Marconi Lives

"Confound their Politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks..."

“Confound their Politics, Frustrate their knavish tricks…”

Wow! It’s been a fun week in the press so far.

If you were interested in my post on Guglielmo Marconi and the military outsourcing empire he created, you’ll enjoy this article on Serco, the “company that is running Britain”.

Serco runs Britain’s ballistic-missile early warning system,  the National Nuclear Laboratory, a rash of prisons and ancillary services, hospitals, school inspections… and runs them without attention to quality or accurate billing!

Serco is the grandchild of the Marconi Company, which spawned RCA with the help of General Electric and the US Navy. (RCA is the firm that birthed ‘American television’ with Ed Bernays.)  In 1986, the circle was completed when General Electric took RCA over, and broke it up into several companies, one of which is Serco, Britain’s leading government outsourcing conglomerate.

[Serco is] A very significant player, in other words, and one that has come a long way since its foundation 1929, when it was a branch of the American RCA corporation called RCA Services Ltd, involved in the then booming UK cinema industry. It was renamed Serco in 1987, after a management buy-out, and floated on the stock exchange the following year. In the 25 subsequent years, during which the UK has grown ever-fonder of outsourcing and privatisation, Serco has grown at an amazing rate.

Serco receives very little press, but what it does has been bad: particularly their mismanagement of Thameside prison, hospitals, and charging something like GBP 50 million for “tagging offenders” that it did not “tag”. (“Tagging” is called “electronic monitoring” in the USA). Small accounting error?

The only thing that Serco seems to be good at is winning government contracts, and the British leadership do not know exactly how many contracts Serco has won. Serco’s revenue from government work is about 40% of total revenue, and The Guardian estimates that 90% of Serco’s staff are ex-government.

So, what Serco actually does is to take over public services and rent them back to the government, while operating said services outside of public scrutiny. Not much changed in 80 years.

But Britain isn’t the only country that’s suffering:

Among their scores of roles across the planet, Serco is responsible for air traffic control in the United Arab Emirates, parking-meter services in Chicago, driving tests in Ontario, and an immigration detention centre on Christmas Island, run on behalf of those well-known friends of overseas visitors the Australian government.

In the US, the company has just been awarded a controversial $1.25bn contract by that country’s Department of Health.

One final question: does “Serco” stand for “Service Company” like “Ingsoc” stands for…

The Fabulous Marconi

Snicker, snicker.

Snicker, snicker.

Edward seems to be settling into Russian life, so it’s time for the Free World to roll up its sleeves and improve itself.

I’ve stated before that the most important of Snowden’s revelations is that private companies, like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, Facebook, Verizon, Apple… cooperated with the NSA to violate innocent people’s rights. This isn’t about ‘protection’, this is about the NSA’s, and its supporters’, fundamental contempt for the people they pretend to serve. This is about how private companies collaborate with thugs.

What does any of this have to do that radio guy Marconi? Quite a bit, actually, because the Marconi Company was to the British Empire what Microsoft is to the American. Yeah, that bad. Of course, the London/Marconi collaboration was corrupt from the start, as evidenced by the ‘Marconi Scandal‘, but this private/public intelligence partnership also had wide-reaching fallout that undermined public discourse, and therefore democracy, for decades. In fact, I’m not sure that the damage ever stopped.

The Marconi Company was given an exclusive contract to set up the British Empire’s wireless communications system; this contract was bought through bribery and insider-trading. Marconi had developed his radio system by partnering with the British Military through the course of the Boer War, the first time radio technology was successfully used. Marconi then built a company based on the war-time technology, which serviced private and public entities AND stationed Marconi’s men at the information pulse-points. Francis Walsingham would be proud.

This is how military/private tech partnerships undermine democracy: military money develops technology during war-time; said technology is sold back to law enforcement; private firm capitalizes on information flow from said technology free from public scrutiny.

Cozy, eh? And it’s still going on today.

In an interview with USAToday about the Snowden leaks, J. Kirk Wiebe makes the following statement (it’s in the video, NOT the transcript):

The other piece of this was we weren’t just trying to talk about privacy, the way that the government was going about deriving intelligence from digital data flows was poor form, uninformed. There seemed to be more of a desire to contract out, cause a money flow, than there was to actually perform the mission. And Tom [Drake] can tell you– is professionally trained in how major organizations acquire major capabilities, and he saw none of it, right Tom?

It’s not just Booz Allen Hamilton. Way back in 1999 Lotus (of Lotus Notes fame) was caught collaborating with the NSA to give the spooks access to foreign clients’ emails. (Perhaps the NSA should look into a copy of Lotus Notes International Edition for themselves, so they can search their own emails in regard to FOIA requests. Cough, cough National Geographic Channel.) IBM even wrote a Red Book on how the Lotus/NSA trapdoor works. (Embarrassed of what?)

