20 March 2019 — Off Guardian
Image source here.
No matter the source of the violence, no matter the politics or casualties or the location, it seems the reaction of governments in the face of “terrorism” is virtually always the same – clamp down, hard, on individual rights.
This grand tradition goes back hundreds of years, from James I’s crackdown on Catholics after the Gunpowder Plot, through to the despot’s charter that is the Patriot Act, passed within six weeks of 9/11. Just last year, famously, gab.com was heavily targeted in the wake of the “Magabomber” (fake) bombings. (Our article predicted that further purges were on the horizon).
The pattern is established: The state will always – ALWAYS – use a crisis, real or invented, to enhance their power. Most of the time this is done at the cost of individual liberty.
The Christchurch mosque shootings are proving no exception to this rule. NZ police are currently threatening people with 10 years in prison for sharing the live-streamed footage, and other punishments just for owning a copy of the recording. RT reports[our emphasis]:
Video footage of killer Brenton Tarrant’s shooting spree at a Christchurch mosque on Friday – which left 50 worshippers dead – was pulled from Facebook immediately after the massacre. With the footage proliferating on several hosting platforms afterwards, the Kiwi authorities have already charged an 18-year-old man for sharing the video, as well as for posting other “objectionable” comments days before the shooting.
The teenager faces up to ten years in prison, under New Zealand’s ‘objectionable and restricted material’ laws. Police have meanwhile issued an overt threat to anyone else looking for the video.This crackdown is, simply put, crazy. You can’t charge people for owning a copy of a video that was live-streamed over the internet to millions of people, and you certainly can’t make it illegal to even watch the video. (Further, we as a people, must strongly resist the idea that being “objectionable” could ever be considered a crime. That is insane.)
In 2014 the Metropolitan police suggested the same thing of the ISIS video where James Foley is apparently beheaded. (That was dismissed as ridiculous by a lawyer in this article).
(NOTE: Why some violent videos are deemed “criminal” to even watch, and others aren’t, is an interesting question. Is it just control for control’s sake? Or something more sinister?)
Of course not a shooting goes by in the US that doesn’t result in an outraged chorus of people railing against the 2nd amendment, demanding their government take the dramatic step of removing civilian ownership of guns. (This is somewhat quieter under Trump, because not even the liberal establishment can seriously insist Trump is a fascist on the one-hand, and then insist he take away civilian guns with the other. They do their best though.)
New Zealand are already “tightening” their gun ownership laws.
But New Zealand are going further even than that – blocking sites and services that have literally no connection to the video – they are just alternative.
8chan is where the alleged gunman made his “announcement”, but 4chan was not involved. Both are banned in both Australia and New Zealand. Alternative video hosting sites Liveleak and BitChute have both been blocked, despite neither hosting the video. LiveLeak even released a statement saying they refused to host it. Dissenters, gab’s discussion platform, was also blocked. They have no connection to the arrested man, or the crime itself.
Even ZeroHedge are apparently blocked – their crime? Posting excerpts from the shooter’s “manifesto”.
Of course many publications posted some small sections of that document. None of the mainstream outlets have been blocked. Facebook live-streamed the video – Facebook isn’t blocked. These “crackdowns” on the internet never hurt the internet giants, they are directed solely at the fringe.
This mirrors last year’s “Magabomber”/synagogue shooting cases exactly – where the alleged bomber had a twitter account and a the shooter a gab account – but only gab was shutdown and blocked.
We don’t know all the facts of the terrorist attack – whether it really was a lone lunatic, or another example of state-backed terror – there’s no knowing exactly what happened yet. But whatever proves to be the case, there is absolutely no denying that the NZ government is already using it as excuse to overreach and shut down dissent and free speech on the internet.
This will spread. Parliament and congress and all the others will come together to demand “action” from internet giants, and google will further fix their algorithm to push mainstream outlets to the front, and sideline the alternative. Facebook and twitter will increasingly shadowban or quarantine pages – putting up bulkheads to prevent information flowing to the wrong places.
“Hate speech” will become a “crime” punishable by being denied access to the internet, or fined huge amounts of money…the exact legal definition of this “hate speech” will be fuzzy and vague. Shifting to meet government needs.
There will come a time when even columns like this one, commenting on the increasingly authoritarian attitude of Western governments, will be deemed unacceptable and removed for “stoking dissent” or “promoting conspiracy theories”.
Increasing awareness and encouraging protest are the only ways we can stop that from happening.
Kit Knightly is co-editor of OffGuardian. The Guardian banned him from commenting. Twice. He used to write for fun, but now he’s forced to out of a near-permanent sense of outrage.