from across society, Muslim and non-Muslim, Briton and immigrant to deploy society’s greatest defense – tolerance and mutual respect.  That is why the focus should not be on GCHQ but rather on how best to bring decent people together.

The paradox is that many of the people who caused this mess and who talk of the danger to civil liberties are the very same people who have also helped to create one of the most oppressive legal regimes in any western democracy.  Britain was once famed for free-speech – not any more.  Last week a young girl was sentenced for doing something teenagers do the world over – saying something stupid.  She sent an utterly tasteless tweet that suggested people who wear “Help for Heroes” t-shirts should be beheaded.  It was a tasteless fashion statement by a naive young girl – nothing more, nothing less.  There was a time when the law of the land knew the difference between criminality and stupidity – not any more. 

It is a mark of how scared society has become that such a girl ends up in court.  She had been charged under yet another of those recently introduced laws placed on the statute book ostensibly to ‘prevent’ hatred when in fact they simply mask the mess that politicians have made of British society.  Britain is not yet sliding towards a police state although it shows signs of it. The irony is that it is not PRISM or GCHQ that is pushing society in that direction but those that think that fairness and respect can be imposed by law.

Who is the enemy?  It is the extremists on both sides.  Therefore, to listen to the very people who have helped create the fearful society that GCHQ now must protect complain about civil liberties is to see them for what they are – hypocrites.

Julian Lindley-French is a member of the Atlantic Council’s Strategic Advisory Group. This essay first appeared on his personal blog, Lindley-French’s Blog Blast.

Photo credit: Wikimedia

Image: 640px-Satellite_dishes_at_GCHQ_Bude.jpg