‘Today, it is not the city but rather the camp that is the fundamental biopolitical paradigm of the West.’
- Giorgio Agamben, Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life, 1995
In Part 1 of this article, I identified the apparatuses of biopower by which our freedoms and our democracies are threatened in the West today, and which I described as the ‘Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse’.
As I devote a chapter of my new book, The Great Reset, to each of the last three of these apparatuses of biopower - the UN’s Agenda 2030, the WHO’s Pandemic Treaty and Central Bank Digital Currency - I’m only going to discuss the first of them here, although it comes up throughout my book, because a system of Digital Identity is the gateway to the digital camp in which the other three will imprison us.
They all rely on it being in place for their own enforcement, and in this respect it is the most important and the one that has to be most resisted and defeated. Some form of Digital Identity has been talked about for some time, and although everyone appears to know what it is, there doesn’t seem to be much opposition to its implementation in the UK, which I’d suggest indicates that in reality we don’t understand it at all.
THE GATEWAY OF DIGITAL IDENTITY
During the lockdown of the UK, Digital Identity was discussed in relation to the China Health Pass, which is now fully operative and linked to the Chinese system of Social Credit, and which like a traffic light has three signals of access to different aspects of the public realm and services: green for freedom of access; amber for limited access or only on condition of further proofs or acts of compliance (like taking a PCR test); and red for prohibition on everything from receiving a bank loan, accessing your bank account, using public transport, passing between zones of a city to being permitted to leave your home itself. In Europe, a lot of the member states of the European Union universally or partially imposed — for instance, on members of certain industries, like health, education, police and other public services — the use of the EU Digital COVID Certificate, which was collectively known as the ‘Green Pass’. The technology for this was subsequently taken up by the World Health Organization, which in June 2023, in tandem with the European Commission, announced the WHO’s Global Digital Health Certification Network, which it invited all member states — which includes the UK — to adopt and participate in developing.
In the UK itself, we had the NHS COVID Pass, which was never enforced as a requirement of employment except for care workers, but which private businesses were permitted and encouraged to enforce as a condition of employment, access to their premises and use of their services. In April 2022, as coronavirus-justified regulations were lifted in the UK, the Department for Health and Social Care awarded the £18 million contract to develop the NHS COVID Pass to the Danish IT firm, Netcompany Ltd. The specification for the project stated:
The government may introduce a mandatory COVID Pass to access high-risk venues if the data suggests further measures are necessary to protect the NHS. In preparation for this eventuality, we have built the changes to support two levels of domestic passes. The functionality will be toggled off until required. This enables a quick response if/when the Government invokes mandate. If a citizen is fully vaccinated, medically exempt or has been in a clinical trial, they will be eligible for an ‘all venues’ (mandatory) pass. If a citizen only has natural immunity or negative test results, they will only be eligible for a ‘limited venues’ (voluntary) pass.
In anticipation of this mandate and the functionality of Digital Identity being ‘toggled on’, in the first three months of 2023 the UK Government conducted a consultation on draft legislation for what it called — presumably in an attempt to distance it from the widely opposed ‘vaccine passport’ — ‘identity verification’.
The consultation closed on 1 March, 2023; but the legal framework for a system of Digital Identity was first put in place by the Digital Economy Act 2017, which removed the legal barriers to data sharing in the UK. It was initially anticipated that the Statutory Instrument implementing a system of Digital Identity in the UK would be made in July 2023, but we are still waiting for the Government mandate.
What will this system do?
At present, the UK Government is promoting Digital Identity in terms of ease of access, greater convenience and increased safety. So, under the Online Safety Act 2023, Digital Identity will be a requirement of access to the internet, not in order to censor what we can see, read and write but to protect children from pornography and grooming gangs.
