Scream SupermarketAh, technology. Where would the pandemic have been without it? Across the pond, the sinister clique that routinely reanimates the cadaver of Joe Biden and periodically wheels him out before the cameras of the subservient charlatans masquerading as journalists is hard at work. Sleepy Joe’s team are currently conspiring with their big tech paymasters to ensure anyone banned from one platform for spreading ‘misinformation’ – particularly of the coronavirus variety – will be banned from all of them; what constitutes misinformation, of course, is (in these oh-so polarised times) utterly subjective; one man’s truth is another man’s fake news and all that. But for judgement to be in the hands of the privileged few controlling the flow of media traffic, both social and mainstream – a cyber star-chamber to whom we have no right to reply – is an extremely worrying scenario where those antiquated freedoms involving speech, thought and expression are concerned. In today’s doublethink society, misinformation essentially translates as opinions those on the ‘right side of history’ disagree with – and they are the people with the power to cancel any dissenting voices far more effectively than any fanatical serial censors starting another petition.

Barely a year ago, for example, to air the theory that Covid-19 might actually have emanated from a Chinese lab was enough to guarantee instant dismissal from YouTube, Facebook or Twitter; now it is an acceptable mainstream opinion – though many who spread the word before were banished for daring to express it and remain so. Hell, it’s almost as if this de-platforming thing is just being used as a convenient means of silencing voices our online lords and masters don’t want us to hear. If only certain governments of the past had thought of similarly ‘robust enforcement strategies’ (to quote Biden’s press secretary), eh? The previously-mentioned declaration of the increasingly unhinged Woke dictator posing as the New Zealand PM springs to mind – the one whereby Jacinda Ardern last week essentially told the people of her nation to dismiss any online information not endorsed by her; ignorance is strength, as someone once said.

Over here, those dim enough to have signed the Faustian pact of the Covid NHS app are finding that their every outdoor move being tracked and traced is rather limiting their freedom – fancy that! According to the most recent stats, 530,125 ‘alerts’ have been sent to users so far this month, ordering them to immediately self-isolate for 10 days; they tend to receive them if they’ve been anywhere that all the other Smombies signed-up to the app have congregated at; and the app knows where you’ve been and where you are because you voluntarily handed that info over. Hey, it’s like a mobile HAL! What is being called a ‘pingdemic’ is adding yet another layer of crisis to the hospitality industry in its struggle to recover from lockdown; restaurant, café, and bar staff are being randomly targeted by the ping of the app, forced to drop everything and hide away for a fortnight – in many cases leaving owners of such businesses with little choice but to close their doors once again when they’ve barely reopened them.

The ‘Staycation’ summer holiday boom envisaged as the saviour of under-fire seaside resorts is being severely threatened by the ‘pingdemic’ – Cornwall alone received over 4,000 ping commandments in the first week of July, right at the point when the county was expecting the influx of tourists to begin. And it goes without saying the accuracy of the NHS app cannot be questioned; after all, it’s not as though the Government has a track record of useless tech, is it? But at least naming the app in honour of the beloved national religion was as inspired a move as naming a nihilistic political movement after a valid statement few would dispute. Criticism of the NHS app could be perceived as criticism of the NHS, and that would be perilously close to heresy.

Interestingly, both the PM and Chancellor of the Exchequer have been pinged after coming into contact with Sajid Javid, yet after initially announcing they wouldn’t be self-isolating in the work environment following the Health Secretary’s coronavirus infection, criticism forced them into a U-turn and now they are. Funnily enough, Javid picked up the Chinese lurgy on a meet-and-greet visit to a care home, those Covid breeding grounds apparently ring-fenced for protection by Javid’s illustrious predecessor.

Boris and Sunak’s initial decision to evade the punishment crippling the rest of the workforce echoes the waiving of quarantine rules to accommodate UEFA and FIFA bigwigs flown in from no-go corners of the globe to enjoy the prawn cocktail privileges at Wembley Stadium last weekend. The contrast between their elevated luxury cocoon and the ticketless drunken hordes storming the venue down below is a microcosm of the two-tier Covid society; the fact that the hooligan minority were in such a state by the time the Euros final kicked-off was helped by the virtual all-day sale of alcohol in London, yet who can blame beleaguered pub businesses trying to maximise profits after being pushed to the brink of extinction by first lockdown and then post-lockdown restrictions? On the eve of ‘Freedom Day’, the crowds at Wembley and Wimbledon will be added to by a full house at Silverstone for the British Grand Prix today, no doubt providing the doom-mongers with fresh evidence for their Ides of March prophesy the day before unshackling.

At the same time, a curious trend has been reported this week, one that suggests the European nations with the largest vaccination intake have all experienced a fresh upsurge of Covid cases whilst the 15 lowest vaccinated countries haven’t. In short, those with the highest level of vaccinations also now have the highest level of infections; weird innit. Cyprus has the highest case count per capita in the world, yet prior to the latest wave had already given the majority of its population the jab; Malta has the Western world’s highest rate of vaccinations, yet the infection rate has shot up since the rollout. Israel decided to investigate and its findings were that Israelis whose only immunity came from vaccination were more likely to be infected than those who had been previously infected and had developed a natural immunity to the virus. Perhaps the misleading daily roll-call of cases as opposed to deaths – which are rapidly diminishing – should cease forthwith; all it seems to do is intensify panic and continue to vindicate the advice of advisors shortly to be rendered redundant.

