Wednesday, December 24, 2008

The same problems everywhere

It looks like New Zealand is not the only country to have problems with the police criminalising dissent and using anti-terrorist units to spy on lawful protest. Writing in the Guardian, George Monbiot explains how the UK's National Extremism Tactical Co-ordination Unit (Netcu) - originally established to keep an eye on terrorism - has expanded its business to keep an eye on bird-watchers, otter-spotters, and other "dangerous extremists".

To illustrate the threats it confronts, the Netcu site carries images of people marching with banners, of peace campaigners standing outside a military base, and of the Rebel Clown Army (whose members dress up as clowns to show that they have peaceful intentions).
Well, we can't have any of that in a democracy now, can we? Imagine it! People peacefully expressing their views and disagreeing with the government! Clearly a Danger To Society which must be monitored. For our own good, of course.

Why do they think protestors are dangerous? Here's an example of their "thinking":

t was this Paranoia Squad that briefed the Observer last month about "eco-terrorists". The article maintained that "a lone maverick eco-extremist may attempt a terrorist attack aimed at killing large numbers of Britons". The only evidence it put forward was that someone in Earth First! had stated that the world was overpopulated. This, it claimed, meant that the movement might attempt a campaign of annihilation. The same could be said about the UN, the Optimum Population Trust, and anyone else who has expressed concern about population levels.
Right, so in Netcu's eyes, pointing out a problem means you are automatically going to kill people and blow stuff up to solve it. Where do they find these paranoid loons?

But the real reason, as in New Zealand, seems to be budgetary. Until recently, they've been kept busy monitoring the UK's animal rights movement (members of which have engaged in violent and criminal behaviour). But that strand of the movement seems to have been largely defeated, and so NECTU would be out of a job. Unless, of course, it found some new threats to monitor. And hey presto, they start fearmongering about "eco-terrorism" and demonising protestors to keep themselves in work. It's almost funny - until you realise that they are undermining democracy and ruining lives in order to keep themselves in business.

As in New Zealand, the UK's "anti-terrorism" seem to be completely out of control. And as in new Zealand, its time they were put back on a very short leash. But advocating that - accountability and democratic control of policing policy - probably makes me a "violent extremist".