Friday, September 30, 2005

The Orwells...No.6

Given that I landed in the UK from Singapore this morning, you wouldn't think I'd have any difficulty coming up with a good Orwell or two. After all, the place has built up a hell of a reputation for being, ah, Orwellian - corporative state in all but name, puppet press, caning, hangings every time the bell strikes, LOTS of evil mass surveillance tech (of which more anon)...and as far as I saw, at least one splenetically hostile article on the Dangers of Blog in every edition of the Straits Times.

But then, there's always our own dear government. The 84 year old German emigre and lifelong Labour member who got manhandled and detained under the Prevention of Terrorism Act for saying "Nonsense!" to Jack Straw - well, the story's been done to death by every other blogger and his or her troll. Meh.

One thing that caught my eye from the Labour Party conference, though, was Tone's latest nugget of policy brilliance. I give you the Instant Asbo: according to the Grauniad, these interim Asbos would be "granted to the police without evidence or witnesses having to be heard or the defendant informed." So, you could soon be wapped with an Asbo to force you to stop doing anything at all, even if it's not against the law, or go to jail - without even being told about it first. George would have loved it. The really nasty thing about thoughtcrime, if you remember 1984, was that you didn't know you were going to do it until it happened to you and the damage was done. (Incidentally, this idea he developed by way of the essay Such, Such Were The Joys, about his schooling - the key point was that the strictures of society were both absolute and impossible to meet..)

This raises interesting possibilities. The range of activities that could possibly fall into the category of anti-social behaviour must be not far off infinite, allowing for future inventions and changes in the law, which by their very nature are unpredictable. Far better to assume that criminality is a quantum phenomenon, and that in much the same way as Schrödinger's cat was both alive and dead until it was observed, we are all in both the states "guilty" and "innocent" until our arrest. Obviously, it would be a needless layer of bureaucracy to have the police request them individually, seeing as they don't need to offer evidence or inform the subject.

So - why not universal Asbo conscription? At the stroke of a pen, everyone in Britain - hell, in these globalised times, why not the entire world just in case? - could have their very own Asbo covering any and all antisocial behaviour they might engage in. Then, if you went to the bad, your local bobby on the beat could instantly tear you off an on-the-spot jail sentence and have you blued into the Brideswell like a shot. Securing Britain's future.

Can somebody please tell me this was a malicious fabrication by some disgruntled sub-editor?

Meanwhile, if you do want a Singapore Orwell candidate, the nameless hack whose news-in-brief on Lynndie England's conviction ended "..who was photographed abusing detainees in an area of the prison where the administrative clerk had no official business" does it for me.

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