Thursday, 20 November 2008

What Does That Membership List Really Tell Us?

Today I've had some 20 entirely random email or phone call exchanges with people all round the country of various Leftist persuasions and various current levels of activity (from zilch to full-on-local councillor/ TU-full-timer/ campaign diehard levels). As I see my friends as typical of wider strata of opinion, I have a hunch that more or less the entire British Left has ignored the law and either holds or knows a person who holds the BNP membership lists.

Interestingly, not all of them actually felt OK about this: roughly half* felt that even BNP members were entitled to a level of personal privacy. But the temptation to go and download it was simply too strong. I mean it's not as if how to get it went under-publicised on the web.

If there is anything like a pattern in my randomly chosen respondents it is that those who are currently active in politics seem more chary of downloading it themselves for fear of legal consequences - but they all knew a friend who had done so. & they'd all been offered specific names and addresses in their neighbourhoods. Current non-activists didn't seem worried by the law at all - they just downloaded it. This activist/non activist division seemed more important than specific political allegiance.

Information 'wants to be free' say the geeks. Even people hard wired to argue about the politics and power relations of personal information can't resist getting hold of it once it escapes on the net. I mean, who did you ever know that heard of the existence of a juicy piece of gossip and voluntarily didn't try to find out what it was ? If there is a human nature I can't help thinking this need to gossip is one aspect of it - the human equivalent to chimps grooming. Secrecy isn't natural and now the net has given us the means to defeat it, it will be defeated almost everywhere.

But the politics of this is something I'm still grappling with because it is the State and Corporations who are most likely to make use of this vanishing secrecy, not the Left.

*The other half just wanted the BNP to be concerned that the Left 'knew where they lived' as our Liverpudlian friends might put it.

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