Nicolas Sarkozy and Criminal Visitations

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.  

More articles by:

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

Weekend Edition
March 23, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Roberto J. González
The Mind-Benders: How to Harvest Facebook Data, Brainwash Voters, and Swing Elections
Paul Street
Deplorables II: The Dismal Dems in Stormy Times
Nick Pemberton
The Ghost of Hillary
Andrew Levine
Light at the End of the Tunnel?
Paul de Rooij
Amnesty International: Trumpeting for War… Again
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Coming in Hot
Chuck Gerhart
Sessions Exploits a Flaw to Pursue Execution of Meth Addicts
Robert Fantina
Distractions, Thought Control and Palestine
Hiroyuki Hamada
The Eyes of “Others” for Us All
Robert Hunziker
Is the EPA Hazardous to Your Health?
Stephanie Savell
15 Years After the Iraq Invasion, What Are the Costs?
Aidan O'Brien
Europe is Pregnant 
John Eskow
How Do We Live With All of This Rage?
Matthew Stevenson
Why Vietnam Still Matters: Was Khe Sanh a Win or a Loss?
Dan Corjescu
The Man Who Should Be Dead
Howard Lisnoff
The Bone Spur in Chief
Brian Cloughley
Hitler and the Poisoning of the British Public
Brett Wilkins
Trump Touts $12.5B Saudi Arms Sale as US Support for Yemen War Literally Fuels Atrocities
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraqi Landscapes: the Path of Martyrs
Brian Saady
The War On Drugs Is Far Deadlier Than Most People Realize
Stephen Cooper
Battling the Death Penalty With James Baldwin
CJ Hopkins
Then They Came for the Globalists
Philip Doe
In Colorado, See How They Run After the Fracking Dollars
Wilfred Burchett
Vietnam Will Win: Armed Propaganda
Binoy Kampmark
John Brennan’s Trump Problem
Nate Terani
Donald Trump’s America: Already Hell Enough for This Muslim-American
Steve Early
From Jackson to Richmond: Radical Mayors Leave Their Mark
Jill Richardson
To Believe in Science, You Have to Know How It’s Done
Ralph Nader
Ten Million Americans Could Bring H.R. 676 into Reality Land—Relief for Anxiety, Dread and Fear
Sam Pizzigati
Billionaires Won’t Save the World, Just Look at Elon Musk
Sergio Avila
Don’t Make the Border a Wasteland
Daryan Rezazad
Denial of Climate Change is Not the Problem
Ron Jacobs
Flashing for the Refugees on the Unarmed Road of Flight
Missy Comley Beattie
The Age of Absurdities and Atrocities
George Wuerthner
Isle Royale: Manage for Wilderness Not Wolves
George Payne
Pompeo Should Call the Dogs Off of WikiLeaks
Russell Mokhiber
Study Finds Single Payer Viable in 2018 Elections
Franklin Lamb
Despite Claims, Israel-Hezbollah War is Unlikely
Montana Wilderness Association Dishonors Its Past
Elizabeth “Liz” Hawkins, RN
Nurses Are Calling #TimesUp on Domestic Abuse
Paul Buhle
A Caribbean Giant Passes: Wilson Harris, RIP
Mel Gurtov
A Blank Check for Repression? A Saudi Leader Visits Washington
Seth Sandronsky
Hoop schemes: Sacramento’s corporate bid for an NBA All-Star Game
Louis Proyect
The French Malaise, Now and Then
David Yearsley
Bach and the Erotics of Spring