Little Brother is Watching: English Police Show Elementary Students a Video on Reporting Extreme Views

imageslogoElementary students in England are being shown a Lancashire Police film where a lion and a cat tell them to turn in people who espouse dangerous thoughts. It is the latest work of the Preventing Violent Extremism office, which seeks to uncover extremists in the country like Guy Fawkes.

I am a firm believer using public school to instill tolerance and teach pluralism. However, enlisting children to report extremist statements makes me very comfortable and seems to send the wrong message on free speech. Ironically, they reference Guy Fawkes, who sought to blow up Parliament. Fawkes is the historical hero in the movie V, which features an England where freedoms are curtailed in the name of fighting unseen terrorists. T011533A

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35 thoughts on “Little Brother is Watching: English Police Show Elementary Students a Video on Reporting Extreme Views”

  1. Remember folks: Every time you talk about Big Brother, you make Orwell’s ghost cry.

    From “Politics and Writing,”

    “I think the following rules will cover most cases:

    (i) Never use a metaphor, simile or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.”

  2. its just another sign in a disturbing conflagration of signs that the apocalypse is near. or 1984. or the 4th reich. depending on your brand of vodka.

  3. A.Y.,

    You’re right.

    I’m also glad so many people are quoting Orwell on the blog because his writings are of great value to our time. Chris Hidgens did a short interview on Orwell on NPR. He said that Orwell was interested in understanding why people followed a totalitarian leader. I think that is a very important question. No dictator can survive with out the willing aquiensence of a great deal of the populace. Certainly, the UK plan to start child informants out early is a great way to make mindless compliance to authority seem absolutely normal. There is something about a “strong man” that must speak deeply to the human mind. I believe every person is capable of suspending their own judgment and joining a cult/party/strongman if the circumstances are right. Why we suspend our own judgement and ethics in the service of another’s power is important to understand. It does seem that we tend to identify with the strong and disregard the protection of the weak or different. These are dangerous human tendancies when left unchecked and unnoticed. We can move out of obediance to authority, but it takes some doing.

  4. For anyone interested in Orwell’s beliefs in his own words, his essays are available online here:

    http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/o/orwell/george/o79e/

    I especially recommend “Why I write,” “Writers and Leviathan,” and “Politics and the English Language.” The others are usually pretty good (I disagree with his take on Mark Twain), just not particularly relevant to the current topic.

  5. IS,

    Actually Orwell was a self described democratic socialist (I think he uses the term to describe himself in “Why I Write,” but it’s been a long time since I’ve read his essay’s so I could be wrong on that). 1984 was a warning against run away capitalism as much as run away socialism. One of the main points was that totalianarism is totalianarism, no matter what linguistic trappings it may cloak itself in.

    From a letter to Francis A. Henson, “My recent novel [Nineteen Eighty-Four] is NOT intended as an attack on Socialism or on the British Labour Party (of which I am a supporter) but as a show-up of the perversions … which have already been partly realized in Communism and Fascism.”

    Your freedom ends where mine begins. That’s the whole point of the law. Why should companies have more freedom than individuals? Regulation is necassary to have the most freedom for the most people. Since you don’t cry “I’m not free because I can’t steal from my neighbors” I’m sure you recognize that fact.

  6. Jill 1, June 10, 2009 at 10:17 am

    And besides, using children as homeland security surveillance monitors is against child labor laws. In this time of economic peril when adults are losing jobs, do we really want children taking these duties from adults? Should it not be the job of adults to surreptitiously jot down and report dangerous criticisms of the govt. by their friends, family and neighbors?
    ************

    Of Course Ronald W. Regan did it for the Screen Actors Guild. I think we tried it here in the US and it is called McCarthyism.

  7. And besides, using children as homeland security surveillance monitors is against child labor laws. In this time of economic peril when adults are losing jobs, do we really want children taking these duties from adults? Should it not be the job of adults to surreptitiously jot down and report dangerous criticisms of the govt. by their friends, family and neighbors?

  8. Orwell wasnt talking about conservatives,
    funny how most people on this site are center left when it comes to economics but seem to have the same opinion of individual liberty as do most right of center.

    Very interesting, indeed.

    can you have individual liberty without economic freedom and vice versa?

  9. “At the age of three Comrade Ogilvy had refused all toys except a drum, a sub- machine gun, and a model helicopter. At six—a year early, by a special relaxation of the rules—he had joined the Spies, at nine he had been a troop leader. At eleven he had denounced his uncle to the Thought Police after overhearing a conversation which appeared to him to have criminal tendencies. At seventeen he had been a district organizer of the Junior Anti-Sex League. At nineteen he had designed a hand-grenade which had been adopted by the Ministry of Peace and which, at its first trial, had killed thirty-one Eurasian prisoners in one burst. At twenty-three he had perished in action.” . . . “He had no subjects of conversation except the principles of Ingsoc, and no aim in life except the defeat of the Eurasian enemy and the hunting-down of spies, saboteurs, thoughtcriminals, and traitors generally.”

