ivanna_humpz

Whether a porn star should be able to have a bank account or not might rather depend upon your moral views. You might believe they are the very devil to be cast out from all society. You might think that because they are engaged in legal and consensual commerce then they enjoy exactly the same rights and liberties as everyone else under the law. You might, as a banker, decide that you’d rather not have their custom which is just fine. Or you might be the Department of Justice who looks at the law, says that it’s perfectly legal for a porn star to have a bank account, but then decide to try and prevent their doing so anyway.

To which the correct response is a hearty “Fuck You” and putting in an order for the mass gallows that we need to deal with such a regulatory state.

Over at Vice they’ve been discussing the way in which there seems to be a wave of porn stars having their ability to connect to the financial system cancelled. And they’re connecting it with something called Operation Chokepoint (no, no sniggers at the back there):

Now, news is slowly surfacing that shows the US Department of Justice may be strong-arming banks into banning porn stars.

It’s called Operation Choke Point, and it has nothing to do with deep-throating.

Instead, it’s a targeted effort to shut down as many as 30 separate industries by making it impossible for them to access banking services.

In a Wall Street Journal op-ed Thursday, American Bankers Association CEO Frank Keating wrote that the Justice Department is “telling bankers to behave like policemen and judges.”

“Operation Choke Point is asking banks to identify customers who may be breaking the law or simply doing something government officials don’t like,” Keating wrote. “Banks must then ‘choke off’ those customers’ access to financial services, shutting down their accounts.”

Keating said the highly secretive operation was launched in early 2013. That’s when porn stars started to complain to the media that their bank accounts were being shut down without explanation.

This is a serious assault on the rule of law, that cornerstone of civil liberty. Sure, it’s easy enough to become all Pastor Niemoller about this but do note that they’re not just going after the hump merchants. Payday loan companies are also under fire: and it’s certainly possible to approve or disapprove of one or other of those activities. But the point of this rule of law thing is that if we’re doing something that’s legal then we’re on exactly the same footing as everyone else. And, in a common law country if there’s no specific law against what we’re doing then it is by definition legal. The moment the bureaucracy gets to slice out of civilized life those the bureaucracy, not the law, wishes to discriminate against then we all lose our protections against that bureaucracy.

There are other examples of this around us. We still haven’t heard the end of the IRS discriminating against Tea Party affiliated groups and other organizations across the political spectrum in their applications for tax-free or tax-privileged status. Maybe you don’t like the Tea Party but back when Nixon tried to launch tax audits on those on his enemies list, Don Alexander, rightly, refused to do so.

So something’s certainly decayed since then, if you can believe it. Years ago I was on a TV show with a guy from a Palestinian charity. His complaint was that his British bank had shut down the charity account and that no other bank would take it on. For it was the US Government insisting that it should remain unbanked. The leverage was that to be a large bank these days you’ve got to be able to deal in dollars at some point. It was made very clear that if a British bank allowed this (small and not all that important) charity to have a bank account then that bank would not be able to do business in America or in dollars: effectively closing the entire behemoth corporation. We saw much the same over Wikileaks where strong arm pressure on Mastercard and Visa meant that the networks would no longer process transactions.

All of these are extra legal pressure from the state. The mechanism is to just keep insisting upon ever more adherence to petty regulation to force suppliers to drop those customers the bureaucracy doesn’t want them to deal with. That is supposed to be a function of politics and or the law: you want porn stars, Palestinian charities, Wikileaks, to be illegal to deal with then stand for election, get a law passed and it will be so. the important point being that we all get to oppose you while you try it rather than using the stick of the regulatory state to force it from the darkness.

It’s worth noting that contrary to popular belief HSBC was not fined billions of dollars for laundering Mexican drug cartel money. It was fined billions for not filling out the forms in the correct manner so as to be able to prove that it was not laundering Mexican drug cartel money.

This is a serious assault on the civil liberties of us all. For if they can go after anyone they like on the basis of not liking them then the next time we piss off a bureaucrat then it could be us, couldn’t it?

And I don’t think it’s that much of an ask to try and insist that the government should be obeying the laws that it itself makes, is it?

[Illustration by Hallie Bateman for Pando]