8 Reasons Why We Need To Stop These Labour Censorship Laws

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Last week Labour politicians presented two separate bills aimed at shutting down online public conversation. Unelected Labour Senator Lorraine Higgins posted the “Harmful And Malicious Electronic Communications Bill 2015.” Pat Rabbitte published “The Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Act 2015” on the same day.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

Both can be read in full at the bottom of this post.

Why two separate censorship bills were brought forward by the same political organisation has not been made clear. A cursory reading of both show that not only are they dangerously wide open for interpretation, but that they both seek to make it a crime to cause any offence to powerful interests and politicians.

1 These proposed laws are Orwellian in nature. They seek to make causing “offence”, “annoyance” “inconvenience” and “alarm” an offence punishable by fines and imprisonment.

From Higgins’ bill —-

For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered malicious where it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other…

..A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.”

From Rabbitte’s Bill

A person who (b) for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another—

(i) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that the sender knows to be false,

(ii) persistently and without reasonable cause makes use of a public electronic communications network, is guilty of an offence.

Pretty alarming and offensive right? These bills enable the squashing of public discussion and dissent. They provide for the legal regulation of online political speech. In a society that already has draconian libel laws to protect the powerful from written or spoken criticism, this is a clear attack on our already delimited democratic sphere.

It gives politicians the ability to censor all online public criticism which might cause them “alarm” “annoyance” or “inconvenience”. Higgins’ bill allows for fines up to €5,000 and prison sentences of 12 months. Not to be outdone Pat Rabbittes proposed law seeks to have fines up to €75,000 and 5 years imprisonment.

The level of punishment sought by the Labour party can only have a chilling effect on many people using social media to engage in public debate. The only possible outcome, if these bills are passed into law, is an increase in the totalitarian potential of the nation state.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

2 They want to take away your communication tools too.

Even the wide ranging vagueness of offense and alarm isn’t enough. Say you are found not guilty after being dragged through the courts on foot of the new offenses they laws would create. It has been declared that have done nothing illegal. Yet still you aren’t free to express and communicate without interference from the state and criminal justice system. Under Ancillary Orders of Higgins’ bill, people can be forced by the courts to remove their own content even though you are not guilty of anything….

Ancillary Orders

5. – (1) If on the evidence the court is not satisfied that the person should be convicted of an offence under sections (3) or (4), the court may nevertheless make any of the following upon application to it in that behalf if, having regard to the evidence, the court is satisfied that it is in the interest of justice so to order:

(a) that the person remove or delete specific electronic communication(s);(b) that the person shares an apology or correction as the court deems appropriate in the circumstances;(c) that the person shall not, for such period as the court may specify, communicate by any means with the other person or that the person shall not approach within such distance as the court shall specify of the place of residence or employment of the other person.

It gets worse. Pat Rabbitte’s bill allows the state to seize laptops, mobiles phones and modems etc etc to be taken from you.

So imagine you send a tweet sugggesting Pat Rabbitte was a bit of a hypocrite condemning political organisations with links to paramilitaries who murdered people, given his own political history. Granted that might be hard to fit into 140 characters, but imagine it was possible for the sake of an example. And say Pat Rabbitte was a litigious sort of character who didn’t want to be publicly associated with any of the murders, bank robberies or lots of stuff the Official IRA was involved in when he was member of the Workers Party, the political wing of the OIRA.

I guess you’d be into a couple of tweets now, something that might be construed by Rabbitte and his expensive legal team and barristers as “persistent and without legitimate cause”. It probably might not matter that you feel it important to public discourse that many younger people ought know that that a former minister – responsible for promoting austerity and a gagging law – was once a member of a politico-paramilitary organisation that murdered people. You might even infer that the Stalinist tendencies embodied in WP/OIRA back in the day could be found in a bill that seeks to quash public online political dissent today by actually making it illegal to be a political nuisance.

So you are taken to court and found guilty. Say your day job was a graphic designer, or architect or any other job that requires a laptop and/or mobile phone and access to the net. Your ability to earn a wage (or get donations) relies on these things. Rabbitte’s bill allows for a judge to remove that wage earning ability by seizing the tools of your trade. See:

(6) On convicting a person for an offence under subsection (1), the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed for the offence, order any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in the course of committing the offence to be forfeited to the State.”

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

3 This is bigger than these two bills. This is about what type of society we want and how we can get there.

These bills are merely the latest manifestation of senior politicians seeking to criminalise public questioning. For the past few years there has been a continual attempt by politicians to shut down public anger, despair and frustration. Especially when that coaleses into social action. This anger, expressed on the streets as well as on social media – is rooted firmly in the inability and unwillingness of current political actors to tackle the causes of inequality and face up to the failure of representative democracy. Instead of taking note of these voices from below, people are called fascists and nazi’s by the very people imposing inequality upon them. 

It is demanded that people play nice, suppress their emotions, individualise and internalise their own insecurities. We are expected to respect respectability and applaud green shoots of arithmetical recovery. We all know that these green shoots will never feed us properly, will not undo the loss of mass emigration and suicides. These green shoots and smoke-and -mirror GDP figures wont let us escape shitty short terms jobs or a pension-less future. On the one hand our politicians applaud our ‘sacrifices’, but on the other they are telling us to shut the fuck up. And that is precisely what this bill will be used for.

4 Far bigger communication crime are happening today and the Labour Party are part of the problem.

“ I was aware there was a gap in our legislative armour and I was keen to cover this because I feel a duty as an Oireachtas member.  Modern democracies require modern laws and why should Ireland be any different in terms of international best practice?” –Lorraine Higgins at the bill launch.

Isnt that what you tend to do during an election?” Pat Rabbitte’s response to accusations of lying to the public in run up to last election.

