Friday, 11 September 2009

Totalitarian Britain

totalitarian >adjective (of government) centralized, dictatorial, and requiring complete subservience to the state.

I was going to post something about the growing totalitarianism of the British state, but Pete Sanlon has done a good job of it here.

Comments should be posted on his site.

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24 comments:

  1. I may be wrong, but as far as I remember the governments of Hitler and Stalin and Mao Tse Tung, totalitarian governments, did not make it a priority to make children safe from sexual attack by checking on the reliability of people who were trusted to be alone with them. To say that the proposed measures are sign of totalitarian government is simply to devalue the language. Given that clergy have been among the worst offenders in this area I would have thought that a little more care would be appropriate in discussing this issue.

    Frank. Merseyside.

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  2. Frank, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wishing to protect children. The question is whether the approach that says, "We need a state database on which everyone who, for example, regularly gives lifts to children will be registered," is necessarily the only or best way of ensuring this protection.

    Totalitarianism is seen in the attitude that says "This must be controlled by us keeping an eye on everyone." This 'Trust us, don't trust your neighbour' attitude is itself socially corrupting.

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  3. Western legislators, on both sides of the Atlantic, have forgotten that they govern by consent of the people. They think of themselves as the people's masters instead of their servants.
    Parliamentary expenses scandals and their trnasatlantic equivalent are symptons of this abusive mindset among the political class.
    The Augean stables need to be cleansed.
    Mark B.

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  4. Again, you corrupt language. Checking on the acceptablility of people who are trusted on their own with other people's children is not the same thing as 'keeping an eye on everyone'. There is absolutely no way in which this can legitimately be described as 'totalitarian'. George Orwell, who knew a a bit about totalitarian governments, would have recognised your approach as manipulating language for political effect. Now, that is a mark of the totalitarian cast of mind. See 'Politics and the English Language'.

    Frank. Merseyside

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  5. Frank, I think your response to my and Peter's expressions of concern are OTT. If you look around at other responses, you'll find we're by no means the only ones to be deeply concerned.

    I will agree to differ with you. Time will tell as to whether these concerns are valid.

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  6. Frank doesn't understand how the modern state works, nor the implications of this legislation, which are indeed implicitly totalitarian.
    It's all about extending control into the voluntary, private and heretofore perfectly free actions of citizens, and criminalizing behavior that in the past - and present - has been considered socially good.
    Consider these facts:
    1. The UK has more CCTVs than any other nation on earth per capita (don't know about North Korea).
    2. Police checks are required for millions of people.
    3. The crime rate has doubled in the past 40 years.
    4. Ctiizen's 'unacceptable' speech, beliefs and clothing styles are being monitored.
    This is what has become of the UK. Orwell would understand how it happened - after all the Ministry of Truth was based on the BBC!

    Mark B.

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  7. Oh, dear. Why have you ignored my point and just accused me of being OTT? Well, I think the answer is, because you are using a common debating technique of accusing someone of being guilty of the erro you have just committed.
    My point was a serious one about moderate language. I pointed out that checking on the acceptablility of people who are trusted on their own with other people's children is not the same thing as 'keeping an eye on everyone'.
    Now, if anyone is being OTT it is you, when you make that equivalence.
    Of course many people agree with what you have said. Though many people MAY be right, weight of numbers is no evidence of truth.
    Please, can you address my point that a simple check on certain people, trusted with children is not the same as 'keeping an eye on everyone'?
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  8. Frank, it is clear that you and I have a different perception about the principles behind current legislation and the direction in which it is taking Britain. I believe it is 'totalitarian', and that this is manifested in the kinds of legislation we are seeing. You do not.

    You are not going to persuade me otherwise, just as I am surely not going to persuade you. That's about as far as we're going to get, I suspect.

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  9. I can see that, but what I'm interested in is whether you really believe that the government's asking people to register if they want access to young people is the same as the government 'keeping an eye on everyone'? It's a simple and specific question.
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  10. Frank, if you want a one word answer, it is 'no'.

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  11. Frank
    you wrote

    "Please, can you address my point that a simple check on certain people, trusted with children is not the same as 'keeping an eye on everyone'?"

    That point is easily addressed. It is not a simple check but a comprehensive database in which information about people working with children is sifted by faceless bureaucrats and decisions made about their suitability to work with children, made with little or no right of appeal.

    Implicit in this scheme is the *presumption* of possible guilt. In other words innocence is not assumed but has to be proven. This is contrary to what has always been a fundamental principle of English law that you are innocent until proven guilty.

    It is also one of the characteristics of totalitarian societies where people are viewed with suspicion as potential offenders and need to be 'kept an eye on' just in case they may be transgressors. I would imagine that anyone from an ex-communist state would understand the implications of this proposal all too well.

    The irony of this is such a system the Government proposes, would not have stopped people like Ian Huntley for which information on his predilections was already known. It was not acted upon, due to the incompetence by the respective police forces involved who failed to act on the information they possessed.

