Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Orwellian Nightmare Marches On

I have just finished reading Ken MacLeod's recent novel The Execution Channel, which has just come out in paperback in the UK. An exciting, intriguing and terrifying experience - the terrifying element being in recognising how many elements of his dystopian near-future vision are already in place. (His dystopian near-future is linked to an amusingly re-envisioned present and recent past) As ever, Ken's book has lots of fun lefty and other political references and in-jokes, but awareness of these should not be a necessity for enjoying and appreciating his work.
Here is part of the publisher's blurb -

It's after 9/11. After the bombing. After the Iraq war. After 7/7. After the Iran war. After the nukes. After the flu. After the Straits. After Rosyth. In a world just down the road from our own, on-line bloggers vie with old-line political operatives and new-style police to determine just where reality lies.

James Travis is a British patriot and a French spy. On the day the Big One hits, Travis and his daughter must strive to make sense of the nuclear bombing of Scotland and the political repercussions of a series of terrorist attacks. With the information war in full swing, the only truth they have is what they're able to see with their own eyes. They know that everything else is--or may be--a lie.


Ken has interesting things to say about such varied topics as extraordinary rendition, conspiracy theorists, blogging, spooks, survival and the human psyche under extreme stress. The renditions and torture/interrogations are imagined in a way that communicates the human reality of such things in a more direct and impressive way than cold journalistic accounts. There is little doubt of the warnings Ken MacLeod is giving us about where we are heading.

So today's news management (for that is all we can call it) around the "National Security" plans seemed particularly blatant to me. Listing risks without putting them in context or suggesting how they might be reduced (rather than just "managed") seems a good way of cranking up fear and (they hope) dependency. What British Governments and establishments never say, but are of course aware of is that the biggest risk to their security would of course come from a population that began to see them as a major part of the problem and sought ways in which they might be removed.....

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