Lorraine Higgins has ran in 8 elections and been rejected every time, yet she’s able to push forward this bill, because she was appointed to the Senate. Higgins likes to talk about her ‘constituency’ in Galway but was never voted into the Dail. In a clip seen tens of thousands of times on YouTube, Pat Rabbitte made clear that lying is part of modern day electoral strategy.

This is Ireland’s “modern democracy.” But what does a modern democracy even mean?

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

Modern in the sense that all our electronic communications, every phone call, email, our browsing histories, each Facebook update and Twitter direct message, all our location-tracking data, menstrual cycle app info and Snapchat sexy shots, etc. etc. etc. are intercepted, filed and stored by the UK intelligence agencies at GCHQ and shared with the US intelligence gatherers of the NSA?

Modern in the sense that none of the main political parties felt the call of duty to speak out about this, never mind publicly condemn other states for abusing the privacy of its own population? From this alone it is completely reasonable to assume that Higgins, Rabbitte and the majority of political organisations in this state don’t give one flying bollix about what modern democracies actually means for the most of the population. They are the managers of our total surveillance. These censorship bills are yet another expression of nation state surveillance and control that we can see growing across the globe. Across the EU we are seeing laws to criminalise online organising, and political protest. All the while agencies of the US and UK are supported by client regimes to achieve total surveillance of global populations.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

5 New Laws, Old Practices

These proposed laws reflect the deeply reactionary and authoritarian nature of the Irish state its relatively closed political classes. As much as we can all see many positive social changes in attitudes and practices – which are exclusively rooted in peoples collective struggles rather than benign political leadership – the Irish state remains instinctively reactionary and under the control of wealthy vested interests. Since the inception of the state, successive governments and powerful elites have used censorship around political speech, free discussion and free assembly and the sharing of knowledge.

Ireland is one of the few *ahem* modern democracies to retain blasphemy laws. This was conveniently omitted from most of the commentary surrounding politicians leveraging the murders in Paris earlier this year to laud themselves supporters of ‘free speech’.

During the financial crisis, new censorship laws within “The Credit Institutions (Stabilisation) Act 2010” were used to hide decisions from public view around bank restructuring. Section 60 of the act made it illegal to disclose what decisions the Finance Minister ordered, but also made it illegal to report that Section 60 was being invoked. In effect this was a super injunction stopping journalists reporting on the fact that they were not allowed to report. Brian Lenihan used this act to block reporting on €3,700,000,000 of our taxes being handed over to Allied Irish Bank in mid December 2010.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

As well as refusing women reproductive control over their own bodies, Ireland still bans the sharing of knowledge about abortion. As things stands a doctor can give advice on abortion if a woman seeks an abortion outside of Ireland, but we cant legally tell each other arsing from “Article 26 and the Regulation of Information (Services outside the State for the Termination of Pregnancies) Bill 1995, In Re [1995] IESC 9; [1995] 1 IR 1 (12th May, 1995).” This censorship of course is very difficult to police but the intention is more about shutting down the free sharing of essential and important information than locking people up. In our modern democracy is just not politically possible to lock woman up like this anymore.

(As a quick aside for readers outside Ireland its worth noting that for the first half of respective parties existence Fianna Fail and Fine Gael supported locking women up for being, well…women. These organisations today raise questions about the legitimacy of Sinn Fein given its (past) links with the PIRA. And its totally fine and reasonable in a democratic space to do so.

However FF and FG themselves were not engaged in a wrongheaded low level war with a sectarian state and against a government that organised murders gangs all through the period they were locking innocent women and kids up in workhouses and prisons. There was no external factor enforcing their silence and complicity. This was actual state policy supported and run by FF and FG political organisations. Yet somehow the legitimacy of these political organisations is never really questioned.)

The books “Abortion Internationally,” “Abortion: Right or Wrong.” and “Abortion: Our Struggle for Control” are all banned in Ireland. Whilst not exclusively covering abortion “The Complete Guide to Sex” is also banned. Though in fairness I’m not sure any of us have book shelf strong enough to hold what must be a pretty hefty tome. The fact that these books are undoubtedly shared in digital forms shows how obselete the censorship of artifacts is.

Labour, censorship, Ireland, social media

6 Communication tools are important tools in the struggle for social justice.

Social media tools used within an increasingly networked public sphere afford many of us a low cost ability to engage in critical political enquiry and debate about the world we live in. If our conversations – and the tools themselves – are regulated by government – struggles for social justice and equality will be hampered.

Official narratives and meaning making of our lives is still delivered to us by large for-profit media corporations and state run media. For the most part these tend not to reflect our lived reality. Thousands of us across the country blog, tweet and post updates that are rich with political analysis, opinions, sets of ideas and visions. Across all of these is robust criticism of specific politicise and as well as the clear visible failings of representative democracy to deliver real social transformation. They also include articulations of what a genuine democracy of equals could look like.

We share our thoughts, report on local struggles, give our own context to our lived experiences and challenge “common sense” on a daily basis. It is not the place of nation state governments to regulate our thinking, our communications with each other, or our plans for changing things, simply on the basis that they find it offensive or that it causes them alarm.

Many of us are engaged in campaigns, projects and struggle against the causes of inequality and social injustice. In almost all cases, the main political organisations within the state are barriers to solutions long before they are forced to assist. It stands to sense that they are going to be offended. But if members of the professional political classes dont want to be offended or alarmed, maybe they should drop the sense of duty bollix and think about joining these struggles. Or simply get the fuck out of the way.

Either way we dont need new laws and regulations to demand we speak without causing offence. Discourse etiquette has a social context. We live in a neoliberal Ireland, an Ireland wholly captured by the whims and demands of undemocratic financial capital, an Ireland shaped by the same forces and ideology causing social and environmental destruction across Europe and our wider world.