Under the Elections Act 2022, it will be a requirement of voting, not in order to further discourage public participation in the electoral process but to stop illegal voting. It will be a requirement of receiving Universal Credit or, in the future, Universal Basic Income, not in order to force the immiserated and unemployed into obligatory retraining and work but to stop fraudulent benefit claims. It will be a requirement of gaining access to public transport, medical care, education and employment, not in order to control us whenever the World Health Organization declares a new pandemic but to protect the population from future health crises. It will be a requirement of travel and movement between nation states and within the UK, not in order to enforce the restrictions on our freedoms imposed by Agenda 2030 but to stop illegal immigration into the UK and save the planet from ‘global boiling’. It will be a requirement of opening a bank account, not to force us into opening a Digital Pound account but to stop financial crime.
And just as it is in China, the system of Social Credit that relies on Digital Identity for its enforcement will not be restricted to individuals, but will apply to both privately-owned companies and publicly-funded institutions. US asset managers like BlackRock, for example, have made it clear that adherence to the behaviours written into the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals and the Environmental, Social and corporate Governance criteria by which they are enforced are now a condition of employment, bank loans, investment and other aspects of business formerly determined by the employment and trading laws of a sovereign state; and the monitoring and enforcement of compliance with these new norms will be increased exponentially with the development and expansion of systems of Digital Identity across the globe.
This enforcement of the biopolitical requirements of citizenship outside of the juridical frameworks of nation states or international law is consistent with the way the NHS COVID Pass was employed in the UK during the two years of lockdown. The decision to require this pass was made by the UK Government, but it wasn’t mandated through legislation, even in the daily coronavirus-justified regulations being made into law. Rather, the responsibility for the enforcement of the COVID Pass was passed onto the private sector. Ultimately, although we have been promised a Statutory Instrument making its requirement into law, I believe the UK’s system of Digital Identity will be handed over to the UK’s businesses, in both the public and private sectors, where it will be enforced as a condition of employment and custom by both employers and those who trade with and make loans to their businesses.
As I will discuss in far greater depth in this book, once the requirements of citizenship are taken out of a juridical framework and become, as Foucault wrote, ‘distributions around the norm’, the more difficult those norms are to challenge. This is the goal of biopower.
The first question any public consultation on Digital Identity should be asking the British public is not — as it did — whether and to what extent it meets this or that objective required by the Digital Economy Act 2017, but rather whether the British public wishes for such a system. The Government has no mandate for its imposition in its election manifesto, and its failure to inform the British public about the system of surveillance and control of which Digital Identity is the key constitutes a dereliction of the duty of any elected executive body to receive informed consent before interfering with the rights and freedoms of those it has been elected to govern. The Government’s sham consultation, to which I responded, provided none of the contexts necessary for the public to make such informed consent. Worse, it assumed the imposition of a system of Digital Identity as a fait accompli. Indeed, by couching its consultation in terms of undisclosed ‘benefits’ to the public and undefined and ideological terms like ‘well-being’, the consultation deliberately concealed the real import, reach and purpose of Digital Identity.
Contrary to what the Government has told us, a system of ‘identity verification’ does not benefit individuals of households or improve public services. We saw this with the UK Health Security Agency’s proposals for the NHS COVID Pass that were nearly introduced in the UK on the justification of tracking and limiting the movements of UK citizens under lockdown. What is more accurately called a system of Digital Identity only benefits those who wish to use such a system to monitor, regulate, correct and, when necessary, to punish those who do not comply with whatever new codes of behaviour, including our speech, the Government and the unelected international technocracies formulating those codes impose upon us.
The ‘Green Pass’ introduced across Europe demonstrated that these will be imposed through prohibitions on our movements, sanctions on our consumptions, extra-legal fixed penalty notices and the removal of our human rights and civil liberties, all of which the Governments of the West have demonstrated they are willing to enforce with extraordinary and in many countries unprecedented levels of police brutality.
