Subjective Objectivity – The Blog of The Reasonable Man

November 14, 2010

From the Department of Tenuous Links…

Filed under: Uncategorized — mikeshotgun @ 2:40 am

Headline from the newspaper increasingly trying to establish its relevance The Observer:

NUS starts campaign to oust leading Lib Dems

Which contains mostly dumb NUS boilerplate combined with avid speculation about unrealistic political aims. (Seriously, did anyone who has ever attended a University think that the NUS was ever anything other a blowhard talking shop for the worst sort of student politician? Aaron Porter’s going to be tedious presence in our national discourse for the next few news cycles is all I can predict.)

When I saw the headline, I was going to write a post on the stupidity of this premise, but what’s weird is when the piece takes a turn for the dystopian:

As police face continued criticism for failing to control the march, the Observer has learned that defence firms are working closely with UK armed forces and contemplating a “militarisation” strategy to counter the threat of civil disorder.

The trade group representing the military and security industry says firms are in negotiation with senior officers over possible orders for armoured vehicles, body scanners and better surveillance equipment.

The move coincides with government-backed attempts to introduce the use of unmanned spy drones throughout UK airspace, facilitating an expansion of covert surveillance that could provide intelligence on future demonstrations.

Derek Marshall, of the trade body Aerospace, Defence and Security (ADS), said that such drones could eventually replace police helicopters.

He added that military manufacturers had discussed police procurement policies with the government, as forces look to counter an identified threat of civil disobedience from political extremists.

Meanwhile police sources say they have detected an increase in the criminal intentions of political extremists and are monitoring “extreme leftwing activity” in light of last week’s student protest.

The office of the National Co-ordinator for Domestic Extremism (NCDE) said it was feeding information to Scotland Yard’s National Public Order Intelligence Unit, which holds a database of protest groups. NCDE, which in turn works closely with the Confidential Intelligence Unit that monitors political groups throughout the UK, said it had already recorded a rise in politically motivated disorder.

An NCDE insider said: “Over the past year there has been an increase in the criminal activity committed by such individuals but this is committed by a very small minority”.

An internal Metropolitan police report is expected to be completed this week into why senior officers failed to anticipate the violence during last Wednesday’s student demonstration.

Ok… isn’t this an entirely different story? Or is the Observer trying to conflate the student protests with some sort of jack-booted authoritarian response to said protests? There’s actually four entirely different stories in the extract above, quite aside from the NUS storyline. Let me spell them out:

  1. Defence firms are working with UK armed forces to counter the threat of civil disorder
  2. Increased use of unarmed drones
  3. The domestic extremism watchdog notes an increase in the incidences of “extreme left-wing activity”
  4. The Metropolitan police are filing a report on their relatively passive response to the violence on Wednesday, which ties back into the opening sentence of story number one.

The conclusion we are invited to draw is: Tory Fascism!

Story one, by the way, has no basis beyond a trade group responding to orders for things that any law enforcement group worth its salt might want in the event of civil disorder. The word “militarisation” is not directly attributed to that, or any other source. The trade group is not named (maybe we should all know what “The” trade group for that industry is called. Sorry. Forgive my ignorance). Nor is the length of time that this co-operation has been going on. It could have been a legacy of the last government. Who knows? Probably the mysterious trade group.

Story two is old news. Unmanned drones have been in use over London for a couple years now. Now, unless you correctly fear the Robot Apocalypse, they are no more obnoxious in principle than the helicopter surveillance that they are replacing. The trade group here is named and there is a direct quote, which just adds the curiosity of story one and its lack of these crucial elements. You can tell this is a different story to number one, because of the use of the word “coincides”. 

Story three is really just a flipside of the sort of rather tame political extremism that have garnered attention over the last few years (BNP, EDL anyone?). If this had come first, I’d have accepted it as context, but it’s place here is really just paint a picture between the preceding “coincidences”. In fact, I’m surprised the story doesn’t use scare quotes in the same way. No, this part of the story is placed here simply to imply that the first two parts are a response to it. 

Story four should actually blunt fears. Remember the GSomethingOrOther protests where that guy died because of overzealous policing? Remember how everyone thought the police ought to take a more hands-off approach to protests, lest some similar shit repeat itself? Remember how that’s precisely what they did on Wednesday? There’s even an investigation into how light handed the police response was? This should be an encouraging, if clumsy, development on the part of the police, but that really wouldn’t suit the Narrative. 

And so the authoritarian Narrative is born. Sunny Hundal, for whom I increasingly losing respect, leaps all over this. Honestly, I’m going to need more than “The Observer has learned” followed by an incoherently strung narrative with minimal sourcing and zero attribution. Much like George Bush’s assertions on the efficacy of torture, I’m afraid you’re going to have to show your workings out before I lend any credence to this. 

I guess my point is – what the fuck does all this have to do with the National Union of Students’ political campaign strategy? Sheesh. If I’d known journalism was going to be this shitty I would have voted Labour to save myself the hypertension. 

Cross-posted at Something Quotable

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