The Power of Fear

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The government is indeed attempting to rule through the politics of fear by 'putting security at the centre' of its programme ('Here Comes the Fear', January SR). It is exploiting bitter public anxieties over the (very real) threat of terrorism.

It was ever the device of tyrants to argue that 'at this dangerous time we need security not rights... these "rights" are merely loopholes exploited by the evil and dangerous... they have to be sacrificed for the public good... etc'. These arguments echo and scream down the bloodstained corridor.

Identity cards will be used to harass the vulnerable, especially ethnic minorities, who will be called on to produce them endlessly. Those not immediately able to produce cards will be held (and sometimes hit) at police stations until cards are forthcoming, or longer.

There will be a £1,000 fine, no doubt later increased to jail, for those failing to register their address when moving. This is a vast and authoritarian extension of state power and control. At present only sexual offenders have to register their address.

The government already has a database of faces, culled from video surveillance of people attending demonstrations. Now they will be able to run these pictures through the computer, and put faces and addresses to those names.

The government has also floated a plan for special 'terror courts'. 'Terrorist' suspects will be tried in secret kangaroo courts, on a balance of probabilities standard of proof, before biased judges (no decent or principled judge will take part-it will only be the unscrupulous and ambitious that volunteer). This will be on the basis of 'intelligence' reports (spies always report what their spymasters want to hear) and evidence not disclosed to them - something straight out of Kafka's The Trial.

The proposed 'terrorist orders', again a biased, unjust proceeding not requiring proper proof, will be a stronger version of the Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos), already used to harass the vulnerable (some Asbos are justified, others aren't), and used against peaceful demonstrators. They will endanger the lives of their recipients, and their families and children's lives, from public backlash.

Anyone not wanting to live in a police state should remember Pastor Niemöller's experience of 'and then they came for me', and strain every nerve to prevent the government's 'power by fear and witch-hunt' strategy. Otherwise what colour triangles this time?

V Townley
London