Fake News, Genuine Stupidity

Now that much of the population is in enforced ‘furlough’ many of us are turning to making ourselves useful by entertaining our friends, neighbours and an international audience of social media pals by producing some amazing songs, articles and memes, many of which are really quite funny. Most of us like a bit of a laugh when it brightens up our day, and most of us want to show our support for the huge devotion of our NHS staff, the army of volunteers looking after the vulnerable and the inevitable economic victims of this crisis. Society will come out of this a better club to be a member of, and we’ll all be able to look back and say we did our bit. Well, most of us.

I’ve written before about the trashing of our education system during the years of incompetent government, and I can see signs that the policy of producing idiots at the taxpayers expense did indeed pay off. Squads of impressionable dimwits are somehow managing to organise themselves into lockdown-eluding raiding parties and setting fire to elements of our national infrastructure which the rest of us almost totally rely upon. If you think you don’t, then you probably didn’t spend an average of (give or take) five hours a day on your smartphone, so you won’t be at all bothered by this.

I’ve managed to make contact with one of these idiots by semaphore from the roof of my house. He replied in a fiasco of badly spelled flagwaving that the national 5G network is beaming deadly virus particles at him and that in protest he will henceforth not be using electronic means of communication. He wanted to say more, but we ran out of time and visibility as the sun set behind his gesticulations, and my binoculars misted up. I’m now awaiting the pigeon carrying the remainder of his explanation of how it’s possible to be both smart enough to learn morse code and stupid enough to believe that Vodafone are able to broadcast nano-sized particles of deadly diseases. Presumably I’ll be able to get them via broadband when the beta testing is over.

Spirit of our Time

Our local mini-supermarkets, of which we are blessed with half a dozen or so within a short walk, are each adopting different systems for queue management during these times of enforced social distancing. My favourite is the line of blue dots on the pavement outside Sainsbury’s, carefully measured out and aligned to provide a standing spot for each queuing customer exactly 2 metres from the next and unwittingly providing a slalom course for kids on skateboards. In general, the system is obvious but of course there are people with selective cognisance systems who will, for one reason or another, fail to understand how the concept works. The sense of purpose the security guard at the store has now aquired is palpable. Previously almost totally bored – and frankly, who can blame him – he is now one of our unsung coronavirus frontline workers, diligently keeping track of the ins and outs whilst being also mindful of his day job of tracking our local shoplifters.

Whilst on my little blue dot yesterday, it struck me how quickly we’ve become watchers and judges of others’ behaviours, particularly now we’ve got a nice clear set of rules we can apply. No longer are we too worried about who the muggers and bandits might be. It’s just so much easier to spot the two metre violator or the non-essential dog walker. This could easily turn out badly. I have read, probably in a hyperbolic article but one that may have an element of truth, that a police force in England is recruiting local curtain twitchers to report movements of citizens to and and from the shops and local beauty spots if they believe their amblings to be non essential. It seems the first summons has in fact been issued by a police force for this ‘offence’. Please correct me quickly if this is fake news.

If you grew up in East Germany you would recognise what is going on here. The two moderators of social behaviours, the law and the zeitgeist, are being interwined and conjoined to create a set of apparent police powers which do not in fact exist unless we choose to allow them to exist. I do not believe there is a police power to stop anyone going for a walk, but I do believe they would like us to believe that there is. We choose not to because we are all doing our bit, because this is the spirit of the time.

Two forms of policing took place in East Germany. There was of course the community policeman, the ABV – Abschnitsbevollmachtiger- one of the ‘Vopo’ Volkspolizei who generally knew what was going on in town and nicked the local drunks and horse rustlers. Everyone knew who this was. There was a great deal of give and take between the locals and the Vopos with little debts owed to each other and late repayment rewarded with flat tyres on the Trabby in the morning. This opens up the possibility of bribery, of course.

On the other hand, there were the snitches. The ABV was being watched. So was almost everyone. They were being watched by each other. These snitches were organised by the stasi – the Staatssicherheitsdienst – who were responsible for state security. This was an organisation which policed thoughts and attitudes. The job of the stasi curtain twitchers was to help the stasi to exploit what people wanted to achieve, or what they wanted to hide. Supersnitches at the top of the local pyramid scheme weren’t obvious, their mission in life to use psycho-bait to trap people. This didn’t allow room for bribery, only fear and mistrust between citizens as they wondered which of their drinking buddies was recording boasts of indiscretions in the pub and reporting these to the state.

It can happen and did happen. This is Britain, of course, so it couldn’t happen here. I want the police to police the law, and I know this opens up the possibility of bribery and corruption. I do not want them to police the zeitgeist, because with that comes the certainty of fear, resentment and suspicion.