Friday, 16 March 2012

Political alienation and piracy

As a youth growing up in a caring family in a decent community I didn’t really have a concept of alienation. Of course there were groups of people I didn’t get along with, people with whom I disagreed or with whom I had nothing in common, (there still are), there were equally other groups where I did fit and where my values were shared. This sort of social fragmentation reflects the spread of personalities, interests, attitudes and alternative ideas in society, it’s to be expected and celebrated because at the basic level we all wanted many of the same things, we were all part of society and in our own ways all looking for safety, security, prosperity and hopefully enjoyment in our lives.

Politically I always had my own ideas, often unconventional ones, way back to the days of proto 6th form ‘school councils’. But I also carried an assumption that most people involved in government or authority were essentially honest and at least trying to do a decent job. Obviously I didn’t agree with the way many went about it and there was the usual proportion of fools, jobsworths and prodnoses. Yet I never felt alienated. British governments at least (to the best of my then knowledge) tried to look after their citizens, just as policemen almost always did their best to help and support people.

The particular issue that opened my eyes to reality was the pirate radio scene in the 60s. Living in East Anglia I grew up through my teens, the period when one becomes politically aware, with Radio London and Radio Caroline  (nice article here) as the main (and only, radio Luxemburg excepted) youth orientated cultural voice of my generation. Watching the process used by the authorities to close them down opened my eyes to the inherent dishonesty and the savagery of central authority when its comfort and the status quo were challenged. It wasn’t the issue of radio content that made me see things differently, in the grand scheme of things it’s a minor issue, but it was the methods they used.

Clearly broadcasting was regarded by the authorities as an important cultural issue, radio broadcasting, and most TV was a limited and tightly controlled outlet, nothing would be tolerated that could rouse a generation to want something different, and anyone thumbing their nose at authority and challenging the BBC, however harmlessly, was not to be contemplated.

Looking back at the behaviour of the authorities their methods have since become very familiar. It started with the propaganda, complaints that the pirate transmitters interfered with coastguard radio and risked lives at sea.  Then the danger posed by an anchored ship in the channel. Many people were taken in by such claims even though it’s clear in hindsight that these were irrelevant.  Demonstrated by the fact that all the main pirate broadcast frequencies that had been ‘dangerous’ were later licensed out to the land based commercial and local BBC stations. As for the danger to navigation I would like to see a ship navigate through the sandbanks and offshore wind turbines that fill the area now.

When that, and a few half hearted attempts to make them illegal, didn’t work the propaganda became more and more outlandish. A non stop diet of pop music would lead to moral and cultural degeneration was one I remember. The pirate ship transmitters being used at night by foreign spy networks was another!  (how does that compare with second hand smoke drifting through brick walls?)

Then of course there were the appeals to authority, violation of European treaties on broadcast frequency allocations was a favourite. After the Marine Offences Act was passed in August 1967 various helpers and mainland operatives were increasingly harassed and arrested by the authorities. Both customs and police being drawn into persecuting the public for political objectives. 

When all the propaganda and lies failed and Radio Caroline continued to defy them the government did what it always does, resorted to force and sent armed forces to close them down in a complete illegal armed attack that trashed the ship and it’s equipment. That was on 19 August 1989, some 20 plus years after the original Marine broadcasting act.

The point was that they could easily have found a simple compromise solution right back in the 60s that would have pleased everyone. All they needed to do was issue a transmitting licence, either for the major ships as they were or on land. Many local politicians supported such a solution and the main pirate stations would have cheerfully joined the establishment. But no: Governments will not compromise with anyone who questions their authority however trivial the issues.

The methods not available then were the fake charities and quangos, government funded but designed to supply pressure and government propaganda ‘independently’. They hadn’t yet been invented in the 60s. Neither had the government taken control over academic research via the ESRC, thus ensuring that any research or scientific study running counter to the officially sanctioned position would not get grant aid, and therefore also lack university and peer support. Their power is much stronger now than then.

But everything else followed all the same procedures we see now. Think about the Pirate Bay questioning the use and morality of copyright restrictions. Wikileaks and it’s anti secrecy ethos. Compare with the war on smokers. The demonisation of salt, sugar, fats, calories, alcohol, homeopathic remedies, vitamin supplements, and all the other areas of life TPTB wish to control for their own or their corporate friend’s benefit. 

Most importantly worry about the Internet, and how the same methodology of lies, alarms, fabrications and propaganda is being used to reduce our freedom of information and speech and turn the Net into a one way regulated passive supply network for copyrighted films, TV, music and commerce. The arrest and harassment phase is just beginning under the cover of counter terrorism and copyright infringement..

When politicians did things I disagreed with, but for honest and genuine reasons, I was disappointed and voted for someone else.

When they did things for their own comfort and well being I began to get annoyed.

Now I see them doing many things that use lies and deceptions to reduce freedoms and persecute minority groups and activities for absolutely no good reason at all except their own or commercial gain.  Nowadays I’m seriously alienated.

For those interested Radio Caroline  is still broadcasting,  It’s run by volunteers, and available on Sky channel 0199 or over the internet. I found it interesting that a couple of years ago, on holiday in the middle of France, I was wearing a Radio Caroline T shirt. I had more comments from people about that T shirt, and their memories of listening, than any other item of clothing in the wardrobe.

Header pic found at this site


  1. Cracking post W42 - well said! Brought back a few memories too - although I have to say having lent an ear on the internet that was not the RC that I knew!

  2. They vary their programmes WfW, but true they are not quite the RC I knew in the 60s either - but then again I'm not quite the same listener either. Tempus fugit as they say.

  3. You might qualify for a new government sponsored solar energy rebate program.
    Find out if you qualify now!