Also in 1999, Microsoft was outed for supplying the NSA– and an UNKNOWN THIRD PARTY– with a backdoor into Windows.

Now, I’m pretty sure 9-11 happened on 9-11-2001. The NSA’s sneaky data gathering isn’t about the Patriot Act. This isn’t about ‘terror’. This is about the naked quest for information and power; a lawless quest for power by the intelligence community, information conglomerates and complicit congressmen (all 217 of them).

Power-hungry people have always wanted monopolies over information pathways. It’s what spying is about. That’s never going to change. What can change is the public’s attitude toward the spies, and their helpers, who run protection rackets like PRISM. In order to reign in these monsters, it’s helpful to study their behavior in the past.

Who was Guglielmo Marconi?

Marconi was half-Italian, half-Scotch-Irish; he was the son of an Italian land-owner and Annie Jameson, granddaughter of James Jameson, the whiskey producer. Consequently, he had a very privileged upbringing and ran in well-connected circles.

Marconi invented a crude wireless device in his early twenties, but couldn’t find investors in Italy. He went to Britain, and with the help of the Italian ambassador in London, Marconi found a champion in William Preece, the Chief Electrical Engineer of the British Post Office.

There are a few important things to understand about the British Post Office. This office provides an invaluable service connecting friends and family through the mail. They also provide, and have done since 1660, important intelligence information to the British government (and other parties).

Marconi’s post-office connections made him the British Army and Navy’s go-to man for wireless signal matters. The first use of wireless communication was in the Boer War; where the Marconi company supplied both the Boers and the British with wireless equipment. (The Boer and British understanding of wireless communications were equally sophisticated.) Through the course of that ugly war The Marconi Company solidified its relationship with Britain’s armed forces, becoming a primary contractor.

The Marconi Company was also an early example of intelligence outsourcing via contractors: Marconi paved the way for Booz Allen Hamilton, et alia, when it was awarded the contract to deal with the Empire’s wireless transmissions, a system which would act as back-up to the All Red Line, the nerve system of the Empire. Naturally, such an arrangement was fraught with scandal.

Back then, the “money flow” ran from the Attorney General, Rufus Isaacs, to his brother on the board of the Marconi company. Isaacs arranged– for his friends– a discounted purchase of shares in the American Marconi Company just before the British government contract was awarded.* The Postmaster General Herbert Samuel (Marconi’s way-in to British coffers) and the Chancellor of the Exchequer David Lloyd George were also part of this insider-trading. The treachery goes deeper: the British Treasury bent over backwards to make sure Marconi got the contract.

But Marconi was busy in other places beside Great Britain; he was busy building a global intelligence network. Marconi operators staffed Marconi machines: for instance, the wireless operators on board the Titanic worked for Guglielmo, not The White Star Line. Marconi had his finger on the pulse of wireless communications, and everybody wanted a slice.

A consequence of this is that The Marconi Company became thoroughly embedded in Britain’s military-industrial complex; as did the Marconi Company’s American subsidiary via the US Navy and Edison’s General Electric. The American Marconi subsidiary became RCA.

Now, I think that even young people will recognize these companies’ names. Why? Because they played such a pivotal role in developing the USA’s entertainment and communication establishment. For better or for worse, what the USA listens to, the world listens to.

That fact should give us all pause for thought, because from its very inception, radio technology was tied to the military wherever this technology was being developed. Mass public communication followed closely behind, with RCA and it’s shadowy leader David Sarnoff (formerly one of Marconi’s men), developing television in the USA; and EMI, the heir to the Columbia Graphophone Company/Gramophone Company merger, doing the same in Britain under close collaboration with the BBC. (BBC: propaganda platform and employer of George Orwell. Read Orwell’s resignation letter here– “Your propaganda is sh*t!”) I digress.

Sarnoff worked closely with Edward Bernays to develop early standards of American television programming. Bernays was Sarnoff’s paid adviser, and the author of Propaganda (1928), in which he argued that manipulating public opinion was essential in a democracy. (Essential to whom? To thugs with power-lust?)

In 100 years what will Bill Gates’, or Steve Jobs’, or Mark Zuckerberg’s, or Larry Page’s/Sergey Brin’s biography look like?

Journalists who drew attention to the Marconi scandal were silenced with libel lawsuits. (Rich Brits’ favorite way to bury uncomfortable truths.) The Marconi/Navy collaboration provided a megaphone for men like Edward Bernays. The rule of law and democracy were undermined.

I wish that the British public had quashed the Marconi deal when their leaders’ treachery was first outed. They could have done it by taking away the money. Fortunately, most of my representatives voted the right way on the Amash amendment, but for the ones who ‘pizza’d when they shuda’ve french-fried’, a lot of work needs to be done. Take away the money.

*This story was broke by G.K. Chesterton’s brother, read all about it in Ffinch’s biography of G.K. Chesterton, p. 204.