Indeed, a seemingly renegade SAGE associate has thrown a spanner in the narrative works by rubbishing claims of face coverings as effective coronavirus protection. Dr Colin Axon, an expert in the field of ventilation, says masks are little more than comfort blankets that do next-to-nothing to reduce the spread of Covid particles. According to Dr Axon, the official cloth masks contain holes that cannot be seen by the naked eye but are apparently 500,000 times bigger than yer average Covid particle. This unwelcome opinion was published just as supermarkets appear set to recommend their customers continue to shop in masks (even if they can no longer legally demand it of them) and the Government’s own ‘Freedom Day’ guidance agrees – as does London Mayor Sadiq Khan when it comes to the Tube. My own personal feeling is that most people – at least to begin with – will indeed continue to mask-up in Sainsbury’s. I certainly don’t think we’ll be back to where we were last year before masks became mandatory; twelve months of forced face-covering will have left too strong a legacy of fear to persuade every shopper to add their mask to the latest fatberg.

For a man with a track record of changing his mind at the eleventh hour, one hopes Boris sticks to his guns and doesn’t abruptly cancel tomorrow. The Project Fear apocalypse we were promised when we exited the EU has now been rescheduled for 19 July – according to some online sources, anyway. Ah, technology. Where would the pandemic have been without it?

© The Editor

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Prone as I am to watching the odd foreign-language drama series as an alternative to some of the dreary offerings churned out by our home-grown broadcasters, I stumbled upon a new German one the other night. I was probably drawn to the programme on account of it starring Sofia Helin, who played one of TV’s most original and unforgettable characters in recent years, Saga from ‘The Bridge’. Anyway, the story is set on either side of the Berlin Wall in the mid-70s and concerns an East German spy sent beyond Checkpoint Charlie to seduce a Western intelligence operative and hopefully acquire some vital information for the GDR as well as getting his leg over. It captured time and place really well in its slightly grubby, bruised-fruit colours and general air of despair, though it’s becoming increasingly impossible to watch anything concerning the Stasi and not draw contemporary parallels with the ‘free society’ we’re lucky enough to call our own in the here and now.

There was one character in it who appeared to be a State-employed caretaker in one of those archetypal Brutalist housing complexes that sprang up across the post-war East German urban landscape like concrete mushrooms. He’s first spotted standing on the rooftops with a pair of binoculars, focusing in on a TV aerial allegedly pointing towards the West and able to illicitly pick-up ZDF broadcasts. When he knocks on the door to alert the householder that this is against the law, she protests the wind blows the aerial in the wrong direction and then sends him on his way with a derisive ‘Haven’t you got anything better to do?’ He doesn’t reply, but the viewer knows he hasn’t indeed got anything better to do. He’s just another minor cog in the surveillance state, keeping an eye on the populace to ensure they don’t betray the founding principles of the GDR. Ditto the sinister schools inspector who patrols the corridors and peers in through classroom windows to ensure teachers aren’t veering from the script. One is immediately aware everyone in this series on the wrong side of the Iron Curtain is completely conscious of their every move being monitored and documented, constantly having to watch what they say for fear of reprisals. Imagine living like that.

A seemingly throwaway line relating to an unfortunate pubescent girl poised to begin the gruelling training that will eventually result in her being on the East German swimming team for the 1976 Montreal Olympics referred to her receiving an ‘ideological education’ as part of the process. Straight away I’m thinking of British kids in 2020 exposed to the corrosive cancer of Critical Race Theory in their curriculum, sneaked-in by teachers who themselves were indoctrinated at university and whose fellow former students have already introduced ‘unconscious bias training’ into the corporate world. When even a pussy-whipped halfwit like Prince Harry has caught the bug, you know this malignant philosophy has embedded itself deep, despite the admirable denunciation by Kemi Badenock (Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Equalities) in the Commons last week, making it clear the ‘white privilege’ narrative has no place in British schools. This insidious ideology may not be official state-sponsored policy, but if it’s not nipped in the bud in time it soon will be – especially if Starmer’s authoritarian excuse for an Opposition ever grabs power.

Not that we require a Labour Government to strengthen the worrying parallels with the GDR; the Tories, along with all the devolved administrations in the UK, are doing a sound enough job as it is. Britain’s own ‘Surveillance State’ was coming along in leaps and bounds even before Covid-19 intervened, but since then it has been presented with the perfect excuse to extend its powers as the ‘don’t kill granny’ storyline enables it to spread its nosy tentacles into every facet of private life with the minimum of public resistance. Digital technology may not be much use in testing – despite the billions handed over to useless companies whose qualifications for the task appear to be how much they’ve donated to the Conservative Party – but when it comes to tracking and tracing, one can be sure we’re being very effectively tracked and traced; and policemen who clearly have nothing else to occupy their time are happy to be dispatched as enforcers of unprecedented, astronomical fines for anyone daring to question the wisdom of the new normal. And despite their numbers being so depleted these days, the police have nonetheless been bolstered by the recruitment into the ‘Covid Marshal’ ranks of every Jobsworth busybody long yearning for an official badge to vindicate their self-importance.

