Orwell, though shouldst be …

Several efforts to start a blog post over the last few weeks have been effectively thwarted by “colleagues” in the blogosphere whose fingers are closer to the pulse than mine and who consequently are quicker off the mark than I am.

My apologies to my reader!

What has stirred me into action this morning — as an alternative to tying in raspberry canes and cleaning up the debris from last season — is a classic piece of political dishonesty which for once has nothing to do with climate change or the EU and is an entirely home-grown attack on the liberty of the citizen which will have the effect of increasing governmental control of the activities of every UK resident while probably doing nothing to improve security.

But then, it is worth asking whether security or control is the aim.

The Coalition’s proposal to make every email, web site access and telephone call liable to official scrutiny is dishonest because both parties were insistent as part of the Coalition Agreement that they would “end the storage of internet and email records without good reason”.

It is also dishonest — and this is the main reason I have reached for my laptop today — because there is no good reason and they know there is no good reason.

How do we know this? Simply because all they can do to justify this latest example of totalitarianism (oh yes it is!) is to trot the tired old excuses that such intrusion into the lives of its citizens is necessary to combat terrorism and serious crime such as paedophile networks. Press the right buttons and you’ll always get the sheeple to nod docilely and say “baa”. Only what “they” haven’t realised is that even for the sheeple the combat-terrorism-and-paedophile networks excuse is starting to wear a bit thin.

Now I’m no expert but I reckon that the number of active terrorists in the UK is in the tens or hundreds rather than the thousands and probably pretty much the same goes for paedophile networks so this whole charade becomes what that great libertarian Christopher Booker once described as “taking a sledgehammer to miss a nut”.

More effective, you would think, would be to infiltrate these networks perhaps using some of the staff at GCHQ which could be made redundant if this crazy scheme were binned (as it probably will be) or possibly some of the airport security staff – see below – whose purpose is beginning to look increasingly pointless since the number of people caught doing anything as a result of airport security checks is probably not unrelated to zero. Nobody will say what the figure is but the answer is usually couched in terms that suggest it is somewhere close to none.

Such action, however, would require a bit of effort on the part of our magnificent police force and would also require an approach by the Liberati slightly less schizophrenic than we are used to.

Shami Chakrabarti of Liberty is quoted in today’s Daily Telegraph as saying:

It is a pretty drastic step in a democracy.

Quite right, Shami, indeed it is, but the question is whether you and all the other bien pensant bleeding hearts are prepared to condone the logical alternative which is some form of profiling coupled with police infiltration, sting operations, and agents provocateurs. What do you say?

Meanwhile in looking for some background to this piece I came across this which is relevant.

In May last year, Michael White, writing in his column in The Guardian, said:

Though I do my best to grin and bear it when harassed by security staff at airports  … deep down I’m mildly irritated … Do I really look like a terrorist rather than a kindly old gent?

Well, his photograph certainly suggests he is a rather kindly old gent but he continues:

I suppose security staff would say: Well, we have to be fair to everyone’ – and I suppose they’re right.

Wrong, Michael, on so many counts.

In the first place, “being fair to everyone” is not what airport security is about. The object of the exercise is to deter and apprehend potential and actual terrorists from detonating bombs on aircraft not to inconvenience every law-abiding traveller.

In the second place it is the supine acquiescence by all of us — politically correct journalists no less than the rest — that allows governments to treat their own citizens like cattle on the flimsiest of excuses.

Passing through Geneva a couple of weeks ago — an airport which at least appears to make an attempt to carry out its security checks speedily and efficiently — I passed through the gate without difficulty. Even the metal buckles on my belt failed to interest the machine.

Two days later, identically dressed but without the belt which the airport I was returning through (I shan’t name it) insisted I remove, the machine took exception. The officer found nothing amiss and opined that every now and again the machine felt he ought to do some work so simply ‘pinged’ a passenger at random. He may have been joking; there is no way to be sure.

I don’t know whether anyone has ever bothered to consider exactly what you are not allowed to carry onto an aircraft but in a nutshell if you avoid anything metal and liquid containers bigger than 100 ml you’re fine.

I can’t help feeling that a devoted terrorist, especially one not averse to the idea of a one-way trip to 35,000 feet and straight on up from there, would be able to find several ways round these restrictions even if you exclude the use of shoes and underpants both of which have been tried and came fairly close to succeeding!

Which leaves as the main purpose of airport checks, especially when applied to kindly old gents like Michael White (and me!), heavy-handed control of the population. Remember H L Mencken’s dictum:

“The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.”

He also said:

“Every normal man must be tempted at times to spit on his hands, hoist the black flag, and begin to slit throats.”

If government doesn’t watch out those times will be a-coming even in such a docile country as Great Britain has become.

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