The Paranoid Strain in British Politics

The paranoid strain in British politics runs deep and wide. A large proportion of the population believes that we now live in an Orwellian “surveillance society”, in which private and public databases record our lives while security cameras track our movements. So ingrained has the fear become that respectable academics and journalists repeat as fact the claim that the average Briton is caught on CCTV cameras “300 times a day”, even though the “fact” was the invention of one Clive Norris, a sociologist from Sheffield University with a gift for fiction.

An opposing and equally large proportion is paranoid about crime. It believes that we need even more state snooping because we live in “broken Britain”, a land awash with guns, knives, drugs, booze, benefit cheats, crack whores and feral youths. (A small but impressive minority manages to hold both fears in their minds simultaneously, I should add, while displaying no apparent awareness of the contradiction.)

The price of liberty may be eternal paranoia – only by watching the state obsessively can citizens stop it acquiring more powers – but the murder of Joanna Yeates shows the scant connection between supposedly intelligent debate about crime and actual crime…

Carry on reading

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2 thoughts on “The Paranoid Strain in British Politics

  1. I like it when such statistics are exposed as nonsense; and David Aaronovich finely done it with this one.
    It’s a very good point about the surveillance and the crime-scale thinking. I agree with the final two points of the piece.

  2. Love the gloves! I have ptohos of my small upstate town from the 1930’s and 40’s… one of the things that really struck me is how dressed the women were whenever they left the house. Hats and gloves were always worn- at least by respectable women;-) Wonder how many odd looks I’d get if I started wearing gloves and a hat whenever I ventured out to… W*lmart, for example!

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