In Soviet Scotland, the miserable population has a ‘Digital Christmas’ to look forward to as the strict rules keeping family and friends divided look set to be extended into the festive season. Jason Leitch, a man boasting the unnerving job title of ‘National Clinical Director’ has warned that large family get-togethers are ‘fiction for this year’. For anyone who recognises chatting to someone on Skype or Zoom is a poor substitute for being in the same room as the person on the other end of the line, this essentially means Nicola Sturgeon has achieved what no British political figure has managed since Oliver Cromwell; mind you, his administration closed theatres and all other palaces of entertainment as well, so maybe it didn’t even require the cancellation of Christmas north of the border for the Lord Protector’s policies to be successfully revived. And, remarkably, it doesn’t take long for any of this to be normalised either; what would have been unimaginable less than twelve months ago is already accepted and largely unchallenged. Giant tampons covering the lower half of the face are now socially compulsory on any outdoor excursion requiring setting foot in a shop – and to think I laughed at the first person I saw wearing one at the beginning of the year.

However, the undisputed winner of the competition between the devolved administrations to see who can emulate North Korean democracy is Wales, which has essentially become sealed-off from the rest of the country; few are being allowed in or out, and anyone venturing into England to stock-up faces a hefty fine upon their return; just to make sure, police are patrolling the border and have free rein to snoop in shopping bags. No, I can’t quite believe this is happening either. Wales is, of course, the only corner of the kingdom governed by the Labour Party, and it perhaps gives us an impression of how things might have been nationwide had Corbyn won the last General Election. Churches, pubs, gyms, hair salons and hotels have all been forced to close their doors during the 17-day (yeah, right) ‘firebreak’ lockdown as books, clothes and sanitary towels are deemed ‘non-essential’. ‘This is not the time to be browsing around supermarkets looking for non-essential goods,’ declared Wales’ very own staggeringly arrogant Lord Protector, Mark Drakeford, as the State outlaws individual personal judgement and assumes the role of arbiter of what is and isn’t important.

But, of course, if a discredited charlatan like Neil ‘massage the Staats’ Ferguson is still being given a platform to air his Doomsday fantasies, what can we expect? Lest we forget, this is a man who predicted 50,000-150,000 would die of Mad Cow Disease in 2002 – actual deaths: 177. He warned 200 million would die of Bird Flu in 2005 – actual deaths: 282. He prophesised 65,000 would succumb to Swine Flu in 2009 – actual deaths: 457. With a track record like that, why on earth is this joker still being listened to? Well, I guess he and his ilk are providing the scientific support to legitimise the erosion of civil liberties and freedoms that the pro-lockdown fanatics need. And it does seem that pro-lockdown Vs anti-lockdown is the latest manifestation of the seemingly limitless tribal polarisation that has become the norm ever since the 2016 EU Referendum – or ever since the Brexit verdict pushed pre-existing divisions over-ground. If we were thought we were a disunited kingdom in the last years of the 2010s, we didn’t have a clue what the 2020s had waiting for us.

© The Editor


Last week, for some reason, I was compelled to revisit the Village, even if I’m not entirely certain how long it is since I last watched ‘The Prisoner’; I’d estimate around five years. Prior to purchasing Patrick McGoohan’s seminal 60s series on DVD, I think I’d last seen it on its most recent Channel 4 rerun in the early 90s; and that viewing itself had been a decade on from when the same channel had introduced me to it in 1984 (I doubt the year of that particular broadcast was accidental). Seeing it as a 16-year-old meant McGoohan’s antihero naturally appealed to my adolescent rebellion phase; yet now I’ve started watching it once more and that particular phase is extremely distant, the appeal of No.6’s battle against the seductive oppression of the Village is still speaking to me – and it says something different to me every time I return to it. Not only does ‘The Prisoner’ have a remarkable ability to appeal to every stage of my life I pass through, it also possesses the power to always relate to events taking place out there in the contemporary landscape.

Books have long had the ability to do this, and certain movies have also managed it; but television rarely does. We can appreciate a vintage series and what it says about the time in which it was made, but it’s not often we can translate its central theme to the present day. ‘The Prisoner’ is quite unique in the way its relevance never appears to wane, however far we travel from 1967. It probably helps that it still looks so cinematic, being shot on 35mm colour film when so many 60s shows remain frozen in murky monochrome; but even the fact it displays all the gaudy visual hallmarks of kitsch associated with the period, there’s an Alice in Wonderland quality to the design of the series that almost places it out of time; it’s almost too strange to belong solely to the 60s. The depths of ‘The Prisoner’ can be so hidden they’re practically labyrinthine; but it’s a revelation when we encounter them.

I sometimes think the creative forces that gave us the enduring visions of Dystopian fiction set in near-futures or parallel presents – ‘Nineteen Eighty-Four’, ‘A Clockwork Orange’, ‘The Year of the Sex Olympics’, and ‘The Prisoner’ – were able to anticipate so much of what has come to pass and what we can still see coming because they’d lived through the 1930s. They’d seen with their own eyes how complicit the masses can be in their own suppression and ultimate destruction, how the individual voice can be submerged in a cacophonous chorus of mob hysteria. They never looked back over their shoulders and asked the obvious question posed by succeeding generations, i.e. ‘How could all those people have been taken in by Hitler?’ They didn’t need to. The more senior of them – Orwell, specifically – had already witnessed the denial of Stalin’s barbarous actions by the Left in the West even before the Austrian painter abandoned his watercolours. They all knew what can happen and they could all see it happening again by taking on a different shape for each era.

