Posts Tagged ‘paranoia’

The spy in the bathtub, part one

Sunday, September 26th, 2010

The cliché holds that I should begin my article with "It was like the plot to a spy thriller", so I won't.
This is the longest article I have written so far, but I hope you will persevere.

Police line outside 36 Alderney Street, after the discovery

Police broke down the door of Gareth Williams' flat at 36 Alderney Street after he had not been seen for "at least 10 days". Work colleagues had become concerned. At first the story was not heavily-reported, but it soon became clear what "work" this was.

Gareth Williams worked for GCHQ, effectively the UK equivalent of the United States NSA. GCHQ is responsible for SIGINT (signals intelligence) for the British state, i.e. communications interception and the decryption of data collected. The agency has several listening stations, in Britain and abroad in places like Cyprus, and monitors various communications systems.

Escape velocity

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

Outside the city,
The scientist thought was safe
Lies now, falling leaves.

True terror is…

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009
They probably feel the same way about me.

They probably feel the same way about me.

Pervert Paranoia!

Sunday, September 6th, 2009


An article here from the London Evening Standard:
Father-of-three branded a 'pervert' - for photographing his own children in public park

Yes, it's another story about someone being stopped from taking photos in a public place. There will be more posts on this topic...

When Gary Crutchley started taking pictures of his children playing on an inflatable slide he thought they would be happy reminders of a family day out.
But the innocent snaps of seven-year-old Cory, and Miles, five, led to him being called a ‘pervert’.

You can read the article to see the usual moral-panic reactions from the "twitching-curtain biddies" (thanks Hugh!).

The most interesting points raised come from the end of the article and the comments:

Mr Gwinnett, 58, a LibDem councillor in Wolverhampton, said: ‘Our policy is to ask people taking photos whether they have children on the slide. If they do, then that is fine.

Here we see appeasement of the reactionary element, denying simple rights on the basis of perceived threat. I don't see why it shouldn't be legal to photograph any child. The assumption that anyone doing so (only men, of course) must be a paedophile or pervert of some type is sickening. Children provide very subjects for photography, with their innocence of and curiosity towards the world.

Even more worrying is that the more expensive your equipment, the more harassed you are likely to be. Despite 5Mpixel tiny camera phones, and high resolution cheap point and shoots, snapping away everywhere, if you spend over a grand on your equipment, you are suddenly a terrorist/pervert.

This one is rather difficult to explain. Why is a more professional tool seen as a threat? Is it because an SLR (for example) looks more like a camera than a point-and-shoot camera? Perhaps the mere effort of purchasing the right tool for the job is anathema to the undiscriminating prosumer. Or perhaps I have lapsed into flippancy.

We did not have this much fear in the 80s when the IRA were exploding bombs in London. Why is there so much fear today?

Not directly related to the topic at hand, but I digress.
Al-Qaeda and friends pose, in my relatively uninformed estimation, far less of a risk than the Provisional IRA did during the 1980s and 90s when they were bombing on the UK mainland. At that time, people tried not to let the terrorist campaign affect them. Bins were removed from train stations, but not a huge amount changed otherwise. Some attacks were perpetrated, some people died. Life continued.

Look at Britain now, cowering in fear of a few hundred potential terrorists, who might choose to attack at some stage. The attacks on the London transport system were surely horrible, but consider this:
Terrorists aim to force people to change their lives by violence. Since the attacks on New York on the 11th of September 2001, our legal, transport and surveillance systems have changed enormously, perhaps irreversibly. Our cultures and societies have been wholly infected by paranoia and mistrust.

We let the terrorists win.

Reds in my head

Monday, May 18th, 2009

The man on the park bench
Was a spy.
I know he was,
Because he said he wasn't.

Somewhere in my apartment
There's a bug.
But I can't find it,
They're too good at hiding things.

One time at night I heard
A click on the phone.
They're listening now,
So I don't talk any more.

John Lunney