Attention, Thought Criminals: Glasgow Police Have You In Their Sights

Greater Glasgow Police - THINK - Social Media - Police State - Free Speech

Glasgow Police’s conception of public safety is plain old fashioned tyranny

Imagine the kind of dystopian police state you would have to inhabit for it to be normal for the authorities to routinely warn citizens to be careful about what they think or say, on pain of criminal prosecution and potential incarceration.

Well, you don’t have to imagine, because Police Scotland and the Greater Glasgow Police are busy constructing their own tribute to North Korea right here in the UK.

The tweet shown above was posted on twitter by the Greater Glasgow Police – unironically – this afternoon, along with the menacing hashtag #thinkbeforeyoupost.

Apparently before offering up our thoughts to the internet, whether they be on politics, cooking or sport, we are to ask ourselves whether what we are posting is True, Hurtful, Illegal, Necessary or Kind. The clear implication is that if our speech fails the THINK test, some snarling Scottish police officer will turn up on our doorstep to drag us away, much as the London Metropolitan Police did with Matthew Doyle last weekend.

This is something of a scope increase for the police, to put it mildly. Where once they largely confined themselves to preventing and solving crime, apparently having since eliminated all actual crime in our society (…) and finding themselves at a loose end, they are now eager to swoop in and punish speech which passes Britains’ already draconian hate speech laws but which happens to be arbitrarily perceived by others as hurtful, unnecessary or unkind.

Let’s call a spade a spade: this is tyranny. When an enforcement arm of the state can post jocular messages on social media warning citizens to be on their best, blandest and most inoffensive behaviour on pain of arrest, we do not live in a free society any more. And it is time that more of us acknowledged this, so that we can get on with the task of rolling it back and re-establishing our corroded right to freedom of expression.

Alex Massie thunders:

Whatever next? The monitoring of conversations in public houses? Why not? Twitter and Facebook, after all, are merely digital, virtual, gathering places. As the wags on social media have put it today, Thur’s been a Tweet and Detective Chief Inspector Taggart is on the case.

Beneath the necessary and hopefully hurtful mockery, however, lurks an important point. One that relates to something more than police stupidity and over-reach and instead asks an important question about the value placed on speech in contemporary Britain. The answer to that, as this and a score of other dismal examples demonstrate, cannot cheer any liberal-minded citizen. Such is the temper of the times, however, in which we live. Nothing good will come of any of this but you’d need to be a heroic optimist to think it will get any better any time soon.

What a country; what a time to be alive.

All very good points. If social media is fair game for the thought police, why not the local pub, too? What restraint should there be, besides time and resources, on blanket surveillance of everyone all the time in the pre-emptive battle against speech crime?

When will people finally start waking up to the sheer illiberality and the authoritarian nature of contemporary society?

When will people finally realise that weaponised offence-taking and the Cult of Identity Politics do not create a Utopian paradise of peace and harmony, that in behaving this way we are only driving bad ideas underground to fester and grow while punishing those who dare to think differently?

When will people get that having the state act as an overbearing, always-watching surrogate parent figure, monitoring our behaviour and punishing those who do no more than hurt our feelings, is creating a weak-minded and unresilient population who are unable to handle slights and setbacks without running to an external authority figure for redress?

In a healthy society, the author of that tweet by Greater Glasgow Police would have broken the law by using their position to threaten the right of the people to freedom of expression – a liberty which would be guaranteed in a written constitution enshrining our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But we do not live in a healthy society, the police are free to do as they please without censure and there is no written constitution guaranteeing our liberties. Instead, we have a “make it up as you go along” constitution and form of government with a strong tendency to attempt to solve the immediate problem in front of it by taking power away from the people to act in their own interests and vesting those same powers in the state.

We are approaching the point where some kind of rebellion against this censorious, bullying, tyrannical behaviour by the police must be mounted – perhaps some kind of co-ordinated mass action whereby everyone tweets something “offensive”, gets a partner to report them to the police and vice-versa, the idea being to gum up the workings of the police and criminal justice system until the whole rotten edifice collapses in upon itself.

Semi-Partisan Politics is in very rebellious mood right now.

 

Police Scotland

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On Paternalism and Porn Filters

Liberal Democrat president Tim Farron has not been my favourite person since the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition government was formed in 2010. The grumpy noises emanating from the Liberal Democrat party hierarchy have all too often been agitations for more specifically left-wing policies rather than the promotion of liberal ones, and I have no truck with that. But yesterday, Mr. Farron won my agreement and earned my support.

