The recent general election manifesto launch by Theresa May and the Conservative Party government in the United Kingdom highlights the country’s slow descent into Brexit-led isolationism. Far from being the harbinger of a new forward-facing Britain, the anti-European referendum of 2016 has heralded a nation falling back to an idealised past, an ersatz vision of empire 2.0 and the Home Counties writ large. The Victorian-age mentality gripping Greater England’s political landscape is bringing with it Victorian-age notions of puritanism, morality and control. While this is evident throughout the Tory election policies, take particular note of this pledge on internet freedoms, as reported by Buzzfeed UK. Or rather, on existing freedoms soon to be curtailed:
Buried at the very end of the Conservative election manifesto is a line of text that could have an enormous impact on how Britons use the internet in the future.
“Some people say that it is not for government to regulate when it comes to technology and the internet,” it states. “We disagree.”
…the relatively oblique language hides a major change that will affect the vast majority of Britons who spend hours of their day on the internet: May’s party feels it’s time to stop treating the internet as an anarchic free-for-all.
Tory aides at the launch event confirmed this is no accident but is instead part of an ambitious attempt by the party to impose some sort of decorum on the internet and social media.
In particular, Conservative advisers suggested to BuzzFeed News that a future Tory government would be keen to rein in the growing power of Google and Facebook, two companies that dominate the flow of information on the internet but have a habit of strongly resisting regulation…
There would be new rules requiring companies to make it ever harder for people to access pornography and violent images, with all content creators forced to justify their policies to the government.
Victorian Britain was famous for its outward appearance of propriety and civility, of buttoned-up men and women engaged in polite discourse and mannered behaviour. It was equally infamous for its hidden debauchery and licentiousness, of the prim and proper engaging in the perverse and profligate. This, it seems, is the promised future for the modern imbibers of the imperial laudanum, as the Tory documents states, in all seriousness:
The United Kingdom is already a global power.
Of course, we in Ireland may sneer at such things, recently freed as we are from centuries of authoritarian misrule; first by colonial masters and then by theocratic ones. But it is worth remembering that the vast majority of this island nation’s internet traffic passes through the communication routes, technologies and services of our increasingly insular neighbour to the east. And the UK has made no secret in the past of its pernicious and regular interference with those communications, be they innocuous or otherwise.