Monday, December 14, 2009

The British Love of Petty Authority

I've noted before some disturbing anti-freedom trends in Norwich, one of my favourite cities. Now there is this. Little people - employed by the unelected and unaccountable company EventGuard - dressed in a little authority will be able to stop, question and harass me and even have access to police files. At least some policepeople have seen the light. People should not get questioned for photographing Westminster Abbey. Glory be. By why are the British so appallingly keen on having their freedoms restricted? We seem to welcome every misery-mad prodnose and epauletted fool. 'Security' is the key. But what is that and where does it end?


  1. Don't forget the British love of complaining about the creeping prevalence of petty authority - surely an ancient national tradition.

    There'll probably be a lot of comments here about privacy and whatnot, with which, being of conservative leaning, I sympathise.

    But to put the other case briefly: "Little people...will be able to stop, question and harass me and even have access to police files."

    Except, they won't. Because you won't be a hoodie or a drunk or a shoplifter (at least, not during the week).

    Likewise the line that says... CCTV can follow me every step of the journey from my house to town and back again...

    True in theory. But in practice nobody is watching me particularly because I'm not nearly as interesting or important as I think I am. You're the star of your own movie but that's it. In reality, most CCTV footage is only viewed after an incident, when it might or might not help in a conviction.

    Which doesn't mean I like it in principle. But there is an argument about perspective, in practice.

  2. This is so true. I've been complaining about this very thing for a while now. Countless times I've seen photographers stopped by burly neon security guards outside Manchester's Piccadilly Station. They've stopped me too. Our only crime was to take a picture of the fairly nondescript headquarters of GMTE who run the buses and trams. The irony is that the TV is full of 'cop' shows that cite the right to film freely on the public highway as the reason to show the faces of people stopped by the police.

    Arbitrary authorities permeate our culture and too many of us accept it without thinking. Just last week I had a furious row on the station with guards who wanted me to stand to one side when I was waiting to buy a ticket. They told me that if I stood in the queue, I might run away without paying. On a better day, I might have accepted this accusation of guilt before I'd committed a crime. It always seems like the English thing to do except that I'm sure that it isn't. More of us should complain. Loudly.

  3. The last time I was in Britain (the early 80's) I was searched everywhere I went because of some IRA problem.

  4. As for authority which I despise -

    "All great truths begin as blasphemies."
    George Bernard Shaw

    "Science commits suicide when she adopts a creed."
    Thomas Henry Huxley