Once it is imposed, however, the intervention of the police and the juridical framework within which they loosely act will become less and less necessary, as we move into the biopolitics of stakeholder capitalism. As the UK Government well knows, Digital Identity is not being implemented in isolation from, but in conjunction with, other technologies and programmes for the surveillance and control of the UK population, including the Bank of England’s Digital Pound, 15-Minute Cities, the London Mayor’s Ultra-Low Emission Zone, the requirements of Agenda 2030 and the enforceable obligations of the WHO’s Pandemic Treaty. Currently being implemented as mere upgrades to the infrastructure of the UK state, these will fundamentally — and, as I have said, perhaps irreversibly — change the ability of the British people to scrutinise, influence or hold our rulers to account. And yet, few members of the British public are even aware of these programmes, let alone how they will be used. We certainly haven’t voted for them. Nor, as the Government’s sham consultation on ‘identity verification’ demonstrates, will we be asked to do so. Digital Identity is the gateway to this collective system of surveillance and control that truly deserves the description ‘totalitarian’.
So little has been divulged about how it will function that it is difficult to say what it will contain; but as part of system of Social Credit, Digital Identity will certainly hold our credit history. It will almost undoubtedly hold our online browsing history. And as the World Health Organization’s Global Digital Health Certification Network indicates, it will definitely hold our biometric data. It will equally certainly hold a record of our social compliance, and what we can learn from China is that social compliance will not only be with the regulations of biosecurity set by a juridical framework but also with the new norms of behaviour we have already so readily accepted and normalised since March 2020. These now include censorship of speech and opinions contrary to those espoused by our Government; increased conditions imposed on our previously inalienable rights and freedoms; and adherence to the dictates of technocracies over whose membership and decisions we have no influence. It will be used to monitor, limit and control our movement through and out of not just our countries but also the 15-Minute Cities currently being imposed on the justification of reducing everything from air pollution to global warming. To this spurious end, it will record and restrict our consumption of energy, heat, food and water.
In practice, it will monitor and record our behaviour, opinions and compliance with the new orthodoxies of woke ideology. And in doing so, it will condition our access to everything from the internet, banking and employment to healthcare, welfare and education. One day, if the Bank of England has its way, it will be the condition of accessing the only kind of currency still in existence, over which it will have complete control.
A CAMP WITH NO OUTSIDE
Why, then, is the British public showing so little interest in, presenting so little opposition to, and demonstrating such passive acceptance of our enclosure in the biosecurity camp to which Digital Identity is the gateway? It’s in order to try and answer this question that, in addition to writing about these new apparatuses of biopower, the second part of my book looks at what are not, properly speaking, technologies of biopower but, rather, the ideologies indoctrinating us for its implementation as the dominant paradigm of governance in the West.
The first of these, of course, is the US proxy war in the Ukraine, which although started in February 2014 with the overthrow of the democratically elected Government, in the minds of most Westerners began in February 2022, as we were emerging from two years of lockdown restrictions. The transition, therefore, from the so-called ‘war on COVID’ to the war on Russia was an almost seamless one, and those obedient to the terms of the former have proven the loudest advocates of the lies of the latter, most obviously about when and why it began.
In certain respects this is a new form of warfare, insofar as the US asset managers that have been driving US foreign policy for some time now are not using the lives of young US soldiers to enforce their interests, as they have in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Afghanistan, but are now using the lives of the citizens of foreign countries — in this instance hundreds of thousands of Ukrainian victims — to force the public assets, natural resources and even the economy of the Ukraine into their hands. It’s a matter of indifference to them that, in doing so, they have reduced parts of the country to ruins, its people to poverty and its institutions to political impotence, except insofar as the carnage justifies them calling on even more US taxpayers’ money to ‘rebuild’ what they have demolished.
Ukraine is a bloody example and warning to the world of what can be done to a formerly sovereign state when the bodies and lives of its people are subject to a war whose goal is biopolitical control over an entire people. Indeed, Ukraine is the testing ground for the digital transformation of the infrastructure of an entire state, including online education and health services, Central Bank Digital Currency, so-called e-governance, including a civil service replaced by smartphone apps, COVID certification on the same, and a judiciary and military run by artificial intelligence. As an image of its dystopian future drawn direct from Hollywood cinema — Ukraine’s 32-year-old Deputy Prime Minister, Mykhailo Fedorov, has dubbed it ‘Judge Dredd’ — the country has already piloted an AI system that produces pre-trial and pre-sentencing reports that assess the risk of a suspect offending.