There are probably far more people in 2020 who can relate to ‘The Prisoner’ and No.6 than there were in 1967, yet it still made a huge cultural impact at the time of its original broadcast, perhaps because many viewers then also had wartime memories and got the references. In 1967, the inability of McGoohan’s character to trust anyone he meets and near-guarantee that every misplaced whisper will be reported to the authorities would undoubtedly have provoked recollections of villages in Nazi-occupied France peppered with informants, or even the ‘loose lips sink ships’ compulsion to keep tabs on neighbours and strangers alike that applied on the home front. Today, of course, one cannot help but think of lockdown fundamentalists dialling 999 when they spy more than three or four people gathered in next-door’s garden.

The advanced technology of Village surveillance, something which was in its infancy in 1967 – certainly outside of East Germany, anyway – has obviously become such a part of contemporary life since then that we often barely notice it anymore. Whether speed cameras, CCTV on street corners, online profiling, or ‘track & trace’ apps, it sometimes seems that dissenting voices questioning the wisdom of allowing the state or multinationals to spy on us with increasing impunity are diminishing with each development as reluctant acceptance morphs seamlessly into resigned indifference. ID and credit cards also helped No.2 monitor No.6’s movements, as the real-world equivalents do ours. And each imposition on his individualism and freedom is served with a smile; the Village isn’t modelled on a Soviet Gulag; it resembles a cross between Butlin’s and the Henley Regatta most of the time.

One episode I watched the other night dealt with what was called ‘speed-learning’ as the Village community absorbed a history course by staring at the TV screen for three minutes. Afterwards, villagers could automatically ask another villager a question related to the course and they’d receive the same reply, parrot-like, word-for-word; the information was implanted in every person who’d sat the course, but they only had the set reply; their knowledge went no deeper than that and was ultimately as useless as memorising the answers to expected questions on an exam paper. Hard not to think of some present-day degrees – gender studies, perhaps – that neither enrich the intellect nor guarantee a career but simply proffer useless information that has no more worth or value than being able to recite a shopping-list.

Another memorable episode in which it was impossible not to sense a theme echoing down the decades concerned a Village election. No.6 is persuaded to run for No.2’s office and instantly has his cynical honesty reported completely differently by what passes for a press. His words from the heart are translated as vacuous platitudes that could have emerged from the mouth of every politician of the last forty years; but in the Village, there is no independence of thought, so it doesn’t matter. He’s saying what all politicians say and are expected to say in the land of collectivist groupthink. That crossed my mind when I heard Matt Hancock opportunistically toss the token buzzword ‘Black Lives Matter’ into one of his briefings a couple of days ago. He is laughably pathetic, a man utterly bereft of principles and personality, not to mention one single original thought or a single utterance that doesn’t sound like a pre-prepared sound-bite for ‘Question Time’; but he would make a wonderful No.2.

I’m only halfway through my current viewing of ‘The Prisoner’, so I fully expect plenty more episodes that say something to me in 2020 that they didn’t say in the 2010s, 1990s or 1980s. I’m not the same person now that I might have been in those decades, and the programme now is not the programme it was then either. As for the world…well, what can one say? Please excuse me for the moment; I see a black man approaching, so I need to fall to my knees and acknowledge my privilege by begging my oppressed pet to forgive me for the imagined crimes of my slave-owning ancestors. He, of course, is a number whilst I am a free man.

© The Editor

PS After writing this post, I watched an episode in which No.6 is effectively ‘cancelled’ by the community, ostracised as a pariah by shouty students and hectoring harridans. It’s almost as if he’s been no-platformed by social media or something…


I’m sure we all recall the unique interpretation of the Joint Enterprise law as practiced by teachers back in the day. One pupil has broken one of the school rules, but won’t confess to it, despite Sir or Miss’s entreaties for him or her to come forward. The teacher’s solution is to keep the entire class entombed in the classroom until the guilty pupil speaks up; the knowledge that others are aware of the criminal’s identity is paramount, but the teacher expecting these others to break the code against grassing is futile. Nobody will admit anything, so every child is punished for one child’s misdemeanours because there’s always somebody spoiling it for everyone else.

If we take this collective memory from ‘the happiest days of our lives’ and use it as a metaphor for the Government’s attitude towards online security, then Amber Rudd is the teacher and we – an estimated 4 billion global users – are the class. A few of us have been very naughty indeed, posting terrorist propaganda and Hate Speech (surely that’s for the Wiltshire Constabulary to deal with?); and Mrs Rudd’s solution is to apply the tried and tested school version of Joint Enterprise as a means of dealing with it. According to the Home Secretary, ‘Real People’ don’t want secure encryption on their messaging mediums. As she declared in the Telegraph – ‘Who uses WhatsApp because it is end-to-end encrypted, rather than because it is an incredibly user-friendly and cheap way of staying in touch with friends and family?’

On the eve of her visit to Silicon Valley, the Home Secretary has been making it clear her predecessor in the post taught her well when it comes to the subject of cyber civil liberties. In her Telegraph piece, she referred more than once to that exalted demographic, ‘Real People’, a new twist perhaps on David Cameron’s more favoured ‘Hard-Working People’. One presumes these are the same Real People who reside in Nick Clegg’s Alarm Clock Britain; and in Alarm Clock Britain as perceived by Amber Rudd, those of us who don’t mind those nice chaps at GCHQ acting as internet traffic cops are Real People; those of us who do are obviously hate-fuelled ISIS sympathisers who have something to hide.

