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Issue #1608      August 28, 2013

Culture & Life

Under-cover reaction, McJobs and ASBOs

The Internet is a very useful tool for the people’s movement allowing the poor to have access to a fast, free, global communication system. Capitalism has made some efforts to take over the Internet, to commercialise it, to make it available only to fee-paying companies, etc. But all such efforts have failed due to popular opposition. So, in the best traditions of “if you can’t lick ‘em, join ‘em”, capitalism has set out to exploit the popularity of the Internet among workers, revolutionaries and progressives of every stamp, by setting up bogus Internet sites just for them.

Cold war anti-communist propaganda from the 1940s.

Just as the US once ran bogus “pro-democracy” radio stations like Radio Free Europe that beamed subversion and anti-Communist propaganda into the socialist countries of Europe, so today the US funds and directs Radio Free Asia doing the same for China and Vietnam. But that’s “old media”. They are also right on top of the use of “new media”, especially social media. The US employs a small army of agents under a plethora of pseudonyms using Facebook and Twitter to spread negative stories about progressive movements and pro-socialist political figures.

The old fashioned way, using lies that clearly came from Western sources, no longer works. The people are alert to it. But the new way, using lies spread apparently by “people on the Left using alternative media”, works very well. Harder to spot, it too needs to be exposed. Just because a call to come to a rally has been issued via text messages sent by mobile phones does not mean that the rally has been called by the people or by any progressive organisation. It just means that a right-wing organisation has mastered social media.

The reactionary, murderous Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt fuses religious fanaticism with social media to produce huge “popular” protests in support of its anti-people program. By this means the national democratic revolution in Egypt was successfully sidetracked and subverted by Islamist forces.

There is an Internet website called TOR (aka The Onion Router) which purports to offer anonymity to people who want to hide their activities from governments. The US Congress claims to support “global citizenry to overcome governments that illegitimately block, censor and curb the potential of the Internet as a free speech zone”. Fine sounding words, until you learn that TOR was actually created by the USA’s Office of Naval Intelligence and is currently funded by a collection of fronts for the US government.

In 2012, the US government also set up the Open Technology Fund to use social media and the Internet to sucker in folk with their heart in the right place but their trust misplaced. It funds and oversees such progressive-sounding sites as GlobalLeaks, “the first open-source whistle-blowing framework”, or the Martus Project, which claims to provide “journalists and human rights defenders with a means of transmitting information while protecting their sources and themselves.” There is also the LEAP Encryption Access Project, “dedicated to giving all Internet users access to secure communications”.

If you’re wondering why the US government would be funding all these sites rest assured it is not because the Yanks want to assist the people’s movement. It’s because these sites are all linked to US law enforcement or intelligence agencies. They want to catch future Bradley Mannings before they reveal the appalling acts that have turned the former US officer into a whistleblower.

In the Second World War, a popular poster used to proclaim that “loose talk costs lives” or in anther version “loose lips sinks ships”. Well, we are in a war, the class war (against the same class enemy, by the by) and loose talk can have serious – even fatal – consequences for the working class, too. All Guardian readers should take heed and be careful of their Internet use (and their phone use, of course).

Since US whistleblower Edward Snowden revealed the extent of the US government’s phone and Internet surveillance activities, Russia’s Federal Protective Service – the body charged with safeguarding President Putin’s person – has purchased 500 old-fashioned typewriters, presumably so that correspondence will no longer be done on hackable computers.

Tony Abbott says a Liberal Party government will cut the carbon tax and so create jobs. Presumably, his polling has shown him that not everyone is concerned about the environment but everyone is concerned about jobs. He says cutting the carbon tax will allow small businesses to grow and create jobs. A small business-led jobs recovery. Is he serious? Taking on an extra employee is a major undertaking for a small business. In dubious economic times it’s not something shopkeepers will rush to do.

And what sort of jobs will they be? McJobs at best. Low wage and probably part-time jobs. Because that’s how capitalism works. Only this week I received the British Communist weekly The New Worker for July 19. In it is a note on a Trades Union Congress report – Britain’s Low Pay Recovery – published the previous week, that “of the 587,000 net rise in employee jobs [in Britain] since June 2010, 79 percent are in low-paid industries, such as retail, waitressing and residential care”.

Capitalist governments always railed against “the police state” that they claimed was socialism. But they are very keen on repressive laws (and the use of all-pervading surveillance, too). Britain passed the Crime and Disorder Act in 1998. It allows the authorities to impose Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (ASBOs) on people for a wide variety of reasons, everything from dog poo to drug addiction. Some have been truly absurd: Stuart Hunt of Loch Ness has been brought to court 100 times since 2007 for breaching an ASBO preventing him from “laughing, staring or slow handclapping”.

A 13-year-old was banned from using the word “grass” in England or Wales (OK in Scotland, apparently). Manchester Council applied an ASBO to prevent a mobile soup kitchen from feeding the homeless (one assumes someone with pull on the Council objected to the homeless gathering in their street to get their soup).

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