Terrorized Into Irrationality: UK Police Demand Names of Charlie Hebdo *Supporters*

from the confused?-you-will-be dept

It's been sad to watch the Charlie Hebdo story turn from a massive outpouring of solidarity with the victims to an opportunistic exploitation of the strong feelings it produced to attack the very freedoms that solidarity was celebrating. Just how bad things have become can be gauged from this story in the Guardian:

A British police force has apologised after an officer told a newsagent to hand over details of customers who purchased copies of the French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo in the wake of the Paris terror attacks.

Wiltshire police confirmed that one of their officers visited a newsagent in Corsham, Wiltshire, to ask for the names of four customers who ordered the commemorative "survivors' issue" of the magazine.
Demanding the names of people who bought that commemorative issue clearly makes no sense: they were trying to support Charlie Hebdo, not attack it in any way. And yet the continued terrorization of the public -- by the authorities, that is, not by the so-called "terrorists" -- has induced a kind of irrationality that has apparently now spread to the police. Here's the official "explanation" of what happened:
A police officer visited a local shop and post office in Corsham to make an assessment of community tensions and, if appropriate, encourage the newsagent's owner to be vigilant. During this conversation the officer requested information about subscribers to the Charlie Hebdo magazine.
This is clearly creating a problem where none exists, purely because fear has become the default condition for society, resulting in heavy-handed and unnecessary interventions of the kind described above. At least the police force concerned seems to recognize this here:
Wiltshire police would like to apologise to the members of public who may be affected by this. Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of.
That's welcome, but it's worrying and symptomatic of the situation today that a police officer could demand these names without being aware of the absurdity of doing so.

Update: It seems that this was not an isolated event.

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Filed Under: charlie hebdo, free speech, police, terrorism, uk


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:29am

    Increasingly it is looking like the authorities are defining any organization or gathering of the people that is out-with there control as terrorism, especially if it can be labeled political.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:29am

    Using a crisis to justify self appointed authority

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    jackn, 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:32am

    geez, I thought cops with an independent idea about what is legal or not was a US only phenomenon. I guess it universal, smart people aren't cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 10:39am

    Terrorists read their enemies' publications for tactical advantage.

    Terrorists would never sully their beliefs by reading their enemies' publications.

    Q: What's a police officer to do?

    A: When in doubt, overreach, and add more hay to that planet-sized haystack.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:08am

    and where does this 'you will do exactly what i say' attitude come from? exactly! the USA! it has become so paranoid that it pulls all soprts of ridiculous stunts in the name of 'preventing terrorism', when in reality, it makes itself look completely ridiculous, while affecting other nations with this infectious behavior!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    andyroo, 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:11am

    UK police and others doing wrong!!!

    Why is it that they always seem to be apologising but never resolving the attitude police seem to have that they are in the right and have the power to do whatever they want.

    Every time someone in power has been found to do something wrong or made serious mistakes there is an outcry and three days later they organisation at fault just claims they will look to put procedures in place to ensure those type of things do not happen again.

    And the Brits seem to fall for it every time.
    just as in may other cases the police will talk about training and new procedures and monitoring of the issue and do essentially what the American cops do when accused do doing something wrong, and end up doing nothing other than protecting their own.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:16pm

      Re: UK police and others doing wrong!!!

      Well, in this case, things seem to have actually worked.
      1)overreach by an officer
      2) process identifies the overreach
      3) process publishes the overreach, apologizes for it, and correctly disposes with the results of the overreach.

      You can't guarantee it'll never happen again -- people always make bad decisions. They could create penalties for officers who do so, but in that line of work, you often only know if what you did was too much after the fact (that doesn't apply to this specific situation, but any process enacted wouldn't be limited to this specific situation).

      So I think that correcting the problem, apologizing, and making the officer's mistake VERY public was probably the correct thing to do. Just the publicity attached to this should be enough to prevent most officers from attempting something like it in the future.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JustShutUpAndObey, 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:12am

    Saving grace

    If there is anything that might save us from totalitarianism, it is that our would-be tyrants are incredibly stupid.
    Think how hosed we'd be if they had any functioning brain cells.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mb (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:12am

    The terrorists have won.

    We now live in a state of perpetual fear, and daily find our freedoms eroded, and the fools in power are not any better than terrorists themselves.