Rudd intends to challenge the most popular online services such as Facebook and Twitter, as well as Microsoft and Google, to up their game in ‘removing extremist content’. However, one man’s extremist content is another man’s democratic expression of freedom. Outside of gruesome ritual beheadings, the definition of extremist content can vary depending on our individual perspective. Naked breasts are viewed by some as a feminist statement; to others, they’re just a pair of knockers to drool over; and to others, they’re virtually pornographic and should never be seen in public. Context is vital, of course, but tits are tits. You either have a problem with them being exposed or you don’t. Twitter and Facebook often do and censure the mammary offenders whilst being a little more lenient on things most of us would regard as not quite so benign.

Rudd evidently doesn’t have the same kind of problem with the business practices of Google and Facebook as she does with some of their content. Were her justification of the nosey parker principle to be applied to some of the internet’s multi-billion dollar corporations, we’d all be able to see how they masterfully evade the paying of taxes and maybe we could have a crack at it too once we’re shown the way it works. The Government she’ll be representing in San Francisco at the inaugural gathering of ‘The Global Internet Forum to Counter Terrorism’ also doesn’t have a problem with selling arms to the very country from which the current nihilistic strand of Islam originated as it bombs Yemen into bloody submission. That some of those Great British Weapons occasionally find their way into the hands of those same nasty people (not Real ones) who are prone to aiming them back at us is quite ‘extremist’, isn’t it?

A preview of Rudd’s expected lecture…sorry, speech reads ‘Terrorists and extremists have sought to misuse your platforms to spread their hateful messages’ (unlike the Tory press recycling Jeremy Corbyn’s past ‘association’ with the IRA, then?). She will then go on to say ‘This Forum is a crucial way to start turning the tide. The responsibility for tackling this threat at every level lies with both governments and with industry…we have a shared interest: we want to protect our citizens and keep the free and open internet we all love.’ In her Telegraph piece, she claimed ‘This is not about asking the companies to break encryption…Real People often prefer ease of use and a multitude of features to perfect, unbreakable security.’ Perfect and unbreakable to all but governments and their snooping secret services, lest we forget.

The Chief Executive of Big Brother Watch, Renate Samson, reacted to Rudd’s self-justifying waffle by calling it ‘at best naive, at worst dangerous’. He added ‘Suggesting that people don’t really want security from their online services is frankly insulting….once again, the Government are attempting to undermine the security of all in response to the actions of the few. We are all digital citizens; we all deserve security in the digital space.’

As part of the Home Secretary’s showy bragging about how the Government is dealing with this problem, she’s also expected to highlight how one police unit in Blightly has removed 28,000 examples of ‘terrorist content’ along with securing the closure of millions of online accounts over the past seven years. Rudd may well believe dredging up facts and figures of this nature supports her argument, but imagining any government can play at being a cyber Sgt Dixon giving mischievous Jihadists a clip round the ear-hole without stooping to snooping on everyone is pure Cloud Cuckoo Land. The only way any government can curb the antisocial tendencies of the badly-behaved internet is to apply the Joint Enterprise rule to all of us who use it. If we want to be ‘safe’, we have to sacrifice our privacy. Just be honest, Amber – or let us have a read of your emails.

© The Editor


‘The Simpsons’ has always had an uncanny knack of predicting the near-future, usually doing so by making deliberately ridiculous predictions that few could imagine actually coming to pass. Such is the way of the world today, though, that the sublime has regularly been superseded by the ridiculous; there was famously a President Trump in an episode from 2000, after all. I recall another episode in which Homer is forced to take a job in a supermarket warehouse; finding it too much like hard work after being accustomed to putting his feet up at Mr Burns’ power station, he attempts to walk out, only to be prevented from doing so by the microchip his new employers have implanted in his neck to guarantee subservience to the company.

Lo and behold, it was reported this week that a Swedish company called Epicenter is already there in the non-animated world. Yes, microchip implantation is an option for Epicenter’s lucky employees; these embedded pieces of technology essentially act as a swipe card for the 150 out of 2,000 employees to have opted for the process – opening doors or paying for goods on-site with a wave of the hand. Epicenter pioneered turning its workforce into cyborgs two years ago, with the company’s CEO claiming the biggest benefit of the scheme is ‘convenience’.

A company in Belgium is apparently contemplating the same ‘convenience’ for its employees, for where some countries lead, others invariably follow. The relative reluctance of Epicenter employees to embrace the practice in great numbers speaks volumes; although the technology is no doubt in its infancy, there have been ethical concerns aired regarding the potential security risks. Ben Libberton, a microbiologist at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, claims hackers could access innumerable amounts of private information from implanted microchips, a worrying prospect that could increase as the technology inevitably becomes more sophisticated. Hackers accessing something inside us?

If all of this sounds like an episode of Charlie Brooker’s dystopian ‘Black Mirror’ series, it’s no wonder; ‘Black Mirror’ specialises in taking contemporary technology one step into the future and capitalising on current fears on how it has already become something so many are dependent on and implicitly place their trust in.

