Monday, October 17, 2005

Politics: Life During Wartime

Tony Blair describes the arguments in favour of his new anti-terrorist legislation as, "compelling". This is because if you disagree you will be arrested and put into a cell until you realise your fears about human rights abuses are groundless. Which brings me to David Mery. I gather this has been slashdotted but I only just heard about it.

Mery is a computer geek who has an unhealthy obsession with Bill Gates's Basic compiler for the Altair. On 28th July this year he was arrested for being in possession of a French accent and a thick jacket in a London tube station. In 1979 who would have thought that, twenty-five years on, policing practice would be based on a Not The Nine O'Clock News sketch?

Eventually Mery was released and his case has been marked No Further Action. But three months on he has still not had his confiscated computers returned. And, of course, being arrested for suspected terrorist activity will pose Mery an interesting hurdle at US Immigration and Border Control, if he ever decides to try to visit the States. Still I suppose he should count himself lucky not to have been shot eight times in the back of the head.

As someone who lives in south London and who uses the tube almost every day of his life, of course I back the police in the struggle against the Jihadists. But I too carry my laptop in a backpack. Does that mean I could be arrested because I meet some apparently arbitrary criteria? Ultimately, the Jihadists are trying to destroy a free society and replace it with one in which the individual's thoughts and actions are constrained by the pronouncements of official interpreters of divinely-given law. But, if we do this to ourselves, it won't matter that the name of the God is different, the Jihadists will still have won.