It’s to the same end, although employing different means, that the orthodoxies of transgenderism have attained their now unquestionable status as part of the official ideology of stakeholder capitalism in the West in a period of time barely longer than it took to impose the equally official orthodoxies of the war in the Ukraine. Few appear to have considered why, in the middle of the vast upheavals we have undergone since March 2020, governments, corporations and public institutions otherwise struggling to save humankind from any number of manufactured ‘crises’ should suddenly devote so much time and effort and money to writing the orthodoxies of ‘trans’ into our laws, implementing them in our policies, promoting them in our media, indoctrinating them through our institutions of education and normalising them in our culture industries.
It is my belief, for which a chapter of this book provides the argument and evidence, that the orthodoxies of trans are not incidental to the revolution in Western capitalism we are undergoing but, rather, instrumental to the new biopolitical paradigm of citizenship to which we will be expected to adhere — and compelled to obey by the technologies of biopower — in the Global Biosecurity State under construction.
Over the last few years I’ve written many times about the ideology of woke, which has now taken its place as the official ideology of stakeholder capitalism, having infiltrated the Cabinets of Western governments along with Klaus Schwab’s Young Global Leaders, and with just as much brazenness and indeed pride.
In my penultimate chapter, I look at how the discourse of White racism developed by woke is being used not only to silence opposition to the regulations, programmes and technologies of the Great Reset of the UK, but also to force through the changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviours they require for our acceptance and compliance with such blatant attacks on our freedoms.
As with the apparatuses of biopower, therefore, my aim in the second part of my book is to show how the orthodoxies of woke — which now include dehumanisation of the Russian people and the Lysenkoism of transgenderism — are instrumental to the incorporation of the judicial institution, through which the limits of citizenship have until now been made in law, into a biopolitical paradigm, in which the requirements of citizenship in the Global Biosecurity State are normalised by technologies of power, as Foucault wrote, ‘centred on life’.
Finally, the body of my book is topped and tailed by two short texts. The first introduces the book with the argument that one of the conclusions we can draw from the last three-and-a-half years is that the already questionable division of our parliamentary politics into Left and Right no longer has any descriptive or practical purchase on the paradigm of governance by which we are now ruled, and should be abandoned by anyone serious about forming opposition to it. The second text, in the absence of the comforting dreams with which the UK Left has rocked itself to sleep over the past forty years of neoliberalism, concludes my book by proposing one of the ways in which we can resist — initially at least — the construction of the digital camp being built not only around and between but also within us by the technologies of biopower.
In the UK, as across most of the Western World, we lived through an extreme two-year period of lockdown in which almost all our human rights and civil liberties were removed by wave after wave of legislation on the justification of combatting a respiratory virus which anyone who troubled to look at the statistics and the criteria by which they were produced knew had the infection fatality rate of seasonal influenza. Even that’s not quite accurate since, unlike influenza, coronavirus has no effect on the young, who despite being masked for two years, deprived of their education and injected with experimental gene therapies, are as statistically immune to COVID-19 as they are statistically vulnerable to the myocarditis, pericarditis and other damages to their health and immune systems caused by the messenger RNA sequencing the UK state injected into their arms as a vaccine.
Now, however, the West has entered into a more generalised crisis carousel whose names change, week by week, from global boiling to Russian aggression to the cost-of-living to the resurrection of the threat of Islamic terrorism and, as I write, another made-to-order viral strain. But whatever their ostensible cause, the ultimate goal of the technologies of biopower whose imposition these crises justify is to make permanent what were the temporary restrictions on our rights and freedoms under lockdown.
Indeed, the best way to understand these crises is to ask how these new agendas, these new treaties, these new programmes and these new technologies make the State of Emergency under which we lived for two years permanent. Unfortunately, very few people are asking that question, of themselves or others. Under lockdown, thousands of people were forced into quarantine camps, most famously in China; but the digital camp into which we’re being corralled now, and which is enclosing and dividing us even as we return to bickering about Brexit and immigration, is co-extensive with the space of the state itself.