The revealing of personal details that are now a prerequisite for the majority of online transactions is unavoidable if outlets such as Facebook, Amazon and eBay are to be entered into, resulting in the collation of information that forms a cyber profile advertisers and manufacturers can then target. The whole ‘If you like that, you might like this’ or ‘suggested post’ syndrome is a direct side-effect of the info we surrender when we log on and sign in.

In many respects, so many are now so attached to their Smartphones that the object has more or less become an extension of their physical being as it is, provoking withdrawal symptoms akin to those of a toddler deprived of its dummy should their mobile be misplaced. But if a company can inject microchips into its employees on the grounds of ‘convenience’, how long before one of the leading tech corporations proposes developing the principle re the mobile phone? The way avid subscribers to such technology are willing to submit to its demands without a second thought suggests that this possibility would not necessarily be widely opposed.

While the approach of the Epicenter company is embryonic in terms of what could eventually happen and how it could be misused, more advanced experiments have been carried out on surgical grounds, and there are a small number of volunteers who have had electronic implants seemingly on the grounds of vanity and an apparent desire to be viewed as ‘interesting’. In a way, this is not dissimilar to those addicted to cosmetic surgery when they don’t really need it. The British artist Neil Harbisson is the first person to be officially recognised as a ‘cyborg’, having had an antenna embedded in his head, enabling him to receive what he calls ‘an extra sense’ since the interior soft-wear merged with his brain, giving him the ability to perceive colours outside of the usual human spectrum.

The British scientist Kevin Warwick and his wife chose to be cybernetic guinea pigs, with the former having 100 electrodes added to his nervous system in order that he could connect it to the internet. If all of this sounds scary to many, these individuals have at least volunteered, as have those employees of Epicenter; and were these implants to provide the bionic strength we were all led to believe they would via ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, I suspect we’d all be queuing up to have them fitted; that was pre-cyberspace days, however. Today, Steve Austin would be an exemplary tool of the surveillance state rather than a superman. As so often happens, such technological developments don’t always fall into the hands of those whose means are benign.

© The Editor


dog-sweepSafe in the assumption you’ve probably digested your breakfast by now, I shall proceed. Dog-mess, the most polite term I can come up with, has always been a fixture of pavements as far back as I can remember. It was certainly a key element of the urban landscape in the 1970s, though there seemed to be a greater variance of shades then – white being the chic alternative to industry standard brown at the time. It shared sidewalk space with routine rubbish – empty crisp packets, smashed bottles, closing-time sick, discarded pages from ‘Playbirds’ et al – though the pavements then still didn’t seem quite as depressing-looking as today; the aesthetic carbuncle of the wheelie-bin line-up competes with the nose-to-tail parked car parade in a competition to decide which has rendered our streets the uglier.

I put the proliferation of dog-mess during my childhood down to the way in which man’s best friend (as with children back then) was free to roam in a way that is unimaginable now. What were usually called stray dogs were more often than not family pets that were let out of the house and left to their own devices as only cats are today. These latch-key canines ran wild through neighbourhoods, impregnating bitches at will, getting into territorial tussles with other mutts, striking fear into the hearts of kids who were instinctively scared of them, and even occasionally (as old ‘Match of the Day’ footage proves) finding their way onto football pitches in the middle of a match.

By contrast, a dog wandering alone now is such an unusual sight that people’s first thought is that the creature is lost, either having broken free of its lead when being walked or having escaped from its home without its owner’s knowledge. And that’s one aspect of British life that has undoubtedly changed for the better, both for the dogs and the people. So why is dog-mess still with us?

The best dog-owners today are a more conscientious bunch than their predecessors, preferring to escort their pets around local parks rather than letting them prowl the neighbourhood; and the arrival of the so-called ‘poo-bag’ has persuaded them to clean-up after their dog has done the business. Of course, not everyone adheres to this unwritten rule, and it is these pillocks that are the problem. At the same time, anybody who walks a dog regularly knows that sometimes the poo-bags are accidentally left at home, resulting in grass or leaves acting as makeshift camouflage in such an event; but overall, there’s definitely a greater impetus to exert that kind of responsibility than there ever used to be.

However, the wilfully defiant and the accidental amnesiac are grouped together in law when it comes to dog-fouling. Of late, local authorities have intervened, with the most recently vocal being the Mayor of Liverpool, who last week proclaimed that anyone providing evidence of dog owners failing to bag their pooch’s plop would be exempt from paying council tax for a year. Why not a weekend for two in Paris? Mayor Jon Anderson – who obviously turned to local politics when being the frontman of Yes finally caused him the same pain as it often has record-buyers – told a city cabinet meeting that ‘My wife was walking our dog the other day and came back with dog muck all over her shoes!’ He didn’t specify if counselling was available to his unfortunate missus, but our thoughts go out to Mrs Anderson.

The Mayor of Liverpool claimed his proposal was about restoring civic pride to his city; his idea is that people should provide the authorities with video or photographic proof that could lead to a criminal conviction, thus earning their reward. Fines of up to £1000 for dog-fouling already exist without the employment of grasses to do the council’s dirty work for them, but Mr Anderson believes his brainwave will bring communities together. A strange interpretation of the end result, for sure; dangling the council tax carrot before non-dog owners struggling to make ends meet and bribing them to turn into spies and snitches seems a funny way to bring communities together. Further divisions would seem more inevitable to me.