Making it illegal not to be ‘alarmed’ or ‘inconvenienced’ by criticism in this social context is akin to demanding someone stop giving you dirty looks while you keep punching him in the balls. And when he doesn’t to bring him to court to get his balls punched some more by the criminal justice system.

Fuck that.

7 Laws already exist to deal with threats and intimidation

To be clear, I see no point in threatening violence against a politician. The usual media practice is to seek condemnation. Growing up in the north during the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s I’m well versed with the pantomime of ‘condemnation.’ For the most part its circular time filling. Threats to Higgins as she descibed them on RTE Morning are vile, and disgusting. And they almost certainly fall under existing legislation. There is no need for new legislation to address someone threatening you online. All this is covered by S5 & S10 Non Fatal Offences Against the Person Act 1997.

8 These laws need to be defeated and not passed and we need to start making some noise now if we are to ensure they are.

————————————-

DRAFT / HARMFUL AND MALICIOUS ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS BILL 2015

 

_______________________

 

Bill

entitled

 

An Act to protect against and mitigate harm caused to individuals by all or any digital communications and to provide such individuals with a means of redress for any such offending behaviours directed at them.

Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:

 

 PART I

Preliminary and General

Short title and commencement

 

1. – (1) This Act may be cited as the Harmful & Malicious Electronic Communications Act 2015

 

(2) This Act shall comes into operation on such day or days as the Minister may appoint by order or orders either generally or with reference to any particular purpose or provision, and different days may be so appointed for different purposes or provisions.

 

Interpretation

 2. – (1) In this Act –

electronic communication” includes a communication of information in the form of data, text, images or sound (or any combination of these) by means of guided or unguided electromagnetic energy, or both;

 “explicit content” includes images, video or sound (or any combination of these) of a sexual or intimate nature;

shares” includes sending, posting, distributing or publishing on the internet an electronic communication.

 

 

PART II

Offences

Harmful Electronic Communication

3. – (1) A person who, without lawful authority or reasonable excuse, intentionally or recklessly shares a harmful electronic communication shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered harmful where it –

 

(a) incites or encourages another to commit suicide; or(b) incites or encourages another to cause serious harm to themselves; or(c) includes explicit content of the other;

 

and it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

 

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

 

Malicious Electronic Communications

4. – (1) A person who, without lawful excuse, persistently shares malicious electronic communications regarding another shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(2) For the purposes of this section an electronic communication shall be considered malicious where it intentionally or recklessly causes alarm, distress or harm to the other.

 

(3) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

 

 

PART III

Jurisdiction and Procedure

Ancillary Orders

5. – (1) If on the evidence the court is not satisfied that the person should be convicted of an offence under sections (3) or (4), the court may nevertheless make any of the following upon application to it in that behalf if, having regard to the evidence, the court is satisfied that it is in the interest of justice so to order:

(a) that the person remove or delete specific electronic communication(s);(b) that the person shares an apology or correction as the court deems appropriate in the circumstances;(c) that the person shall not, for such period as the court may specify, communicate by any means with the other person or that the person shall not approach within such distance as the court shall specify of the place of residence or employment of the other person.

 

(5) A person who fails to comply with the terms of an order under this section shall be guilty of an offence.

 

(6) A person guilty of an offence under this section shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine not exceeding €5000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months or to both.

PUBLIC ELECTRONIC COMMUNICATIONS NETWORKS (IMPROPER USE) BILL 2015 Bill

An Act to provide for certain offences in connection with the improper use of public electronic communications networks; and to provide for related matters.

Be it enacted by the Oireachtas as follows:

Amendment of section 13 of Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951

1. The Post Office (Amendment) Act 1951 is amended in section 13, as substituted by section 4 of and Schedule 1 to the Communications Regulation (Amendment) Act 2007, by the substitution of the following section:

Offences in connection with public electronic communications networks 13.

(1) A person who—

(a) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or is indecent, obscene or menacing, or

(b) for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another— (i) sends or causes to be sent, by means of a public electronic communications network, a message that the sender knows to be false,

or (ii) persistently and without reasonable cause makes use of a public electronic communications network, is guilty of an offence.

(2) In subsection (1), ‘public electronic communications network’ means an electronic communications network (within the meaning of the European Communities (Electronic Communications Networks and Services) (Framework) Regulations 2011 (S.I. No. 333 of 2011)), that is provided wholly or mainly for the purpose of making available to members of the public, whether on payment or otherwise, electronic communications services (within the meaning of those Regulations). 3 5 10 15 20 25 30

(3) Subsection (1) does not apply to the transmission, distribution or relay of a broadcasting service, within the meaning of the Broadcasting Act 2009.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under subsection (1) is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to a Class A fine or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 12 months, or to both,

(b) on conviction on indictment, to a fine not exceeding €75,000 or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding 5 years, or to both.

(5) An offence under subsection (1) is an offence under the Post Office Act 1908.

(6) On convicting a person for an offence under subsection (1), the court may, in addition to any other penalty imposed for the offence, order any apparatus, equipment or other thing used in the course of committing the offence to be forfeited to the State.”.

Short title 2. This Act may be cited as the Public Electronic Communications Networks (Improper Use) Act 2015.

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Cork City Hall Occupied in Response to Criminalisation of Dissent

Cork City Hall Occupied in Response to Criminalisation of Dissent

The City Council meeting in Cork was suspended tonight as between 70- 100 activists occupied the city hall. The occupation is in response to the criminalisation of people taking part in demonstrations and actions against the imposition of a water tax.

Last week saw the imprisonment of 5 people for breaking a High Court injunction that in seeks to stop effective blockading of water meter installations. However across the country civil disobediences continues to slow down or stop Denis O Briens company, Seirra GMC, installing meters.

Those occupying city hall in Cork this evening read out a statement which can be seen in the video below.