The Daily Mail reports:

Liberal Democrats have triggered fury by vowing to overturn David Cameron’s plans for internet porn filters.

Child safety experts and MPs called the move ‘irresponsible’ and warned it would undermine attempts to protect children from hardcore pornography.

Lib Dem party president Tim Farron said the Government should enshrine the ‘digital rights of the citizen’ and halt requirement for ‘filters, lists or controls on legal material’.

Tim Farron correctly labels the government policy as “misconceived, ineffective and illiberal”. It is certainly misconceived – a majority Conservative government with a mandate to roll back the onerous size of the state has no place enacting laws that further chip away at the notion of personal responsibility. It has also been proved to be ineffective – a simple browser extension has already been released which simply bypasses the filter. And the illiberality of the policy speaks for itself.

Insidious yet inept.
Insidious yet inept.

The Independent quotes Farron in further detail, perfectly summing up the argument for the correct way to protect children from adult material in a liberal country:

“If the Prime Minister really wanted to protect children from inappropriate material, he’d ensure they had access to good sexual health and relationship education and give parents the help and support they need to talk to their children about this issue,” he said.

Absolutely. But the daddy-knows-best wing of the Tory party sadly sees things somewhat differently:

Party sources described the new Lib Dem approach as “disappointing”.

“Tim Farron clearly does not want to prioritise the safety of our children online or support our efforts to prevent anyone accidentally accessing illegal material,” they said.

Anyone could have seen this weak, manipulative counter-punch coming from a mile away. Anyone who believes in personal responsibility and empowering and trusting parents to act in the best interests of their children must, according to this worldview, be maniacally obsessed with pornography whilst simultaneously holding the safety of children in complete and utter contempt.

What complete and utter nonsense.

Quite.
Quite.

I invested my precious time and effort pounding the streets of my hometown campaigning for the Conservative Party in the last general election campaign in 2010, but it is policies such as this which make me roll my eyes and question whether it is worth my time and effort to do so again in 2015. The MP I campaigned with, Robert Halfon, has proven himself to be an excellent constituency MP for Harlow since that time, but the coalition government in which his party is the senior member has delivered letdown after letdown on issues of civil liberties and returning responsibility to the individual.

After thirteen years of Labour government I was desperately looking forward to a rollback of the paternalistic, controlling, pseudo-benevolent state that had grown inexorably during that time. Of course I anticipated some inevitable compromises resulting from the fact that the Conservatives had to take on the Liberal Democrats as junior partners in coalition, but I never expected to find myself cheerleading the Liberal Democrat stance over the Tory one on fundamental issues of privacy and civil liberties. And yet that is exactly where I find myself.

Of course children should be protected from harmful content on the television, the internet and other media. But that responsibility rightly rests with the parents, not the broadcasters, ISPs or the state. Every time the government steps in to protect us from any potential harms out there in the world, we are simply stifled by yet another layer of cotton wool, and given the implicit message that it’s okay to glide through life with no regard for the potential consequences of our actions. Many of us may do this at times anyway, and I certainly include myself in that criticism – but my point is that government should not be actively making the shirking of personal responsibility easier by taking on duties of care that used to sit with educated, compassionate and autonomous private citizens.

I would suggest that parents should not be leaving their children unattended to be raised by television and the internet. If parents choose to ignore all common sense and do so, and their child stumbles upon any inappropriate or distressing material as a result, rather than bleating in outrage to the government a personal reexamination of parenting abilities is required.

David Cameron might think that his government’s time is best spent peeping over our shoulders and tutting at the things we choose to watch online under the justification of “keeping our children safe”, but I can assure him that nearly four years of mystifying underperformance in No. 10 Downing Street quite clearly say otherwise.

We’ve Come A Long Way, Ctd.

Fast-forwarding to 1995, it no longer takes two hours to download an electronic copy of your favourite newspaper, and there are a few more things to do on the internet once you are dialed up.

 

Some fascinating reminders of how things used to be, including the world’s first band to livestream (with poor audio and a very low frame rate) a performance on the web. And a sweetly over-optimistic prediction that internet cafes would become fun, social places hang out.

Plus USENET Newsgroups, CompuServe, FTP and more…

Good luck trying to place your online order on this version of the site
Good luck trying to place your online order on this version of the site