I once knew of someone who grassed a friend to the DHSS for simultaneously signing-on and working part-time, purely out of spite on account of said friend wanting to become a vicar while the grass was a fanatical atheist. It struck me as an especially shitty thing to do to someone who was supposed to be a friend; though the reasons themselves were ludicrous, just making that nasty phone-call evoked images of ‘collaborators’ in Nazi-occupied France. Okay, so that might sound a bit OTT, but who amongst us has never broken a little law, safe in the knowledge we could get away with it? When the music industry told us ‘home taping is killing music’ in the 80s, did it actually stop anyone copying songs onto a cassette from an LP? And has anyone buying a batch of fags from a bloke in a pub ever been that troubled by the lorry they fell off the back of?

Sure, dog owners who don’t pick up their pet’s mess from the park or pavement give other dog owners a bad name, and if they deliberately avoid cleaning up after Rover, it serves them right if they end up being fined. But Britain’s fractured communities don’t need a cynical incentive from local government to divide them further. The abundance of trashy TV shows that goad warring neighbours into action for cheap entertainment are bad enough; and then there are the warnings to keep an eye on next-door just in case a potential Paedo or Jihadist happens to be on the other side of the wall, advice in danger of turning us all into informers complicit in the surveillance state. It stinks – and the smell is far more pungent than a dog turd.

© The Editor


ddrOne of life’s unwritten rules is that you don’t read somebody else’s diary – the exception being the plethora of published journals from politicians and writers who have printed their day-to-day experiences for public consumption. There’s a world of difference between picking up one of those in a book shop and snooping through the diary of a spouse, friend or family member that they have deliberately stuffed under a pillow or inside a drawer to hide from prying eyes. Privacy does not necessarily equate with secrecy; we are all entitled to record what goes on in our heads for our own specific reasons and have no need to justify doing so. There’s nothing criminal in having something to hide if what you’re hiding is your innermost thoughts.

Diaries strip away the facade we present to the rest of the world and are unique personal time capsules that capture a moment in ways that posed photographs don’t. After penning our thought for the day, it can be years before we even return to what we wrote; the Radio 4 series ‘My Teenage Diary’, in which noted names voluntarily read aloud the adolescent angst they documented decades before, often reveals as much to the author as to the audience. But the prospect of others perusing them while the ink has barely dried on the page is a gross invasion of privacy on a par with burglary. Like many (I suspect), I suffered that indignity as a teenager and didn’t begin writing a diary again until I was well into my thirties and living alone.

As a renowned God-botherer, Theresa May clearly thinks she was put on this earth to do His work, and her self-righteous missionary zeal was evident in her dismissive attitude to personal privacy and the rights of the ordinary citizen during her six-year stint as Home Secretary. With the convenient smokescreen of combating cyberspace Paedos and home-grown Jihadists, she was forever pushing for greater access to the public’s online activity, as though it was her divine right to be an omnipotent presence in every aspect of our lives. Now that she is top of the political pile she has even greater clout to play Big Brother – or Big Mama. She’s the nosy mother who stumbles upon your teenage diary when she’s Hoovering your bedroom and sits down on the bed to have a good read of it.

Whilst what we do and where we go online is a different kettle of fish from jotting down what we’re thinking in a diary, it’s still something we engage in on our own and don’t broadcast to the nation for various reasons; it’s nobody’s business but ours. The common cliché of private browsing being a euphemism for jerking off to porn sites is misleading, but misleading in a way that suits the Investigatory Powers Bill (the so-called ‘Snoopers Charter’) that the Government is determined will become law. Of course, the most embarrassing internet surfing in terms of it being shared with strangers usually does involve detours down ‘adult’ avenues, though the legislation that has already passed unopposed through the Lords doesn’t concern itself solely with money shots or DIY explosives manuals; it covers everything.

The Investigatory Powers Bill is the kind of outrageously intrusive legislation one takes as a given in China, Russia or North Korea and would have accepted as par for the course had the internet existed in the era of the GDR or USSR. When (rather than if) it becomes law, the Government and their affiliated security services will have easy access to your personal phone records and internet traffic, and service providers will be forced to preserve your browsing data for twelve months, obliged to hand over that information to the authorities should they request it. However, there is a telling caveat, one that emphasises the Us and Them divide between Westminster and the electorate in the same way that the one drinking den exempt from the smoking ban happened to be situated in the Houses of Parliament – MPs will not be subject to such mandatory snooping. Sounds like a fair deal, doesn’t it?

Millions of people in the United Kingdom already have endless personal details on the files of internet service providers, banks, insurance companies, eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter et al – whether through choice or necessity – so the info is there waiting to be perused by Government agencies like the untapped natural resource of a colonised country; the Investigatory Powers Bill will legitimise their reasons for perusing it. It brands everyone as a potential threat to the Realm in the same way a CRB check brands every adult seeking to educate children a potential paedophile.

News of the proposals in the legislation was masterfully buried beneath the extended convulsions that followed Trump’s triumph in the US Presidential Election, and had an online petition opposed to its implementation not appeared, it’s doubtful many would even be aware of it. I don’t recall it attaining headline status on any news or current affairs show on any mainstream broadcaster, oddly enough.

