Nicolas Sarkozy and Criminal Visitations

by BINOY KAMPMARK

Collaring readers for ‘visiting’ internet sets?  Jailing them for perusing matter accessible through the all pervasive world wide web, where curiosity abounds and internet sites are stumbled across and sampled like novelty gift items?  This is the latest desperate law and order thrust of the struggling French President Nicolas Sarkozy.  With a month to go to the French elections, a good bit of demagoguery is being resorted to.

The lethal handiwork of 23-year-old Mohamed Merah, the Algerian man accused of  the deaths of three French paratroopers, three Jewish school children and a rabbi – has propelled the President into a rather extremist, not to mention suspicious, frame of mind. ‘Anyone who regularly consults internet sites which promote terror or hatred or violence will be sentenced to prison.’ For Sarkozy, the internet must be a dark enclave of consultation and plotting, a breeding ground of permanent subversion.  When a person searches out particularly sites, suspicion should arise.  Reading the anarchist cook books list of deadly recipes is bound to turn the visitor into a mad bomb throwing deviant.  ‘Don’t tell me it’s not possible.  What is possible for paedophiles should be possible for trainee terrorists and their supporters, too.’

One glaring problem in this line taken by Sarkozy lies in the field of policy itself.  The law becomes the famously touted ass largely through application and definition.  A policy can produce invidious outcomes because of unclear meanings or nebulous terms.  Defining which sites are the arbiters of ‘extremist’ matter is the first priority of authorities.   (Read: any group or subject they don’t like.)  As it is also their deemed prerogative, a good deal of arbitrariness can be thrown in as to what is dangerous and what isn’t; what corrupts and what purifies.  One person’s extremist disposition is another’s mild mannered teddy bear.  After all, the Muppet show has been deemed by such wise men as Fox’s Eric Bolling to be a communist enterprise, while the insipid, child oriented Happy Feet 2 has been dubbed ‘Kiddie Karl Marx’ (Guardian, Dec 6, 2011). Such idiocy is charming, until it turns into the dull, half-witted language of legislation.

Presumably, a regular visitor to opera sites falls foul of the Sarkozy triad – there is very little in that genre that lacks hatred, violence of terror.  High society types awaiting time in the nick because they decided to go through booking online tickets for Tosca.  The cupboard of cultural artefacts would be somewhat threadbare without those not so secret herbs and spices.  The same goes for publications, political promotions and policies.

The focus on layering the internet with a surveillance system in recent years has become more intense.  It has become the medium for recruitment, an easy means of access to nab followers for every single ideology or inclination in current circulation.  A UK parliamentary report by the Home Affairs Committee (Jan 31, 2012) examining online radicalisation described the effects of what ‘Sheikh Google’ might do in converting and recruiting young men and women.  That committee, however, shied away from a heavy-handed approach to those who did dabble on the search engine.

The extremist nonsense Sarkozy is peddling demonstrates a false focus, though the rationale is already part of French law, given the punitive regime of anti-paedophilia rules that involve heavy penalties for regular visitors to prohibited web sites.  The site is less relevant than the visitor.  Curiosity will be criminalised.  A click renders you liable; several clicks, certified.  Lucie Morillon of Reporters Without Borders is rightly asking the question whether Sarkozy intends installing ‘a global internet surveillance system in France’ (Morning Star Online, Mar 23). In what must have been the understatement of the week, she also observed that, ‘Trying to criminalise a visit – a simple visit – to a Web site, that’s something that seems disproportionate.’

Perhaps more free speech, rather than less, would be a better solution, enabling members to counteract the agents of terrorism with more conviction. For Sarkozy, the heavy stick of law enforcement is proving far more attractive.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge.  He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne.  Email: bkampmark@gmail.com.  

Will Falk moved to the West Coast from Milwaukee, WI where he was a public defender.

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
July 28, 2015
Mark Schuller
Humanitarian Occupation of Haiti: 100 Years and Counting
Lawrence Ware
Why the “Black Church” Doesn’t Exist–and Never Has
Peter Makhlouf
Israel and Gaza: the BDS Movement One Year After “Protective Edge”
Eric Draitser
China’s NGO Law: Countering Western Soft Power and Subversion
Paul Craig Roberts - Dave Kranzler
Supply and Demand in the Gold and Silver Futures Markets
Carl Finamore
Landlords Behaving Badly: San Francisco Too Valuable for Poor People*
Michael P. Bradley
Educating About Islam: Problems of Selectivity and Imbalance
Binoy Kampmark
Ransacking Malaysia: the Najib Corruption Dossier
Michael Avender - Medea Benjamin
El Salvador’s Draconian Abortion Laws: a Miscarriage of Justice
Jesse Jackson
Sandra Bland’s Only Crime Was Driving While Black
Cesar Chelala
Effect of Greece’s Economic Crisis on Public Health
Mel Gurtov
Netanyahu: An Enemy of Peace
Joseph G. Ramsey
The Limits of Optimism: E.L. Doctorow and the American Left
George Wuerthner
Bark Beetles and Forest Fires: Another Myth Goes Up in Smoke
Harvey Wasserman
Will Ohio Gov. Kasich’s Anti-Green Resume Kill His Presidential Hopes?
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode 4, a Bowery Ballroom Blitz
July 27, 2015
Susan Babbitt
Thawing Relations: Cuba’s Deeper (More Challenging) Significance
Howard Lisnoff
Bernie Sanders: Savior or Seducer of the Anti-War Left?
Martha Rosenberg
Big Pharma’s Profiteers: You Want Us to Pay What for These Meds?
John Halle
On Berniebots and Hillary Hacks, Dean Screams, Swiftboating and Smears
Stephen Lendman
Cleveland Police Attack Black Activists
Patrick Cockburn
Only Iraq’s Clerics Can Defeat ISIS
Ralph Nader
Sending a ‘Citizens Summons’ to Members of Congress
Clancy Sigal
Scratch That Itch: Hillary and The Donald
Colin Todhunter
Working Class War Fodder
Gareth Porter
Obama’s Version of Iran Nuke Deal: a Second False Narrative
Joshua Sperber
What is a President? The CEO of Capitalism
Zoe Konstantopoulou
The Politics of Coercion in Greece
Vacy Vlanza
Without BDS, Palestine is Alone
Laura Finley
Adjunct Professors and Worker’s Rights
Jon Langford
Mekons Tour Diary, Episode Three, Where We Thrill Everyone by Playing Like “Utter Bloody Garbage”
Weekend Edition
July 24-26, 2015
Mike Whitney
Picked Out a Coffin Yet? Take Ibuprofen and Die
Henry Giroux
America’s New Brutalism: the Death of Sandra Bland
Rob Urie
Capitalism, Engineered Dependencies and the Eurozone
Michael Lanigan
Lynn’s Story: an Irish Woman in Search of an Abortion
Paul Street
Deleting Crimes at the New York Times: Airbrushing History at the Paper of Record
ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH
Making Sense of the Iran Nuclear Deal: Geopolitical Implications
Andrew Levine
After the Iran Deal: Israel is Down But Far From Out
Uri Avnery
Sheldon’s Stooges: Netanyahu and the King of Vegas
David Swanson
George Clooney Paid by War Profiteers
ANDRE VLTCHEK
They Say Paraguay is in Africa: Mosaic of Horror
Horace G. Campbell
Obama in Kenya: Will He Cater to the Barons or the People?
Michael Welton
Surviving Together: Canadian Public Tradition Under Threat
Rev. William Alberts
American Imperialism’s Military Chaplains
Yorgos Mitralias
Black Days: August 4th,1914 Germany and July 13th, 2015 Greece