Photo of occupation in Cork City Hall, proclamation on the wall  Thanks to Páidí Ó Madáin

Photo of occupation in Cork City Hall, proclamation on the wall Thanks to Páidí Ó Madáin

#IrishWater Anti-Repression Demo (and some thoughts)


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UPDATE:  Arrests have now risen to twenty this week with a husband and wife arrested this morning by the police. 


We Wont Pay

Tonight about 700 people gathering outside the Department of Justice and Equality in an anti-repression demonstration. The demonstration was called in response to ongoing arrests of adults and children involved in the anti water tax movement.

Amongst those speaking at the event was Jason Lester a 16 year old boy arrested on Tuesday morning by ten detectives, nine in plain clothes. The police arrested him in his bedroom after he was woken up. “Next thing I new they where standing in my bedroom and arresting me under Section 4 of the Criminal Justice Act.”

Crowd 1

Jason’s arrest was one of 17 so far this week which on Wednesday also included a 14 year old boy. The arrests follow a familiar pattern at this stage where large numbers of police arrive at the break of dawn at peoples houses in the working class community of Tallaght, usually minimum of six police officers per arrest. People are put into cells, stripped of shoes, belts and personal possessions, fingerprinted and interrogated for several hours and then released without charge.  

Crowd 2

The arrests focus on an incident in Jobstown last November when a car driving Irish Deputy Prime Minister, Tánaiste Joan Burton, was prevented from moving for up to three hours by people sitting in front of it. They were demonstrating against the introduction of a water tax, part of ongoing state policies resulting from the shifting of private speculation debt on to public accounts.

Crowd 3

A decision was made to build a case of false imprisonment of the Minister, by an investigation team resourced to a degree one would normally associate with high level criminality such as murders or drug trafficking. Its commonly understood within the wider public and the broad anti-water tax movement that the police operation is motivated not with a desire to convict anyone with false imprisonment of the government minister. That itself is a ludicrous proposition given that footage available on-line shows that her car was surrounded by police at pretty much the whole time.

An understanding of policing in Ireland suggests that the motivations are probably muddy. In part they probably do come from a desire to put manners on people involved in embarrassing and annoying a senior government minister. And if you can simultaneously sling enough hyperbolic mud at a movement you might create division and inoculate others from getting involved. And whilst the history of Irish policing ‘crisis’ show that the force is wide open to political interference, a more mundane reality is that police forces engage in political repression for the same reasons a dog licks its own balls. Because its coded into its DNA. For a substantive look at political policing in Ireland check out this report from the Garda Research Institute. But before looking at policing its worth looking at the movement from which those arrest come from.

The anti water tax movement itself is the largest and most sustained public reaction to years of cuts, job losses, growing poverty and inequality. A sense of the importance and social power of the movement is illustrated by the fact that the political party polling highest at present, Sinn Fein, changed its own position in relation to Irish Water and the proposed introduction of water charges. Other left organisations such as the Socialist Party/Austerity Alternative Alliance and Socialist Worker Party/People Before Profits and trade unions and activists are involved under a broad Right 2 Water banner.

AAA Banner

However the wider movement itself is not under the control of any of these organisations. To be part of it you simply just have to not pay. It is made up of an increasingly networked affiliation of community groupings communicating with each other. In this way groups from across the country, and within the capital, are in regular contact with each other to organise solidarity actions such preventing meter installations or support events like the anti-repression demo.

It is within this context that the arrests this week is perhaps most usefully understood. The Irish government has failed spectacularly at each and every step of trying to create Irish Water as a legitimate social policy. It has bounced between an attitude of arrogance and disdain and open fear as deadlines for registration get pushed back and proposals changed so many times that most of us probably forget what the initial Irish Water proposal was. The entire process has only further fuelled disillusionment and general disconnect between ordinary people and a form of low-cunning politics that is clumsy, cruel, temperamental and when the shit the fan, fundamentally unjust.

Disillusionments with unjust policies, or indeed political systems, pose no threat or possibility of change when they are limited to small left wing meetings. Nor do individual bodies and families worn weary with the stress of bills and putting food on the table, and having to feed the relentless desires of a banking system to have its pound of flesh so that you have a roof over your head.

It is a profoundly different experience for everyone involved, for governments and participants, when that disillusionment is expressed on our streets. Be that hundreds of thousands of people collectively refusing to sign up, twenty thousand people walking together in the capital or twenty or thirty people on their own street stopping water meters going in in the first place.

Each one of these things is an active and living expression of solidarity and care. The very things most visibly absent in the logic of ‘austerity’.

From the perspective of people engaging in this movement, these are beautiful and empowering things. The reality of becoming engaged with our neighbours in trying to shape our world outside the ritual of voting is a transforming experience. We become political and social actors ourselves. And we do it again and again. Exploring that further is another piece of writing, but suffice to say that movements of this size are not just about changing policies or getting better governments in the future at the next election. For thousands of people involved it is a real change in the immediate way we understand what politics is and what it can be.


From the perspective of a government that sees their respective party support falling, and looking across Europe and seeing that peoples movements are a real game changer, public engagement in social solidarity is a terribly bad idea. And perhaps for a moment we can indulge and make evident the basis of this fear. A lot of TD’s in Labour and Fine Gael are going to lose their jobs. We can be generous enough to recognise that it is scary to look forward to the future with that fear. We know it all too well. So at an individual level there is perhaps a case to be made that our own humanity is served to recognise that with empathy. But equally their job losses will be a result of a loyalty to organisations that preside over growing poverty and inequality. So perhaps this is small justice in action.

