Wednesday, December 22, 2004

When is it time to be scared?

Smallest Minority has a piece on 'thought crimes', and ramifications thereof. And it's worrisome.

A few years ago I would not have been really worried about it; concerned, yes, but not worried. But things have changed. In all too many places- in this country- you can wind up being arrested for saying or doing something that hurts someone's feelings; that's a hate crime, now. Point out a few inconvenient facts, speak on opinion that's not PC, and you just might go to jail.

Over the years, now, official attitudes toward criticism have gotten worse. You could almost always get in trouble for actually threatening the government, or an agency, but now... say something someone decides is too critical, and various initial-agencies are looking into your finances, what letters and e-mail you send, what groups you belong to.

And I'm worried about it.

Government has become more, almost immune, to action by people who have been wronged. How may cases have we heard of over the last couple of years where some law enforcement agency raided the wrong house and killed someone? and then everyone involved walked away from any official action because 'departmental guidelines were followed '. The family may be able to sue, but it'll cost a fortune, and drag on... and in some cases, you may have to get a judge to give you permission to sue.
And, if you become a pest, the agency may decide that something they saw while they were ransacking your home(that they broke into by mistake) is enough to charge you with something. And so forth.

Add to that the fact that more and more, some people become actually scared at the thought of finding themselves on some government watch list because they said, or wrote, something some beaurocrat or law enforcement type objected to.

Sir Robert Peel wrote his Principles of Policing (scroll down a bit) in what was a fairly homogenous society, but the priciples worked pretty good here, too, for quite a while. Read Mr. Copper's whole post; what's gone wrong in Britain is wrong here, too. The biggest one, maybe, being the extent of the "Us-Them" attitude. It means people are less likely to cooperate with an officer/s who obviously hold them in contempt; it makes it a lot easier for a bad cop to get away with things, and makes a good cop more likely to do bad things. And a follow-on, judges who, more than ever, see themselves as Holy Men of the Law giving the peasants the word on how to behave.

This rambles on a bit, but it's connected. When various government reps feel they can put you on a list for saying something objectionable; when cops feel they can treat anyone like crap for what boils down to 'because I feel like it'; when judges can basically say the Constitution says what they think it does; when government agencies can make law with elected officials either not having say in it or not caring; and when all the above think that as soon as they show their ID you're supposed to abase yourself before them, no matter what, then we have some very big problems.

It remains to be seen whether enough of we the people care enough to use our votes to straighten it out.

1 comment:

Noddy said...

Eh, and I haven't I been talking about this for years - starting with "PC Speak"? When you change the meaning of the words, you change how people think. "Pro-choice" once meant the freedom to choose - anything, now it means "baby killer", no matter in what context you use the word.