    In fact they deleted it!

    Chris Bishop
    Devon

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  12. John, if you didn't think it, then you shouldn't have said it.

    Chris, no one who wants to be in a position of trust with children is on trial for an offence, so the presumption of innocence is not an issue. It I want a builder to do work in my house, I want some proof of his ability. If I go to the dentist, I want to be sure she has qualified. If I want someone to be on their own with my children, in their car, then I want some indication that the person is not a danger.

    Here's a definition of totalitarian government:

    'Totalitarian regimes or movements maintain themselves in political power by means of an official all-embracing ideology and propaganda disseminated through the state-controlled mass media, a single party that controls the state, personality cults, control over the economy, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, the use of mass surveillance, and widespread use of state terrorism.'

    I don't see any of that in our country. To equate this register (which will probably never be made) with totalitarian government is at best foolish, at worst, mischievous.
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  13. John, there's something unchristianly unattractive about not accepting you made a mistake, then evading the issue, then just descending to sarcasm in order to avoid a retraction. Is this a serious blog?
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  14. Frank,

    I did not equate the register with a totalitarian government. I said it has characteristics that are similar to those found in totalitarian societies.

    Your analogy with dentists and builders and so on is incongruous at least. These people go through recognised training and are certified by their peers. They also have rights of appeal and representation in their own profession.

    In the case of the proposed register, no such right of appeal or representation is possible. The information would be collected and sifted by individuals whose decisions you cannot challenge. Someone could make a malicious allegation or falsehood about you which would then be recorded even if it was not true.

    Under the current proposals you would have no right to question that. A faceless bureaucrat who has never met you would make a decision about whether they thought this information was relevant or not and even it wasn't, it would still remain on your file.

    Your definition of a totalitarian regime includes the statement 'regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism'.

    Well Frank, the proposed register will certainly regulate and it will restrict free discussion and criticism of any decision that it made about an individuals suitability to work with children. You will not have the right to criticize or appeal it. That seem to me to be a characteristic of totalitarianism and not one that should be expected in a liberal democracy.

    Chris Bishop
    Devon

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  15. Frank,

    Your analogy completely undermines your argument. If I want to know someone is safe to be with my children, then I want to speak to people who know them. A government register will be hopelessly inadequate to do that.

    As for your defintion of totalitarianism: An official all-embracing ideology, yup - secular humanism; propaganda disseminated - yup, 'sex education', it's great to be gay, 'tolerance', climate warriors; state-controlled mass media - not quite, though I'm sure they'll be targeted soon by the regulation culture; single party control thankfully not; personality cult, not for lack of trying, Gordon doesn't quite have Tony's charm; control over the economy - yup, ever-increasing.

    Most of all 2 of your last 3, regulation and restriction of free discussion and criticism, and mass surveillance haev been the two biggest hallmarks of New Labour's reign of terror.

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  16. There's a 'direction test' that's applied to see which governments are oppressive and which are free. You just see which direction people move in. The movement of people for the last fifty years or more has been away from communist countries and away from Islamic countries towards western europe, particularly the UK and towards the USA. People don't bang down the doors to get into totalitarian states. The depressing this is, that some of the natives of these free countries have no idea how lucky they are, and when some perfectly ordinary ordinance is suggested to make life safer, they scream 'oppression' 'police state'. There are plenty of totalitarian regimes in the world the but UK and the USA are not among them, and it doesn't help to pretend we are.
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  17. The most telling 'direction test' as to the perniciousness of this proposed law is the opposition from those who have a professional interest in the protection of children.

    These include the police officer who ran the Soham investigation which inspired it, the Civil Servant Sir Michael Bichard who set it up, children organizations like the NSPCC and opposition politicians including those on the Government's own side. They all think it OTT.

    see for example

    http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/guest_contributors/articles/6834362.ece

    Their direction is not in the same one as this this legislation. As one President of one of our democracies once stated:

    " The most terrifying words in the English language are: ' I'm from the Government and I'm here to help'. "

    Chris Bishop
    Devon

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  18. Thanks, Chris, when someone uses quotes from Ronald Reagan to argue against you, you know you've won.
    Frank. Merseyside.

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  19. Frank, I rather think your last post to Chris regarding Ronald Regan is essentially an 'ad hominem' argument, and therefore fallacious.

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  20. John, erm, no. And as you are unable to reply to any of my points, I think it's best for you not to drop in to the debate at this point with a red herring.

    Frank. Mersyside.

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  21. Frank, erm, yes. But I admire your cheek in telling me to keep off my own blog!

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  22. John, erm, no. Referring Reagan (note the spelling, please) is not an ad hominem act. He was the representative of and spokesman for a style of politics, so, using his name is a shorthand for the philosophy, not an invocation of him as a private individual.
    As for telling you to keep off your own blog, I'm actually encouraging you to address points when they are made, rather than ignore them because you're proved wrong.
    Frank. Merseyside.

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