Thursday 14 May 2009

The hope, the despair

So, after all the hype and the preparation, all the promises and the optimism, all the hopes of glory, the UK bows out once again before the semifinals, beaten by the likes of Russia, China, Belarus and even weedy North Korea. Yes, Cryptohippie's "Electronic Police State - 2008" gives us a mere fifth place in the world rankings. No doubt some among us will try to save some vestige of self respect by noting that we are the top non ex-Communist state in the rankings, and no doubt some of us will be heartily cheered that England and Wales did so much better than the pusillanimous Scots (a pathetic thirteenth place). But, frankly, what is that worth? After all the time, money and effort we have poured into this, after all the promises of turning us into a centre of excellence, a world leader in the business of spying on our own citizens, all the investment, all the assurances that we would recover our greatness in the world, our position as a leader among nations, we still end fifth, behind a bunch of ex-Commie panelbeaters.

Of course they started with an advantage. Not so long ago, we were a relatively free state. The Commies were light years ahead of us in intrusion, surveillance, detention without trial, setting husband against wife, father against son. To be fair we've made up a lot of ground since then. We can give them a run for their money on CCTV any day; in kettling we are world leaders, and on ID we are making significant inroads. And we can be proud of the efforts our police are making to break down community cohesion and make sure that nobody trusts anybody else. But the fact is that we are still less professional than they are, less ruthless, less unforgiving, less perfectionist about the little things that really matter.

Take this example - the police try the professional approach of getting surveillance data on anybody doing anything, and some bumped up bureaucrat tells them off. That's not the sort of attitude that wins world titles, is it?

And this case, where the Met did their job, tightening the screws on all forms of learning and self-expression, and then when they had it in the bag, they actually let themselves be manoevred into removing the boy's data from their database. You wouldn't find the Russians or the North Koreans doing that would you?

The moral is clear - we have to raise our game, if we are to take our rightful place at the head of the world ranking for electronic surveillance.

Readers of this post who cannot understand the concept of irony might like to look it up on Wikipedia.

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