How Public Fears Drive the Stasification of Britain
No doubt you’re as shocked as I am by the story of the photographer in Scotland questioned by police after taking pictures of his 4-year old daughter eating ice-cream in a shopping mall:
Staff at an ice cream stall in Braehead shopping centre, near Glasgow, became suspicious when they saw Chris White taking pictures of his four-year-old daughter Hazel with his mobile phone at around 4pm on Friday afternoon.
‘He [the security guard] said I had been spotted taking photos in the shopping centre which was “illegal”… and then asked me to delete the ones I had taken,’ White told Amateur Photographer (AP).
When White said he had already uploaded two images to Facebook, and refused to delete them, the guard called police.
But what’s more depressing is the Braehead Centre’s non-apology apology. (H/T Welsh Toy)
Although Friday’s incident had nothing to do with a potential terrorist attack, the two retail assistants and the member of our security staff were faced with a situation they genuinely thought was suspicious. They witnessed a man taking photographs of a child, unaware that the man and the child were related.
I’m sure people will agree it is better safe than sorry.
Actually, I’m sure most people will agree that Braehead are a bunch of idiots.
You see, most people, when they see a man taking a picture of a child eating an icecream are not going to go: “Yikes! I wonder if that icecream contains Semtex and that camera button is the triggering device.”
Nor are they going to go: “Alert! Alert! Paedophile! That man is DEFINITELY a paedophile.”
What they’re far more like to do, even in this age where paedophiles and suicide bombers are apparently lurking behind every hedge, is think: “Ah. How sweet! There’s a dad taking a picture of his little girl.” Or possibly: “Rather him than me. They’re so much easier when they get a bit older.” Or: “Wish my girl were that age again. God teenagers are a pain!” You know: normal stuff; healthy stuff; sane stuff.
But for how much longer? The overreaction of the security guard – and subsequently of the police – are very much in line with a worrying socio-political trend. I experienced this myself about four years ago when an au pair took some family photos of a recent holiday to Jessops in London’s Strand to get them developed.
Next thing I knew I got a call from the Jessops branch manager.
“Are those your photos?” he asked, with a certain officious menace.
“Yes,” I said. “What’s the problem.”
“Well I’m afraid we’re unable to develop them. They contain inappropriate material.”
“What ARE you on about? Oh God. You mean the pictures of the kids playing nude badminton? Is that it?”
“I can’t go into specifics. But the staff member who had to process them felt uncomfortable. He thought the material was inappropriate.”
“What, you’re worried I’m a paedophile. Is that it?”
“No one’s saying that sir. I’m just saying that we are unable to process your holiday photographs.”
“Because the sight of eight-year olds, in the nude, playing badminton makes one of your staff members uncomfortable and he thinks it’s inappropriate?”
I later established that the Jessops staff member who had complained was an 18-year old male. There was a time when I would have wondered quite how thick or pervily overimaginative an 18-year old you’d have to be to read something sinister into a bunch of very obviously normal family photographs, just some of which happened show kids having fun with no clothes on. But not any more.
As a culture we’re now so paedophile-obsessed that when my kids sing the song that used to go “Never smile at a crocodile” they now sing “Never smile at a paedophile”. And when I hug and kiss them they sometimes call me a perv.
But even worse than this contemporary variant on 17th-century witchfinding is the jobsworthery and officiousness by which its absurdities are entrenched.
The only sensible, decent and right response of that the Jessops manager would have been a) to apologise profusely to the offended customer (who needless to say hasn’t used their services since) and b) to take the “offended” junior staff member aside for a quiet word to tell him to use his noddle in future.
The only sensible, decent and right response of the appalling Braehead shopping centre would have been a) a similar profuse apology to the photographer for the embarrassment and inconvenience (possibly with a gift voucher for Fried-Mars-Bar-U-Like or similar) and b) a quiet word with the security guard for having been such a heavy-handed, thick-skinned prat, and for bringing the name of BRAEHEAD SHOPPING CENTRE IN GLASGOW into disrepute.
Neither happened. This is how the Stasi gained such control over Soviet-bloc-era East Germany: thanks to the compliance of its many useful idiots in the broader society.
The Numpties have caved in. (H/T Pingu)
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