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Thursday, August 13, 2020
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Home COVID-19 The army of citizen informers is on the march again

The army of citizen informers is on the march again

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In April, I wrote in TCW about Boris Johnson’s bid to apply Corbynism to the country and about the age of the informer, when ordinary citizens inform the authorities of people breaking the rules of the lockdown. 

Since then law-abiding citizens have continued to feel the force of a law indiscriminate in whom it arrests, fines or prosecutes. Though groups of only up to six were granted freedom to meet in public on June 1, thousands of Black Lives Matter protesters have been allowed to riot, and have been praised by the media and political class. Despite official warnings, to my knowledge no arrests or fines have been issued. How convenient.

The virus has dissipated but the government and media are still keen to continue their fearmongering, making mask wearing in shops (apart from sandwich shops) mandatory from July 24, a week today. If that wasn’t enough the government is once again keen for the public to help police by informing the authorities about rule breakers, as so succinctly put by Matt Hancock in Parliament recently:

At one minute into this clip you see Hancock informing the House that ‘the enforcement will be largely undertaken by the great British public.’ It doesn’t take a genius to figure out what Britian’s homegrown ‘gauleiter’ meant. He would like the informer culture, rallied when the lockdown came into place, to step up once again to ensure that anyone not adhering to this ridiculous policy be shamed or reported. For a man who recently talked about the ‘community spirit’ of the British people in light of all these restrictions, he has little idea of what community means or what a new age of the informer will mean to community cohesion.

For anyone whose memory is short, let me remind you of the official encouragement of the snitch culture when the lockdown came into force. Citizens were advised to report the actions of lockdown lawbreakers. The police received hundreds of thousands of calls from people reporting on their neighbours or other lockdown breaches. It’s hard to imagine how any of those communities will have healed since then with their inhabitants made paranoid about who to trust. With the muzzle restriction coming into force next week and the appalling Matt Hancock giving the green light again to citizen informers, the nation will only fracture further.

Needless to say the new rules on face coverings descended into chaos on Wednesday as Downing Street suggested they would not be mandatory in food shops just hours after Health Secretary Hancock said they would be. 

Nor has the government made clear who is medically exempt from wearing them. 

According to the medical magazine Pulse, a GP’s note is not required for face-covering exemptions. It reports however that public transport operators ‘have discretion over how their staff can enforce the regulation and that if prompted by staff, passengers should explain why they are exempt from the regulation – but they are not required to produce a doctor’s note’.

Terrific! It takes little imagination to conjure up what that means in terms of the embarrassment caused by having to explain and the potential disbelief of unqualified staff distinguishing between them and the no doubt many ‘trying it on’. When I tried to get on a bus the other day, the driver (unmasked, I might add) would not have budged in his refusal to let me board even if I’d have argued until I was blue in the face. I reckon some people who normally have little authority are enjoying having some semblance of power. 

A scenario looms in which people with severe respiratory, heart and lung problems will be asked to wear a mask should they want to travel on an already restrictive metal box (train or bus) or else not travel at all. The same will apply to any person not wearing a mask for medical reasons in a shop from next Friday who may find themselves subject to abuse from muzzle wearers and the humiliation of having to pour out their medical history to shop staff who will probably refuse them anyway. Notwithstanding the civil liberties eroded by these restrictions, citizens are being told in Matt Hancock’s personal version of doublespeak that if they wear a mask, they are free to do what they need to but if they don’t, their lives and movement will be restricted. Not only that but Hancock’s model citizens’ army – who could well be their friends or family, neighbours or anyone in their vicinity – will inform the authorities should they not obey. Lovely.

Since the lockdown began in March, we’ve seen a country scared of its own shadow being led by a government which has not just lost its conservative identity but of any sense of legitimate governance, a media keen to terrify the citizens into obedience and a politicised police force which only exerts its will when it suits its new ideological agenda. Now we have a health secretary bullying the nation into submission through a state-driven surveillance society. It is gathering momentum.

Media and politicians asked how this country would come together after Brexit. I wonder how it will return to normality after these bewildering measures are finally scrapped. 

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Michael Fahey
Michael Fahey
Michael Fahey is a social conservative and mental health carer.

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