Incognito Press

truth. knowledge. freedom. passion. courage. Promoting free-thinking, activism & rogue writing.

Phone Hacking deja vu

Posted by E on July 19, 2011

So this week hearings begin into the phone hacking operations by recently-defunct News of the World. Everyone is so tremendously outraged that stuffy mogul Rupert Murdoch’s newspaper employees could hack not only a poor missing teen girl’s mobile but God forbid, the Priminister and Royal Family’s own phone lines. Everyone’s scratching their heads and asking themselves, “But how could that be? Our privacy compromised like this, how can it be possible?” And now the probe goes further, wondering if the newspaper might have – gasp! – cracked into the US government’s phone database.

I can’t help but experience a strong hit of déjà vu here, like a rotten smell that just won’t go away. We’ve had much worse here, people, I want to scream. How have you all forgotten? How can you ever forget?

In the early nineties here in Canada we had a government agent operative – an undercover CSIS agent (Canada’s version of the CIA, to my American friends) – create a white supremacist group from scratch and teach them the tricks of the trade. Under CSIS’ tutelage, the white supremacist Heritage Front cracked into countless innocent people’s phone lines and terrorized them with death threats. It was called the It Campaign, and it was condoned by our own government.

Violent skinheads and gun-totting neo-Nazis telephoned people 24 hours a day to harass and force information about others out of them. They stalked their prey, followed people to and from work, targeting anti-racist activists for criminal harassment and physical assault.
All of them were taught by CSIS.
And nothing was ever done about it.

Heck, nobody wants to buy my novel – which is making editorial rounds RIGHT NOW (and being rejected, though with praise) – because apparently the thriller novel market is swamped and nobody’s buying. The fact that the novel is based on real-life and rooted in fact does not appear to sway editors. Nor that a country’s own government, through its “intelligence” body has hacked and terrorized its own people, seems to make an impression.

And in the end, aside from a few internal demotions, nobody ever prosecuted CSIS for their phone hacking. And for condoning their agents to train white supremacists to do the same. Despite the dozens of witnesses who spoke up about what had happened, despite my own much-publicized testimony on Parliament Hill, the final report excused their behaviour as having gotten “carried away” and been a tad “over-zealous” in their undercover work.

I guess watching tawdry CNN recaps is easier to swallow than knowing that things can be a lot worse than unscrupulous journalists hacking into voice mail for scoops.

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6 Responses to “Phone Hacking deja vu”

  1. Elisa said

    PS And if you’re one of those editors who’s rejected or about to reject my manuscript, think about this: thousands of people were affected by CSIS’ actions. Tons of operations are going on in the US where FBI agents are infiltrating, and provoking, radical groups. A book based on a true story will trump a dime-a-dozen airport-shelf paperback EVERY TIME.
    So don’t lose out, make your offer today…..or else god forbid I should self-pub it myself and get rich like amanda you-know-who, lol…..

  2. marc nash said

    I don’t know what it is like in canada, but here in the Uk it is almost impossible to place a political novel. There is just no appetite for it, or so we are told. And so authors self-censor by not “wasting” their time writing a political novel that is unlikely to get a deal, thus reinforcing the dearth. But there again in britain, we are a politically apathetic nation, as the hacking crisis shows – a stoem in the teacup of High politics of top Politicians, media Moguls & Top Cops, nobody else is exercising themselves about it, despite it offering the chance for seismic cultural change in media, policing and government, privacy, freedom of expression and all these issues.

    i wish you luck trying to place your book. I’ve given up trying to place mine about the limits of peaceful protest in democracies and have decided to publish itself on Kindle

    marc nash

  3. Elisa said

    The weird thing is, I’ve got hundreds of people in my own circle lined up for this book, and that’s not even the tip of the iceberg. But yeah, I think you’re right. Editors are generally afraid of taking risks, even if the payoff is within sight.

    The other weird thing is, I started writing is as non-fiction and Penguin Canada wanted it. But I didn’t feel safe coming out of hiding completely to be a speaker on the subject – which is what they wanted – so I changed the setting to the US, the agent from CSIS to CIA – thus broadening the market.

    It’s not badly written either, since I’ve received several national art council prizes and grants for it…. But still no bites from editors. It’s really fucked up, especially since some of the people I’m writing about are the same people Steig Larsson was dealing with.

  4. marc nash said

    Sweden is willing to have an internal audit and cultural debate about its problems. The UK, US (& Canada?) are so complacent, they don’t even see that there are these problems. In UK, we produced our own homegrown suicide bombers who bombed the London Underground, yet there is no debate within the arts about how that could have happened. Even yesterday, two british Muslims were captured by the army fighting for the Taliban. yet no one considers the level of alienation that could bring that about.

  5. Elisa said

    That’s exactly right. When editors were rejecting my non-fic memoir last year (before Penguin called us), the comments were “Well, the story is dated…we don’t have racism in our country anymore”. LOL right.

    Canada is also one of the top terrorist-harbouring nations, and my book is all about how such a group recruits and indoctrinates teenagers. White supremacist or Muslim doesn’t matter. Extremist politics run along the same vein — we’re fighting a glorious battle for an idealistic utopia.

    You’d think the fact that a CSIS agent (ahem, changed to a CIA agent as per my novel) held the reins and directed an entire operation surely would have more appeal than a formulaic Patterson novel….but nobody wants to take the chance.

  6. marc nash said

    I self-published a novel which included a sub-plot about a nurse who injures patients under her care, in response to them maltreating her because of their own fallibilities and ridiculous perceptions and fantasies of the nurse as angel, tenderer, sexual object etc etc. And in this last week we have a story of a nurse who killed at least 5 patients through tampering with their saline drips. Sometimes I wonder if it is just timing that is the issue, but you say yours couldn’t be more timely, so maybe it is more of a blanket repression rather than being merely whether it was zeitgeist or not.

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