Saturday, January 23, 2010

Welcome to Mega City One

Your friendly local Bobby, tomorrow. Or maybe the day after.

For a large chunk of my life my favourite reading material of any description was 2000AD. It grew from being a simple Sci-Fi action comic to do what the very best Sci-Fi does: satirise modern society. Judge Dredd did this better than anything else - a lawman with absolute power in a futuristic mega-city, there's a brilliant tension between rooting for Dredd in his battles against proper baddies and then feeling guiltily appalled when his jackboot comes down with equal force on campaigners for democracy.

Dredd has many tools in his armoury, and over the 34 years of his existence several of these have made the transition from science fiction to fact.

Today, it seems the UK police are learning some tricks from Dredd, with the proposal to introduce airborne surveillance drones to monitor the British population. These were developed by BAe for use in war zones. Their critics claim that they are unreliable and have resulted directly in needless civilian deaths. But the government is considering spending a considerable some bringing them into use in Britain.

Where do you start with this?

How about the principle of a government taking hardware developed for warfare against foreign terrorists in the world's most hostile war zones and using it against its own population?

How about the fact that we already have more CCTV cameras per head of population than any other country in the world?

How about the fact that these drones will be able to operate from heights that make them invisible from the ground, so you will have no idea whether you are under surveillance or not?

How about the fact that the police are already talking about selling the technology to private companies?

How about the fact that these drastic measures are being proposed not to catch murderers, but to help with "routine" police work including monitoring fly tippers, waste management, "anti-social" motorists and protesters against - ooh - things like the creeping totalitarianism that both main political parties seem so keen on?

If Hitler or Saddam Hussein had had the technology for such a scheme, we would have cited it as yet another example of their evil. One of the worst things I hate most about measures like this is that they make me say things that sound like a Jeremy Clarkson reading, UKIP-voting wanker, but I woke up this morning feeling a little more frightened at the prospect of living in my own country.

1 comment:

  1. forget about the id card paranoia pb I heard someone's writing a new Judge dredd film!!