I’m under no illusions that those nice chaps at GCHQ already do what the hell they like with our privacy regardless of what the law currently says, and I know from personal experience that employees of a certain police force can dig in search of dirt to their heart’s content, whether or not they’re legally entitled to do so. But with the Investigatory Powers Bill just weeks away from gaining Royal Assent and then being added to the statue book, no longer will the spies, spooks and snoopers have to officially circumnavigate their way around our rights to keep an eye on us. The law will give them carte-blanche to do so, and there’s nothing we can do about it. This might help, however…


© The Editor


halUpon arriving at an open-air public car park last week, the attendant informed me that purchasing a ticket to stick on the dashboard was old hat; the system as it now stood required no such exchange. Once returning to one’s vehicle, a machine on site required the typing-in of one’s registration number and said machine would then calculate how much money was needed based on the length of time one was parked. The information provided to the machine enabled it to know precisely how long each visitor had used the facilities, which seemed uncomfortably reminiscent of HAL from ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. Mind you, what doesn’t these days? The increasing reality of one’s every move being at the whim of a sentient being that is generated by computerised technology in public spaces has happened with such stealth that few even stop and think about it.

CCTV cameras often seem to be in place simply to make the job of the police detective easier than it would have been when genuine detection and intelligence were prerequisites for the post; and they’ve been absorbed into the urban landscape with seamless nonchalance. Those who froth at the mouth and hoist their placards over trivial issues that have no direct impact on their own lives are quite content to do so under the all-seeing eye of the State, apparently incapable of looking upwards and seeing the real outrage. How many cases have been closed on the shaky strength of a fuzzy image captured on CCTV? Similarly, the insidious presence of Speed Cameras, punitive robotic Jobsworths collecting fines to fund the lavish expenses of local councillors, is another odious innovation implemented under false pretences. And nobody seems especially concerned.

The recent announcement of ‘Smart Generation’ household appliances such as kettles that will anticipate the householder’s coffee or tea needs and act accordingly has been greeted as a great leap forward by a populace incapable of looking beyond the corporate PR. The astonishing gullibility of people whose faith in technology blinds them to ulterior motives is remarkable, especially when one considers the thriving online conspiracy theory industry, which proposes the most implausible fantasies imaginable, yet has a willing audience of twilight-hours disciples.

It almost feels as though each conspiracy theory has to be on the grandest of scales to be believed. Devotees will unquestionably accept that the Moon Landings were faked or that Kennedy was assassinated by aliens or that 70s Tories raped and murdered children on an industrial scale, but will willingly hand over their personal details to any chic gadget without thinking it remotely sinister.

The news that some Santander accounts have been infiltrated by hackers, hot on the heels of revelations involving Tesco last week, again highlights the acute vulnerability of systems that virtually every institution has embraced without a second thought. During the US Presidential Election, Donald Trump’s pre-victory insistence that the contest was rigged in favour of his opponent appeared to be based on the method of voting, which in many cases was done using touch-screen technology. The traditional pencil-on-paper system in the polling booth, whereupon full ballot boxes are then escorted to the counting centres under the strictest official supervision, was virtually foolproof. Whenever this has been altered, whether via postal voting or the ‘chad’ farce that caused so much trouble in 2000, problems and accusations of tampering arise. The thought that future voting could be solely an online exercise opens the floodgates for all manner of abuse.

It is amazing how converting so many transactions to exclusively online exchanges has been undertaken free from doubt over the last decade. It’s as if nobody has ever heard of the existence of hackers at all. Official correspondence or financial dealings that were once done on the phone or in person are now more or less all the province of the computer, the laptop and the Smartphone. Even the most insignificant exchange today requires the amount of personal information that would once have been reserved for Checkpoint Charlie, though passwords are not the impregnable fortresses we are led to believe. So many people construct them with personal details such as dates of birth, mother’s maiden name or the name of first pets, yet this has already been openly provided to the likes of Facebook, which is accessible without much in the way of effort. Hackers have the technology that can feed all this info into a blender that will then calculate the numerous permutations of a password before eventually coming up with the correct one. They don’t even break sweat.

The unthinking transference of intimate facts to a database that is hardly the Fort Knox of Cyberspace is entered into with headshaking naivety in many cases. I have a friend whose Facebook wall is crammed with gifts for the unscrupulous. Every time she goes on holiday, she announces the fact beforehand and then floods her wall with images of said vacation while her home stands empty and available for any techno-savvy burglar. Even if she has a house-sitter during her absence, she will also announce this fact, thus alerting the burglar to the news that the house-sitter’s home is empty.

It beggars belief that intelligent individuals can be so stupid when it comes to their online identities, yet it’s so commonplace today that China’s State suppression of Google seems almost quaint, an archaic throwback to Soviet-style surveillance of its citizens that is unnecessary when the citizens themselves are quite happy to surrender their secrets to Google as it is.

It doesn’t matter which system is the user’s preferred choice – Facebook, Twitter, Amazon, eBay, YouTube, Instagram or any of the endless new kids on the techno block – one only has to show a moderate interest in anything and the bombardment begins. If you like that, you might like this etc. We know you better than you know yourself. We know what your preferences are in music, films, TV, books, clothes, food. We are your friends. You will like what we suggest. You will do as you’re told. You will buy that gun and you will assassinate President Trump.

© The Editor