Former UK Bureaucrat Whines About People Happily Looking At Mobile Phones Rather Than Fearfully Spying On Everyone Else

from the wtf? dept

Yes, lots of people whine about the fact that so many people out in public these days seem to have their heads down in their mobile phones, but as we’ve pointed out before, things aren’t necessarily so different than in the past:

However, Pauline Neville-Jones, the former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee in the UK, has taken this form of anti-smartphone luddism to new and even more ridiculous levels, claiming that all these people looking at their mobile phones or listening to music/podcasts in public are a public nuisance, because they’re not watching out for terrorists. Really.

?I think being alert is very important. I am alarmed by the number of people I see wandering along the street entirely engaged in their mobile telephones and with their ears plugged into music and they are not aware of their surroundings. You need to be aware of your surroundings,? she told BBC Radio 4?s Today programme. ?You do have to take some personal responsibility.?

In short: you lowly citizens, do not enjoy your life, but live in fear and report on any suspicious looking neighbors. I mean, while there have been terrorist attacks in the UK, it’s not as if they’re a regular occurrence. And living life in fear is hardly a productive way to live in a modern society.

However, Neville-Jones is pretty sure that living in fear is the best possible idea. Because she also encouraged the UK government to issue terrorist warnings more frequently, even if the evidence wasn’t very strong:

She said the authorities had to take any intelligence seriously: ?If you have got a piece of information, it may be difficult for you to assess it, you may not be comfortable about having a broader picture ? part of the problem with intelligence is it can be fragmentary ? but it?s a very bold government or policeman who chooses not to take precautions in such circumstances.

?I think the population on the whole would prefer them to be cautious and occasionally have closed something that it turned out wasn?t necessary ? but how do we know ? rather than take the risk of exposing people to dangers on which they have information, even if it?s not complete and on which they can?t necessarily totally rely.?

Of course, when you live in a world where bogus “terrorist threat” warnings come out all too often, it does the exact opposite of what Neville-Jones actually appears to want. That is, it makes people no longer trust the system at all, and become cynical about it. Wouldn’t it be a lot smarter to explain to people that the real risk of dying in a terrorist attack is basically nil?

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Comments on “Former UK Bureaucrat Whines About People Happily Looking At Mobile Phones Rather Than Fearfully Spying On Everyone Else”

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Anonymous Anonymous Coward says:

Re: The boy who cried wolf

Well, she is from the UK and Aesop was a Greek, which is European. When was the last time someone from the UK gave credence to someone from the EU?

Besides, “Aesop, a slave and storyteller believed to have lived in ancient Greece between 620 and 560 BCE.” who would listen to history, it never repeats, AND he was only a slave, how smart could they be?


tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

“I mean, while there have been terrorist attacks in the UK..”

Bit of an understatement Mike.

Are you sure about that? Take a look at this.

From 2000 – 2010, there’s about twelve incidents, about half of which were “Real IRA”, and most were in or around London. 2010 – present, there’s three. Assuming the IRA’s pretty much pacified, that leaves Islamists these days. If you’re not in London, Glasgow, or Birmingham, you’re never going to see any and even there you’re not going to see many.

It’s that last bit there that gets me. Whole countries are made to shake in their boots about terror attacks while 99.9999…% of the population will never be affected by them in any way except by over-reacting to terror attacks.

Yes, Lockerbie was sad and infuriating, blowing up Thatcher’s hotel was scary (though they missed her), the London Tube bombings were frightening, and I weep for the poor soldier hacked to death on the street. However, the Blitz in WW2 was far more worth the attention. Britain’s hardly on fire these days, especially if you’re nowhere near London.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I was born in the 70s, in Guildford where one of the infamous IRA pub bombings took place. I grew up in a town not far away from Birmingham, where another of the IRA pub bombings happened. I currently live in country that’s had its own problems with terrorism (ETA) and within sight of a Muslim country from my local beach. I regularly visit cities such as London, Madrid and New York, and often find myself walking close to where terrorist attacks have occurred in those cities, and obviously involves a lot of time flying.