Though the established order of things is not about individual TD’s. The established order of things is about the maintenance of a captured state. And the maintenance of the established order is primarily achieved by having the power to defined what gets talked about and what doesn’t.

click for full size

click for full size

Arresting Socialist Party TD Paul Murphy first thing on a Monday morning was clearly motivated by a desire sought to shape a media narrative of the week. The headline news at 7am on Monday Morning Ireland, an RTE radio show that sets the news agenda for the day, was about the €3,500,000,000 hidden away by rich Irish people in Swiss accounts of HBSC banks. By 8am the headline was the arrest of Paul Murphy and three others and all other media outlets pursued. Now the arrests most likely were not timed to knock out the Irish end of the global HBSC tax evasion story.

Nonetheless those folks with €3,500,000,000 stashed away enjoy very much the established order of things. Where we see social solidarity and positive actions to make justice and equality central to how our society works, they see a mob. When we challenge the legitimacy of certain policies or orthodoxies, small but powerful interests know that their ability to shape the state to suit themselves is under threat.

And it that sense the demonisation of the broad anti-water tax movement by Denis O Brien press is just part of the historical game played between owners and the owned. The fact that Michael Geoghegan, the former CEO of HBSC at the time, was appointed chair of the NAMA advisory board is a mere footnote in the weeks news. There has been no public debate around precisely who in Ireland defrauded millions from our public services.

Dept J E

It remains to be seen if the wider public in Ireland will be swayed away from non payment by the recent police actions. And when Paul Murphy says he would love to see his day in court so would many of us. Its unlikely to happen. One can only imagine how damaging it would be for Labour and Fine Gael facing electoral meltdown to have the Tánaiste and Labour Party leader Joan Burton cross examined in the courts. I doubt very much whether the established order of things will have an appetite for that.

I’ll leave the last words to Jason

6 Reasons Why Joan Burton Is A Bigger Fascist Than You!

6 Reasons Why Joan Burton Is A Bigger Fascist Than You!

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So I was in the car and got thinking about Fascism..

So I was in the car and got thinking about Fascism…….. It was harder than you think….

1 Actual Fascism in Ireland Joan….

The first one is a bit fish in a barrel but anyways. Joan Burton is in government with a party that grew out of fascism. Fine Gael supported the murdering psychotic regimes of Franco in Spain and had many members deeply sympathetic to Hilter and Nazism. Some of its Irish fascists also set up the first Irish police force. (worth a bit of thinking on itself but thats anothers days blog).

Supporting fascists is pretty fascist, and getting into bed with a party borne of fascism is definitely more fascist that blocking an Irish water truck.

2 Totalitarian Cowardice Joan…..

Joan Burtons government recently signed a secret agreement to give unfettered access to US and UK gov to all your communications with the outside world. This includes you emails, social media platforms, landline and mobile phone calls. EVERYTHING. Section 541 enacts the third part of the 2008 Criminal Justice (Mutual Assistance) Act, and enable telecommunication companies to be brought to court in secret for not handing over any information required. Given all that we know from Wikileaks and the practices of GCHQ, NSA etc from Snowden leaks, its clear that Burton’s government is an open collaborator in the development of an international surveillance apparatus that acts outside any genuine democratic control. The fact that the Irish state is a weak coward in this international dynamic make is no less complicit. The bang of totalitarianism is evident to most breathing creatures.

3 Police checkpoints for workers Joan….

In 2013 Joan Burton proposed setting up police checkpoints on industrial estates, building sites and other workplace as part of an effort to tackle welfare fraud. The welfare fraud she was speaking about wasn’t the handing our taxes to people like Denis O Brien in the form of debt write downs or state contract in dodgy circumstances. Instead she was talking about a tiny number of people “doing the double”. To be clear this isnt the “Double Irish” that allows companies to avoid paying taxes, but rather focuses on working class people living hand to mouth in precarious situtations. Compare the setting up of police checkpoints around the country with the fact that the state has only ONE forensic accountant examining the cooked books of Anglo. A state that polices the poor while letting itself be run for corporate benefit is a widely recognised element of fascist states. That’s you that is Joan.

4 Organised humiliation and revictimisation Joan……

Joan stands over government policies that actually scream organised cruelty and purpose-filled punishment. The most recent is the symphysiotomy redress scheme. The Irish state for decades covered up the extent and lived reality of women who were literally sawed up by hospital under state supervision. The HSE continued this cover up. Now Burtons government came up with a plan to ‘resolve’ the fact of state violence, but gagging the women with forcing crumpled hard cash into their mouth. The redress system is simply yet another abuse of women that essentially tells them to take the money and shut up, or fuck off and die. For those that bring feminist arguments into Burtons car being blockaded. I’d take it more seriously if you abandoned the fascistic tendency to ‘resolve’ state abuses with more violence, hurt and indifference wrapped up with euros and a bow of spin.

5 Paramilitaries for Denis Joan……

Masked up men from private corporations and intelligence companies run by former Irish Rangers like IRMS and Guardex are turning up regularly in our streets and communities. They are threatening people taking part in openly organised protest and civil disobedience. They film and photo us, tell us they know were we live and generally try to intimidate us. This is the new normal at Irish Water protests across the country. Privatised police forces working ultimately for Denis O Briens, though paid for by our own taxes are yet another example of a state in fear. The political class that created a crisis of legitimacy for its own class by just doing what they do. Yet they seem convinced that seeking to suppress democratic public dissent will ultimately keep them in power. While Joan moans about being blockade in her car for a couple of hours, her government expands privatised political policing into our communities and expects us to stay silent and intimidated. The same megalomaniac, socio-pathic tendencies have been part of every fascistic movement that ever existed.

