Since World War 2, Modern Britain has never been closer to embracing totalitarianism. The surveillance is here. The acceleration to four degrees of global warming is here. The impotence and cowardice is here.
These problems trump the United Kingdom’s need to strike trade agreements. Anyone who thinks they should hold their tongue until after the United Kingdom has completed these trade agreements is either dishonest or a deluded propogandists whose political opinions likely do not go further than class interests. What’s more a serious ability to assert security over domestic surveillance, and leadership over the protection and encouragement of freedom of speech would only serve to enhance the country’s reputation in negotiations with foreign governments.
I aim to diagnose and characterise two of the major problem’s freedom faces in all communities throughout the west. This will not be an exercise in emotionally charged social media barbarism but in the curation and presentation of facts.
Cyberstalking is the major symptom of the emergence of an anarchical totalitarianism created through the availability of internet enabled technology and the inability to police it. Cyberstalking includes the ‘repeated use of electronic communications to harass or frighten someone’ including trolling, hacking and doxing. The cases of cyberstalking in the United Kingdom have increased by 1800% from 2014 to 2018. This problem has been exacerbated by the lockdown. Paladin, a national stalking advocacy service, described a 40% increase in the first month of lockdown, Veritas Justice reported an increase of 75%. Such is the novelty of these tools to domestic use in western society it is imperative that we characterize and define how horrific these actions are. Stories like that of ‘Seth Williams’, real name Ryan Vallee, who stalked, hacked and destroyed the lives of young girls seeking the return of nude pictures emphasise the violent ends of cyberstalking. Seth exclusively targeted high school girls that were seemingly vulnerable through not being popular. The level of suffering inflicted on these girls is nothing short of disgusting. Clifford explains how ‘one began sleeping in the same bed as her mother. Several feared Seth would attack them. One cried herself to sleep. Another routinely called her mum at work sobbing, terrified at being alone’. I urge anyone to imagine an intimate spouse, friend or family member being a teenager and experiencing the same level of suffering all to satisfy the lust of a technologically enabled pervert. Remember this anger.
If the scale of cyberstalking in the UK and suffering of the Seth Williams example does not emphasise the magnitude of the problem, then let me provide more qualitative examples to accentuate the suffering caused through cyberstalking. The excellent research by Worsley, Wheat, Croft and Short greatly captures the wedding between cyberstalking and totalitarian domination. One interviewee describes the waste of being targeted ‘my whole life stopped because I was in so much fear’, another explains the persistence of the fear ‘I still have flash backs and experience anxiety when going into my inbox’ with one imagining that she sees his ‘face in every car that passes’. In a totalitarian state the persistence of fear is magnified by the fact the arrest of liberty is organised in conspiracy with the police, the mixture of expressed helplessness and ineffective protection points to a similar experience with cyberstalking, with participants claiming ‘the police didn’t take this seriously enough and I felt really stupid and humiliated’ or ‘it was such a struggle to get the police to take it seriously’, it is no surprise victims describe being ‘helpless to defend myself’ and the ‘impotence at how little I can do’. We are therefore in a situation where the non-consensual penetration of someone’s phone, invasion of privacy, domination of social life and psychological well-being is being carried out because the police cannot defend their citizens. The decision to surveil peoples personal devices serves many uses, most of which do not conclude with suicides, yet, let it be known that every individual who chooses to stalk is making a strong case for a new anarchic totalitarianism and it will be there freedom, their liberty, their creativity and their family who will suffer from a society where surveillance, intimidation and violence replace privacy and freedom. Accepting this imperative should encourage people to find a solution and weigh heavy on the conscience of anybody who uses these tools. From a political perspective, it is not unlikely these tools may lead to an authoritarian government who can effectively empower the police to protect the general public, effectively leading towards the death of Britain’s liberal democratic tradition.
Despite an almost common sensical appreciation for the absence of firearms in the UK, the unleashing of cyberweapons and cybersecurity has met almost no objection. I aim to be the instrument of this counter argument and encourage people to join me. If we lost this battle at least we can give note to History of when our society willingly impoverished our freedoms.
Freedom of Speech
The empowerment of cancel culture threatens to discourage thinkers to not voice or even think ideas about certain subjects. Most effectively this has been demonstrated by JK Rowling’s comments on the issue of Transgenderism, where she caused controversy after commenting ‘if sex isn’t real there’s no same sex attraction. If sex isn’t real, the lived reality of women globally is erased. I know and love trans people, but easing the concept of sex removes the ability of many to meaningfully discuss their lives. It isn’t hate to speak the truth’.
Beyond getting derided on Twitter the responses from JK Rowling film stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint and Eddie Redmayne, all completely ignored the biological distinction between Men and Women and asserted gender to be a subjective decision. Warner Bros also felt it necessary to emphasise a ‘diverse and inclusive culture’. Having identified her zero-day exploit as the need to argue for her perception of the truth social media and the press continued to bait her. Reviewing her latest novel Trouble Blood The Telegraph described it as a ‘book whose moral seems to be: never trust a man in a dress’, a hashtag started trending on Twitter pronouncing #RIPJKRowling, to which Nick Cohen, rebutted saying ‘no honest person who takes the trouble to read it can see the novel as transphobic.’ If the cancel culture Twitter mob had their way the imagination would have been arrested before it had the chance to write a novel like Harry Potter. The hyper networked world has created facets of culture that weaponize and energise mobs to shame people for the defence of perfectly sensible ideas.
Thomas Kuhn describes that debates are necessary and regular ‘during scientific revolutions, the periods when paradigms are first under attack and then subject to change’. Thanks to hyper-networked communication technologies, the creation of extraordinary data sets and their application through machine learning we are going through a thousand shades of revolution. This is a time were humanity will be transformed and free speech is core towards evaluating new ideas that demand serious discussion. Douglas Murray explains how the climate of cancel culture is problematic for effectively debating our revolutionary present writing: ‘difficult and contentious issues demand a great amount of thought. And a great amount of thought often necessitates trying things out. Yet to think aloud on the issues which are most controversial has become such a high risk that on a simple risk/reward ratio there is almost no point in anyone taking it’. What one finds in the JK Rowling fiasco is that her intellectual objection becomes invitation for a mobilised condemnation of her reputation without any meaningful discussion about her ideas. Subsequently this has the effect of paralysing future attempts to discuss important and controversial subjects anywhere that may be in reach of the internet – in other words everywhere.