    – George Orwell, 1984

    And just to remind you, yet more from the same . . .

    “‘You haven’t a real appreciation of Newspeak, Winston,’ he said almost sadly. ‘Even when you write it you’re still thinking in Oldspeak. I’ve read some of those pieces that you write in The
    Times occasionally. They’re good enough, but they’re translations. In your heart you’d prefer to stick to Oldspeak, with all its vagueness and its useless shades of meaning. You don’t grasp the beauty of the destruction of words. Do you know that Newspeak is the only language in the world whose vocabulary gets smaller every year?’
    Winston did know that, of course. He smiled, sympathetically he hoped, not trusting himself to speak. Syme bit off another fragment of the dark-coloured bread, chewed it briefly, and went on:
    ‘Don’t you see that the whole aim of Newspeak is to narrow the range of thought? In the end we shall make thoughtcrime literally impossible, because there will be no words in which to
    express it. Every concept that can ever be needed, will be expressed by exactly one word, with its meaning rigidly defined and all its subsidiary meanings rubbed out and forgotten. Already, in the Eleventh Edition, we’re not far from that point. But the process will still be continuing long after
    you and I are dead. Every year fewer and fewer words, and the range of consciousness always a little smaller. Even now, of course, there’s no reason or excuse for committing thoughtcrime. It’s merely a question of self-discipline, reality-control. But in the end there won’t be any need even for that. The Revolution will be complete when the language is perfect. Newspeak is Ingsoc and Ingsoc is Newspeak,’ he added with a sort of mystical satisfaction. ‘Has it ever occurred to you, Winston, that by the year 2050, at the very latest, not a single human being will be alive who could understand such a conversation as we are having now?’
    ‘Except-‘ began Winston doubtfully, and he stopped.
    It had been on the tip of his tongue to say ‘Except the proles,’ but he checked himself, not feeling fully certain that this remark was not in some way unorthodox. Syme, however, had
    divined what he was about to say.
    ‘The proles are not human beings,’ he said carelessly. ‘ By 2050 earlier, probably — all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been
    destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron— they’ll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually changed into something contradictory of
    what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like “freedom is slavery” when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is
    unconsciousness.’”

  10. The Brits are not doing well on the democracy front lately. The
    definition of “extremist” is indeed a slippery slope.

    Great quote as usual Mespo and your Emerson one on the other thread is one of my favorite truisms.

  11. “And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there? Cruelty and injustice, intolerance and oppression. And where once you had the freedom to object, to think and speak as you saw fit, you now have censors and systems of surveillance coercing your conformity and soliciting your submission. How did this happen? Who’s to blame? Well certainly there are those more responsible than others, and they will be held accountable, but again truth be told, if you’re looking for the guilty, you need only look into a mirror. I know why you did it. I know you were afraid. Who wouldn’t be? War, terror, disease. There were a myriad of problems which conspired to corrupt your reason and rob you of your common sense. Fear got the best of you, …”

    V in “V is for Vendetta.”

  12. In response to Mike’s comments, I suggest that the phrases “extremist views” and “dangerous thoughts” are equally lacking in meaning within the context of freedom of speech. Indeed, we are daily reminded in our own country that Pres. Obama holds “extremist views,” despite a disappointingly moderate approach on many issues. We are also told that his presidency has imperiled our safety and that his policies are dangerous and despotic.

  13. Mike 1, June 10, 2009 at 8:52 am

    Your presentation is disingenuous – according to the source article, the police in Lancashire (rather than the whole of England) are encouraging children to report people who express extremist views, which is a far cry from “dangerous thoughts”.
    ************************

    I don’t know where you have been isolating. But I would like to point out the following: The 4th Amendment has no Applicability outside of the US. See Noriega, a bad start to all of the rest.

    A Police Officer was able to use as a pre-text stop for a visual obstruction in a passenger automobile. Maybe I am wrong, but did not the Sct finally say that it was wrong as it was vague and the cops can’t do it anymore.

    Take the seatbelt issue, started out as a 2ndary offense. Now it is a primary offense. It saves lives. Well maybe I don’t want my life save and I don’t like to feel restricted. Wear the thing if you want.

    I think the point is sometimes the little ole non offensive situations create bigger head aches, in the long run.

    It kind of reminds me of the UCCSEA that came into existence about 1999, all states had to adopt. It had a provision that made it a felony for non-support of children. That provision sat dormant for about 3 years before it was enforced. The an ah ha moment set in and it was a new tool for the enforcement agency’s to use. One of the responses I heard, well its been on the books for a long time. It was but just not enforced or used. Stupidty has its consequences.

  14. When I was young, this is what I was told communists taught their children to do.

  15. Your presentation is disingenuous – according to the source article, the police in Lancashire (rather than the whole of England) are encouraging children to report people who express extremist views, which is a far cry from “dangerous thoughts”.

  16. This makes me about as comfortable as a cat in a shower, an elephant and a mouse, a late night in Harlem, a safe date in SFO, a cop on the witness stand, a Judge in Virginia, and Cheney in charge.

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