A couple of interesting but potentially disturbing articles in the Guardian about how the Police monitor and investigate what is sometimes referred to as domestic extremism. The basic idea seems to be that the Police are collecting information about many activists who have been or may be involved in domestic protests or who attend political meetings. I am quite in favour of intelligence gathering as a means of determining what may happen in the future, with the caveat that the intelligence should be collected properly and interpreted correctly. The explicit goal of such intelligence gathering should be to prevent possible criminal activities.
What is concerning in the case of “domestic extremism” is the possibility that the Police are actively collecting intelligence on people who are highly unlikely to carry out any criminal activities. Even worse is the possibility that the implication that simply being a political activists makes you a potential future criminal (or even that being active in this way is implicitly criminal). I personally find this extremely disturbing. If anything I believe we should be doing exactly the opposite and encouraging people to become much politically and socially active. We’re supposed to be living in a democracy. How else are our political leaders meant to get a sense of what the general public feels if we don’t stand up for what we feel strongly about. Even if the above interpretation is wrong and the intelligence gathering is simply to identify true criminals, the impression that being an activist could lead to you being on some Police database will almost certainly discourage many.
It is slightly ironic that I’m writing this since I’m personally fairly poor at being particularly politically or socially active. Even though I am writing this anonymously, I did wonder if by writing this I could end up on such a Police database, but since noone seems to be reading my blog that seems highly unlikely.