6 Just a technocrat Joan….

Joan and her government always talk about “putting people back to work” The language and sentiments underpinning it should cause everyone concern. It puts front and center the vision (or lack thereof) of neoliberal ideologies and parties. Our lives are little more than things to be managed by the state and for capital. Sources close to Burton have outlined very clearly to me that she hold the views that there are the deserving poor and the undeserving poor. As an unreconstructed tory, Burton has little grasp of political economy, but rather has residual hatred of the working class she cant relate to. She belongs to a political class that sees themselves first and foremost as technocrats of late capitalism. They have no need for any type of inspiring political and social vision even as all the figure demostrate growing inequality. Instead they seek only to work within the confines of political decision making that rewards low cunning much more than integrity, intellectual vigor, and emotional literacy. They play willing second fiddle undemocratic supra national economic institutions. Our lives are nothing more than measurable metrics in an amoral logic. And amorality is a deliberate strategy. Once you evacuate care, compassion and justice from the broader framework of decision making, then you dont have to deal with the cognitive dissonance of thinking yourself just a person trying to do a difficult job, and the reality that you are part of a system of organised hurt. Such cognitive dissonances on a large political scale is a founding part of all fascistic tendencies that have ever developed actual power. Rejecting such cognitive dissonances is key to ensuring actual fascism cant get a foothold.

To be clear, I dont think we live in a fascist state, nor indeed to I think Joan Burton is a fascist. She is merely the leader of a party polling at 5% and panicking. A “Labour”party that pretends it was the voice of a working class, lead by someone with disdain for the lived reality of most people who are working class. Her talk of fascism merely seeks to put people off looking at left wing ideas and getting involved in emerging spaces of participatory politics outside the control of electoral pantomines

Bizarrely she doesnt seem to get that Fascism is a ideology of the right not of the left. If she read into the history of her current partners in government she would know that. Perhaps next time Joan is locked in car for two hours, or even locked over the Christmas she could spend her time more fruitfully reading on Fascism by looking at wikipedia on her smartphone.

Joan Burton and the Political Policing of Labour

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Joan Burton

 Its hard to know were to begin. A Labour minister announced yesterday that sections of the police force are to be drafted in to set up road blocks and stop workers in cars outside industrial estates.

When I first heard this mentioned on my Facebook and Twitter feeds I assumed it was some kind of left knee jerk interpretation. (I’m prone to them myself) Then I thought it might be FG spin from either within Burton’s department or the Dept of Finance to politically damage Burton. This was before I realised she said this herself on air, though ‘clarifying’ later in the day that she was referring to industrial estates rather than housing estates. Should we be eternally grateful that a Labour minister in only sending cops to harrass the labouring classes at our places of work, rather than at our homes? This is a deeply authoritarian step for any government to take, and as such it is a risk for Labour in further antagonizing ordinary working class people . Though given that Labour is hemorrhaging support, it seems that the party will face a similar fate to other  centrist minor coalition partners right across Europe over the last ten years.

This political policing begs some serious questions too. How exactly is a cop stopping cars of people coming out or heading into a days work going to be able to tell if people are signing on the dole while working. Under what legislation can a police force be entitled to demand your personal information on the presumptive basis that all workers coming out of a workplace might be doing the double. On what information are they using to pick those to stop. Are they going to stop every car, thereby creating long tail backs for workers in and out of work? I cant help thinking of how the RUC used to stop people coming and going to local GAA matches, creating massive tailbacks, often delaying kick off times. Simple harassment of a population to suits the states aim. What’s the difference here? Are people who work in industrial estates going to have to do what people in the north used to? Head off half an hour early to build in time being held in a traffic queue by the cops? How long does the Labour/FG government think people will put up with this shit?

Text from Burton's summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism

Text from Burton’s summer newsletter, basking in the light of right wing Daily Mail commentary supporting her right wing populism (Thks @electionlit for flagging

Some other question arise around the particulars of this policing. Even the police commissioner has had his traffic penalty point wiped of the system by police under his command yet the only punitive measure around this has been the Independent newspaper sacking the journalist who had the temerity to ask the obvious questions. The Independents Group Editor in Chief also got his point wiped off, so you can see why the journalist in question was sacked.

But the widespread collusion and cover up of misuse and abuse of centralised data on people living in Ireland by the police force puts us in a position that demands critical attention. Is the state actually going to allow cops to be hardwired into the social welfare databases? At workplace check-points are people going to be asked to give names and addresses that are then typed into the welfare database? Or will they radio in to an already overstreached frontline social welfare workers? Given that the police force has demonstrated its untrustworthiness around centralised penalty point databases , how can they be trusted with information on people benefits, claims history etc. Its seems entirely foolish, whilst the traffic penalty point affair has been swept under the carpet, that the population as a whole, and million odd of us with personal information stored on the state welfare system should have any confidence that this information can any longer be considered secure.

We know the governments #Budget2014 buzz word wasincentivise” but given the regular leaking from police sources to journalists in Ireland, surely this opens up new incentives for bent cops to get information they can sell? If the Data Commissioner isn’t thinking about this right now, they should be. This also demands a response from the Trade Union movement. The Trade Union movement as a whole should be asking question of the GRA too.

On another level though, this is about much more than not trusting the police force with access to the largest dataset of personal information on people living in Ireland. The decision to set up workplace check points need to be contrasted with the states approach the actual largest welfare fraudsters in this country. Noonan announced yesterday that companies like Google, Facebook and Yahoo, as well as the entire banking and financial sector will have another full year to siphon off hundreds if not thousands of millions of euros in legal tax dodging schemes. This year’s grace will no doubt allow the Irish legal firms that rubber stamp their cooked books. They along with with the banking cartels, (the main block within the Clearing House Group,) will have ample time to devise with their partnered civil servants in the Dept of Finance, other specific legal tax dodging strategies that will fulfill Noonan’s limited demand of resident corporations not being stateless. And you can rest assure not one hi viz cop will be involved.

