Category Archives: CCTV

In Britain, abuse will be tolerated

Compared to the old days, writes Dalrymple, England

has managed the difficult trick of being both much richer and much nastier.

He remembers an Indian doctor in the hospital where he worked half a century ago,

whose exceptional sweetness of character inspired the instant affection of all who met him, telling me that he considered Britain the most civilised country.

No one, Dalrymple points out,

could make that mistake now, not for an instant, for even at the airport at which he arrived he will have noticed prominent written warnings to the British public that violence or abusive behaviour towards staff will not be tolerated: meaning, of course, that in most instances it will be ignored.

From having been among the most self-controlled populations in the world, the British

have gone in half a century to being among the least self-controlled.

Dalrymple notes that the British population is also

the most spied-upon. Britain has almost as many closed-circuit television cameras installed as the rest of the world put together, but they seem to have hardly any effect on the general level of civility. Testifying quite often in court as an expert witness in murder trials, I am astonished to discover in the course of those trials just how much of British life now takes place on camera: every Briton, indeed, spends more time on screen than the most ubiquitous of film stars, whether he knows and approves of it or not.

At the same time,

menace and incompetence have become the twin characteristics of British officialdom.

Dalrymple reflects that societies fall apart when (among other causes)

their ruling élites, political and intellectual, lose faith in their own right or duty to prescribe standards. They become Hamlet-like: the native hue of resolution is sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought, and they become persuaded that generosity of spirit and broad-mindedness are the only true virtues, even if they result in paralysis in the face of disorder, with all the accompanying miseries of those who suffer it.

The CCTV state

Every Briton has his Boswell

Every Briton has his Boswell

There is no evidence, writes Dalrymple, that continual surveillance deters or reduces crime.

Why should it, when the convicted have so little to fear from the courts?

The surveillance, he points out,

is intended not to protect or deter, but to intimidate.

Dalrymplecam

The alliance between leniency and authoritarianism

It is a matter of para-detection and para-deterrence, says Dalrymple, who notes that CCTV cameras have no effect on the number of crimes solved.

Common sense suggests that they should deter, but common sense might be wrong. For if the punishment of detected crime is insufficient to deter, there is no reason why the presence of cameras should deter. The CCTV cameras in Britain—perhaps as many as a third of all such cameras in the world—is an official response to the increased lawlessness of the population. But as with so much official activity in Britain, it achieves nothing.

As the official of the Embassy in Conrad’s The Secret Agent put it,

The general leniency of the judicial procedure here, and the utter absence of all repressive measures, are a scandal to Europe.