“The Snowden files: why the British public should be worried about GCHQ”

The title is in quotes because I’ve taken it straight from this article in the Guardian.

When the Guardian offered John Lanchester access to the GCHQ files, the journalist and novelist was initially unconvinced. But what the papers told him was alarming: that Britain is sliding towards an entirely new kind of surveillance society.

This thoughtful, measured and informative article is also very timely. The way the UK media are ignoring Snowden’s revelations of systematic, global snooping by GCHQ and the NSA and the global debate they’ve sparked off, is not only downright peculiar – it’s alarming.

It’s nothing new for the Sun and the Mail to disregard any idea that can’t be expressed in ten words and illustrated by a pair of tits; the BBC’s frankly underwhelming coverage is, alas, something we’re getting used to; but when a former editor of the Independent condemns the Guardian for publishing the stuff at all, there is clearly something amiss.

‘If MI5 warns that this is not in the public interest who am I to disbelieve them?’,

asks Chris Blackhurst. That a broadsheet editor should be so naive strains credibility. As Glenn Greenwald put it:

Most people, let alone journalists, would be far too embarrassed to admit they harbor such subservient, obsequious sentiments. It’s one thing to accord some deference or presumption of good will to political officials, but the desire to demonstrate some minimal human dignity, by itself, would preclude most people from publicly confessing that they have willingly sacrificed all of their independent judgement and autonomy to the superior, secret decrees of those who wield the greatest power.

So among all the serried ranks of the British media the Guardian is the only one marching in step? Well, yes, actually. But the UK is not the centre of the universe and the sun doesn’t shine out of its tightly puckered arsehole. The picture looks very different if you step back to get a wider view. Respected newspapers, websites and periodicals the world over agree with the Guardian. Der Spiegel, Haaretz, El País, The Times of India, Frankfurter Allgemeine, Aftenposten, The Sydney Morning Herald… and many more – the list is very long – agree with the Guardian.

Lanchester’s article is long – it’ll take you half an hour to read it carefully – but afterwards you’ll have a much clearer idea of the discarded principles and the (scarcely) hidden danger.

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