If this government can find the resources to pay lots of police to stand like pricks outside industrial estates across the country, where people are actually doing real worth, whyhas the state only had one forensic accountant working on the investigation into the money/credit creation scams at Anglo? I got a question asked in the Dail around the levels of policing in the ongoing Anglo investigations in early 2012. This was Noonan’s answer back then

..as of 14 February (2012), the current strength of the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation is seventy one, comprising one Superintendent, five Inspectors, fifteen Sergeants and fifty Gardaí.  Twenty-six Garda personnel are engaged in the investigations into Anglo Irish Bank, comprising sixteen personnel at the Garda Bureau of Fraud Investigation, including fifteen Garda investigators and a forensic accountant as well as ten members of An Garda Síochána currently seconded to ODCE.”

The investigation into Anglo has to include tens of thousand of emails, correspondence as well as lots and lots of cooked books. yet the state investigation has 26 cops looking at it. And one, yes one, person qualified to check those cooked books.

Anglo alone will cost us €52,000,000,000 (€52 Billion). Welfare fraud has been shown by Michael Taft of Unite to be in the region of €26,000,000. So Anglo costs us about two thousand times the level of welfare fraud. That’s not even mentioning the other ongoing payments the state continues to make week in and week out to unsecured bondholders. Clearly we can understand now that the myth of wealth creation of the Celtic Tiger was actually processes of debt creation and by extension welfare fraud.

The dissonance is striking and sickening. Not only has the institutions (both local and transnational) of financial capitalism captured the legislative dimensions of the state, but in effect they have the power to direct policing resources away from their own activities. Whilst we have the ideological drive and practical manifestations of deregulation of the financial sector as it churns out debt, we are now told by the government that we should willing accept the imposition of physical policing of the places of actual wealth creation, our workplaces.

What this shows that despite the language of consensus politics emanating from the political classes (“We have all sacrificed” “we are all in this together”), is the government is increasingly adopting approaches to and within the Great Recession that foreground the politics of contention and antagonism which form the actual basis of the captured state. In terms of how economies function these days, it makes little sense to think there is an actual divide between the financial economy (which creates debt ) and the real economy (where we create real wealth through our work). But from a social and political and radical democratic perspective the conceptual divide is useful in helping us understand how power really works in this state. The only suitable response to both the government and to the individuals in uniform doing their political policing. A polite but firm “fuck off.”

The “Anglo” Promissory Deal Story through Memes.

Update 1: Still not sure what the update is

Deal-or-No-Deal

Yesterday senior figures within the Irish Government/Civil Service initiated “Code Red”. It’s kicked off with a planned leaking of details of an legal accounting trick designed to created a sense of political chaos and thus spring the dumber backbenchers of FF, FG and Labour into voting for the IRISH BANK RESOLUTION CORPORATION BILL 2013

Conspiracy Code Red

The co-ordinated “leak” was part of the strategy of Code Red. that the State was to liquidate IBRC/Anglo allowed Noonan to give the impression that an emergency now existed, since IRBC/Anglo assets would plummet in value this morning without this emergency legislation. Its a bit like shooting someone in the face and them shouting at passer bys that if they didn’t give you a tissue now, you’d be responsible for their death.

Noonan Suckers.

The Minister of Finance wanted the late night debate to begin at 10.30pm, a whole 15 minutes after the draft bill was given to TD’s in the Dail. The bill is 59 pages and involves between €28-45 Billion euro the people in Ireland have yet to generate through their own labour.  The Dail bar was still open so the debate was pushed back until 00.00am on Thursday.

slavery

MIDDLE OF NIGHT

Noonan informed TD’s that he handed all power to  in KMPG, one of the Big Four accounting firm that rubberstamps the cooked books of banks across the globe for a significant slice of the pie.

MORTGAGE

The bill in Section 17 also allows Noonan and future finance minsters to issue government bonds (read bind your future labour to even more debt)

sECTION 17

Its now up to the unelected 21 men of the ECB to rubberstamp the Code Red plan. And in doing so will turn the private debts from banks under criminal investigation (by supposedly the Irish state) has been “transformed” into fully legal, yet still illegitimate, debt that you, your children and your childrens children will have to pay out for.

TO DO WITH YOU

Most people now understand that this is not an economic crisis, but a crisis of democracy.

DEMOCRACY

How this actually pans out is up to you.

make sure and follow @notourdebt

Irish Debt activists at ECB as Draghi rejects debt writedown in return for Yes vote

Activists from Ireland at the ECB

A group of Irish based debt activists flew into Frankfurt, Germany yesterday and are currently protesting outside the European Central Bank ECB. The trip was organised by people from Ballyhea and Charleville  in Cork who have been holding weekly protest and demos against the socialisation of private debt and the impacts payments of such illegitimate and unjust debts are having within our communities.  Its seems they had company on the plane too

The reason for the trip was described on the Bondwatch website, run by debt campaigners from Ballyhea and Charleville

Last night they attached a written declaration on the doors of the ECB at midnight. The ECB the central bank for the eurozone. And it is run by 23 men, not one of who is elected or has any mandate from 540 million people whose lives are affected by the decisions that these men make.

Nothing odd about this picture right? Looks exactly like what a self-selecting-unelected-unaccountable-bunch-of-bankers-who-make-decisions-that-affect-540+million-people should look like.

The Governing Council is the main decision-making body of the ECB. It consists of

  • the six members of the Executive Board, plus
  • the governors of the national central banks of the 17 euro area countries.

So why are people in Ireland going directly to the ECB. Quick simply because the present Irish government has continued in exactly the same way as the previous one. In atc there is a good case to argue that the present government is actually far worse than the previous one.  Whilst the bank guarantee of September 2008 is undoubtedly one of the greatest single acts of social injustice since the inception of the state, to think of the process of government simply as a series of singular acts is to misunderstand the importance of drift and fear. Cowen and the now deceased Lenihan made decisions that are less baffling when it is now clear that everyone around they was lying and cooking the books. Anglo was just the worse and obvious case, but this goes right across the spectrum.  But its seems clear that they acted out of both fear and stupidity on September 30th 2008. In retrospect we understand that Fianna Fial essentailly acted in the same way rating agencies in the US did during the years in the run up to the 2007.