How is it being built? As I’ve said, Digital Identity is the gateway to this camp, over which is written not Arbeit Macht Frei — for there is no escape from a space without an outside — but rather ‘Freedom is Slavery’. And if we imagine this camp and try to visualise its structure, the Internet of Things, which includes the digital panopticon of quick response codes, facial recognition technology and now ULEZ cameras, and the Internet of Bodies to which it connects us, which as I argue in my conclusion includes smartphones, is the camp’s system of surveillance.
15-Minute Cities, which despite being proposed by the World Economic Forum — a corporate think-tank with no legislative authority over the populations of nation states — are being imposed on UK citizens by our local councils and metropolitan authorities, are the barracks into which the different areas of the camp are divided. Despite their vociferous denials to the contrary, as soon as a municipal authority or legislative body decides when, how, where, how often and in what its citizens can move about in their own country, you are on the road to fascism. 15-Minute Cities are the beginning of the transformation of the space of the state itself into a permanent spatialisation of the State of Emergency, which is why they are both justified as a means to ‘save the planet’ and denied as a ‘conspiracy theory’.
And in case we’re naïve enough — which the UK public has demonstrated itself to be beyond the dreams of even the most cynical globalist — to believe that the limits on our freedom of movement will only apply to cars, and are therefore a good thing, Transport for London has already proposed what it calls, with the ubiquity of one of the most powerful information technology companies in the world, ‘smart transport’. Employing not just facial recognition cameras but the AI technology within them, the purpose of smart transport is not merely to monitor our actions but also to learn from our behaviour, turning public transport into a vast training camp for the digital guards of our future.
Finally, Central Bank Digital Currency, in this spatial visualisation of a digital structure, is the perimeter fence of the camp, which it renders impossible to escape; for once this fence is constructed there will no longer be a space outside its extent and reach, or at least, no space inhabitable by a human society larger than a small commune, and most likely nowhere in the West.
Although the Internet of Bodies is ready and waiting to insert its system of monitoring inside us, with the proto-cyborgs for the future already implanting computer chips under their skin and ingesting them into their bodies, these technologies of biopower are, for the present, being implemented through the nation’s smartphones. This includes, of course, a system of Digital Identity; but, initially at least, Central Bank Digital Currency wallets will also go through a smartphone software application.
In anticipation of which, in March of this year the Government launched its Emergency Alert System, which was then tested the following month on the 82 million smartphones in the UK. It has not been made public how many of their owners responded; but what the UK public needs to understand, and soon, is that when the technologies of biopower constituting the digital camp are in place, this alert will not be used to inform us of whatever crisis the Government has invented to terrorise us with next, but rather to instruct us in the operational status of mechanisms of compliance it will be impossible to disobey except at the cost of our liberty.
I say it again, once the legal framework for citizenship is incorporated into a biopolitical paradigm of governance administered by a continuum of regulatory apparatuses, then legislative, legal and political means of contestation will no longer exist except as spectacles of a democracy long since dismantled. In reality, Western democracy, for some time now, has only existed in the fantasies of an endlessly deceived electorate. But it’s a measure of how far we have come since March 2020, how far we have declined as a citizenry worthy of the name, and how ready we are for the totalitarianism of biopower, that there was no protest and little outrage in response to this trial of our abject obedience. On the contrary, the same mouths and faces were wheeled out by the media to repeat the mantra of the unfailing obedient: ‘Well, if it saves lives . . .’ This is the essence of biopower to which the politics of the West is being reset by stakeholder capitalism. And, somehow, the people of the West have to stop it, if we don’t want to live in a camp with no outside.
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From the preface to Simon Elmer’s new book, The Great Reset: Biopolitics for Stakeholder Capitalism. His recent books include The Road to Fascism: For a Critique of the Global Biosecurity State (2022), as well as two volumes of articles on the UK biosecurity state, Virtue and Terror and The New Normal, both published in 2023.