The only thing about all that that’s ever scared me about all thatis the reaction by authorities that left innocent men rotting in jail after the 2 pub bombings. Simply because they decided to pick up the nearest convenient Irishmen rather than finding the real culprits, and thus 10 men spent many years behind bars for a crime they did not commit, at least one of them not living to see his exoneration.

That’s truly terrifying. Not the work of killers, the work of those who supposedly protect us.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: but....

I think they’re even gonna show up in the next Avengers movie. Then again, so are Art Garfunkel, the Daleks, sentient waffles, a complete set of Pogs, a fully-functional Analytic Engine built from original designs, a 100ft. long orthopedic shoe insert, a damp Duraflame log, everyone from TechDirt, me, you (check your spam folder if you missed the email), …

btr1701 (profile) says:


Spying aside, I will support the notion that people need to get their heads out of those damn phones and look where they’re going.

Walking to lunch today, I was run into twice by idiots who were too busy texting to look where they were walking and one moron nearly walked into an intersection against the light and barely avoided being turned into road pizza, again had his face buried in his screen instead of eyes up, looking where he was going.

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Obliviousness

My favorites are the morons with earbuds who walk around train crossing barriers. I can’t think of a quicker or more effective way to just get it all over with. It’s evolution in action. Give ’em a Darwin award and forget ’em. The silliest part of it is the engineers suffering PTSD over having killed the idiots. They didn’t! The idiots killed the idiots, not the train. The train is just the weapon they used in unintentionally suiciding themselves.

Anonymous Coward says:

Ask New York

There’s an easy fix. The UK should get New York’s ‘report a terrorist’ app. Then mobile users can continue staring at their phones and intelligence can continue getting a flood of data.

Problem solved and a win for both parties!

That One Guy (profile) says:

"How are we supposed to scare you into giving up your rights if you're not afraid?!"

Oh those poor, poor spooks/terrorist sympathizers… if they can’t convince people to continue to jump at every shadow, if they can’t continue to do the terrorists’ work for them by ensuring that the population is kept in a constant state of paranoia and fear, however will they survive?

They need people to be afraid if they’re to strip them of their rights in the name of ‘safety’, but if people stubbornly refuse to be terrorized, that’s slightly more difficult to do, so please, for the sake of the spooks, be afraid, be very afraid.

Ninja (profile) says:

“I think the population on the whole would prefer them to be cautious and occasionally have closed something that it turned out wasn’t necessary – but how do we know – rather than take the risk of exposing people to dangers on which they have information, even if it’s not complete and on which they can’t necessarily totally rely.”

You THINK? Have you ASKED the citizenry if they like all this moronic theater? I’d rather risk one or two attacks but retain my freedom and tranquility. And if you morons from the Govt would stop feeding terrorism it would be quite better, no?

tqk (profile) says:

Re: Re:

And if you morons from the Govt would stop feeding terrorism it would be quite better, no?

Most terrorist attacks in Britain happen in or around London. Where’s Parliament? London. I’d say they’re suffering a bad case of confirmation bias. Perhaps if they took Parliament on the road, they might learn that things are actually a lot more peaceful than they assume it is. At the least, it’d force attackers to spread themselves around which would force them into the open instead of being able to hide within crowds in London.

I’m generally not a big fan of Britain, but even I expect they’re capable of better than this. Their current response to the terrorist threats makes a mockery of their past history. This’s cowardly paranoia at best.

Indy says:


How does it benefit me or my life to consciously stare at people doing mostly nothing day in and day out, versus communicating with my friends/family/strangers on my schedule and time?

I don’t spend every waking moment on my phone or on a computer, but it’s unrealistic for me to not tire of “keeping an eye out” on the general public, which, by most accounts, does nothing to raise my spidey senses of fear or suspicion.

Wouldn’t this all make more sense to educate the future masses and generations to be peaceful and share ideas and be critical thinkers, than have everyone spy on everyone forevermore? I mean, I’m kind’ve a hippy and all, but spending money now to educate and feed areas of unrest with an American Flag wrapped around each bundle, seems a better strategy overall, than just continually killing insurgents and areas of unrest. Yes there will be mass killings for a while, but for the long-term impacts, this seems like a better way to go.

It’s not profitable for many world governments, so I get why we don’t really do it.

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