Fainna Fail acted not as leaders, not even as baron robbers, but merely as  bureaucratic rubber stampers of the ‘common sense’ that was held and promoted by their smarter richer and more powerful male friends in the property, financial and financial services sectors.  Fianna Fail as a party had/has no real ideological slant it seems to me. Cash mulla and the trappings of power on a small island off the coast of Europe.  So when the shit hit the fan, the rubber-stampers simply did what they were told by their betters

Debt Justice Action network released a statement in support of those travelling to Frankfurt earlier today

The Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign has lent its support to a protest taking place today at the European Central Bank (ECB) by Irish groups and individuals demanding debt justice.

Campaign spokesperson Andy Storey said that the protest was especially timely as the German government has just told the Irish government there will be no deal on the Anglo debt after the ‘yes’ vote in the fiscal treaty referendum.

“Once again, the government has been told that being ‘Mister Nice Guy’ gets you nowhere – unless the Irish government stands up for itself and suspends the repayment of the promissory notes arising from the debts of Anglo Irish Bank
they will make no progress on this issue”, he said.

Representatives from a number of Irish organisations, including the Ballyhea/Charleville bondholder bailout protest group, travelled to Frankfurt to take their demands directly to Mario Draghi, President of the ECB, during that body’s governing council meeting. These demands include the immediate destruction of all remaining promissory notes and the refunding of the two promissory notes already paid, which have cost Ireland over €6 billion.

Nessa Ni Chasaide, also of the Anglo: Not Our Debt campaign, said that “civil society has to take its message directly to Europe because it seems the Irish government will not – the time for begging for favours is long passed, this is the time to demand justice, including the writing down of illegitimate debt”.

This is the ECB dismissing claims from Kenny that a Yes vote will no be rewarded with a debt writedown

For a more substantive take on the nature of the crisis and why economists and bankers are not the people to be relying to sort if out you should read this inteview from Paul Mason as he speaks to Steve Keen.
Paul Mason Interviews Steve Keen Critic of Economicshttp://www.scribd.com/embeds/96161468/content?start_page=1&view_mode=list&access_key=key-1wvjrzdomx1sronx9x0q

A Note From Below To The Yes Voter.

“WE, the working poor, the unemployed, the people with the material least have a functional value is neoliberal society. We aren’t just blackmailed or threatened. We are the blackmail, we are the threat. We are Ghosts. You might see us, you might recognise us, Shit, you might even tweet us.  But we will remains Ghosts to you, the see-through collateral damage of a state that is told by its owners that it must be the economy of their desire rather than it be a society of our desire.

Like an inverse cruelty lottery, our growing numbers, our visibility, our actual existence,  is blackmail writ large. Ghosts seen but without voice as Ghosts with voices are people.  “Take the hit, vote Yes, suck up this policy”  they say, “or you will join the growing ranks”.  The professional PR teams from Merrion Row place such incendiary rhetorical devices carefully yet irregularly. To talk solely of ‘bombs’ and ‘guns to our head’ is a dangerous game in Irish politics. They know that, we know that.

Instead explicit vocal threats are wrapped up for consumption with phrases such as “the benefit of the country” or “patriotism” that melt away like ‘the body of christ’, sticking to your mouth and the back of your gullet. The swallowing is hard because you know it to be untrue, you know yourself that this emanates from mouths within opportunistic political organisations,  and is scripted by professional liars, both that have been part of the fabric of abuse and corruption since the states inception.  Our health must suffer for the collective health of Mythical Mother Ireland is seems.

Irelands new middle classes, our ‘relatively secure’ – a few paychecks away from an economic cliff themselves –  are taught to see us as a manifestation of their own fears.  They/you act like scaffold and window dressing to an empty pyramid of injustice and power-over that has no moral legitimacy in our eyes. Drape what you like on the scaffolding, but the Wizards of Oz has bolted. Long live the Wizard of Oz. We reject the legitimacy of other human beings to treat our lives as the waged slaves of the gambling rich. We reject their authority to make our futures dependent upon the protection of the institutionally corrupt. We will burn their debt before we let them burn our futures with their debt.

Your/our elected ‘leader’ even refused to come on to TV to debate and discuss financial dictates and capitalist desires inherent in this referendum. This in a time where the internet has been around for the life time of some voters! The PR teams manage this man – supposedly who put himself before us to serve us – to not talk about the referendum. They may mange their reality, but they will never manage ours.

So yes today in this Yes vote we recognized our function. Our function today is to remain materially impoverished so that the possibility of you joining us keeps you in your place. We are the humans that manifest the PD matra that inequality is necessary. We are the Ghosts of neoliberalism and representative ‘democracy’. Today you may even celebrate a Yes because it reduces your fear of becoming one of us. The gun remains at your head, but the finger was lifted off the trigger. Are we stable yet?

We give a warning based in care, solidarity and an expression simply of another humanity and another way of doing this. We are not Ghosts to each other. We will continue to dig at the foundation of this disgusting economic and political system and its immoral arithmetic. It was with our bodies that we built ghost estates only to become Ghosts ourselves. But Ghosts have memories. Ghosts know how to care for each other. Ghosts know how to love as they fight for a society that places the eradication of social injustice as its primary function. As we dig at the foundations to build something new we make sure with give encouragement to you in the middle but really, like us, outside. We carry you, whilst you carry fear. The burden is heavy. Let go of the scaffolding, Let go off your fear. Say out loud “I’m afraid of no Ghosts”, see us as humans to struggle with and beside and we will catch you.”

An unemployed labourer.