    ---
    Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
    - Benjamin Franklin

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    tqk (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:12am

    It's a two-fer.

    "Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of."

    So, this newsagent just handed it over when it was demanded? I'll be across the street from their shop with a sign which reads, "This newsagent reports free speech advocates to the authorities!"

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:20am

    I'm from the government,

    and I'm here to help.

    The nine most terrifying words in the English language.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 11:29am

    The policeman was asking so that he might keep a look out for anyone possibly attempting to attack those who bought the magazine. Ok, he was clumsy, but he visited the newspaper shop to see whether the owner was worried about or had exerienced any reprisals or unwanted attention. That was why he also asked about buyers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Kaemaril (profile), 10 Feb 2015 @ 12:26pm

    "Information relating to this specific incident has been permanently and securely disposed of."

    Oh, really? How? The moment it went onto a database, it was virtually guaranteed to be permanently and securely retained. Pressing "Delete" won't cut it, PC Plod.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 1:00pm

    > This is clearly creating a problem where none exists ...

    Certainly a public relations problem. Not necessarily a (new) law enforcement one.

    > During this conversation the officer requested information about subscribers to the Charlie Hebdo magazine.

    There's a ", because..." missing here. And a "demanded". People have certainly leapt to the worst possible interpretation fast enough. Given the remediation reported, I'm happy to wait for the other shoe to drop before I spend some of my carefully conserved outrage on this story.

    > Just how bad things have become can be gauged from this story in the Guardian: ...

    An odd thing to say, in a story where the police department stepped in before publication and "made things better" rather than stonewalled, redacted, or denied. Are you saying that things aren't that bad, then?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Organized Stalking, 10 Feb 2015 @ 2:10pm

    The police in the UK are very corrupt, looking for problems when there aren't any. This story doesn't surprise me.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 4:51pm

    at Update

    So now you are even a suspect if you want to help victims of terrosim. Imho that means that if your name might appear anywhere near anything that has do with terrosim you are suspect and people will watch you.
    Because, you know, as we all learned from TV shows, the guy who did it will show up at the crime scene to watch what he did... Sooo what is a normal person to do about it? Imho the only way not to become a suspect is to stay out of everything. Don't go out, stay at home all the time, don't do anything that might be under any circumstance be viewed as suspicious and stay away from anyone because they might be viewed as terrorists one day and you don't want to be friends with a terrorist do you?
    If everyone follows that guideline I guess the human species will die in 1 generation but the good thing is, there won't be any terrorists anymore and the various security agencies last news will be "We won!".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 6:27pm

    Anything can and will be used against you

    Stories like this pretty much kill the "nothing to hide" argument. The only defence people have at this point is trying to minimize their paper trails. Buy your Charlie Hebdo in cash and a coloured wig, citizens!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 10 Feb 2015 @ 6:34pm

    Wiltshire Police Farce

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Sheogorath (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 1:20am

    Je ne suis pas Charlie, je ne suis pas racist.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    btr1701 (profile), 11 Feb 2015 @ 2:11pm

    Hebdo

    How does this even work in the first place? How does the newsagent even know the names and addresses to give to the police? When I buy a newspaper from a newstand, I hand over the buck-fitty and the guy hands me a paper. He doesn't ask for my name, address, telephone number, or anything else.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    It is I only, 11 Feb 2015 @ 10:54pm

    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."

    "Rule, Britannia! rule the waves:
    "Britons never will be slaves."
    L.O.L. ! L.O.L. ! L.O.L. ! L.O.L. !

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    I'm_Having_None_Of_It, 12 Feb 2015 @ 7:55am

    When PCs meet PC

    fear has become the default condition for society

    For the authorities, Glyn. The rest of us are looking at each other, scratching our heads and wondering why everyone in an authority position has suddenly gone doolally. Remember the "good old days" when even bombs going off in our cities didn't provoke this level of panic?

    RE: the title, you'll probably find that this nonsense is driven by political correctness and that Charlie Hebdo has been labelled hate speech by the powers that be.

    Does anyone else remember when this country had a backbone? What has become of us?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      tqk (profile), 12 Feb 2015 @ 1:13pm

      Re: When PCs meet PC

      Does anyone else remember when this country had a backbone?

      I don't, but I heard about it. It was called The Age of Enlightenment. Unfortunately, it didn't take and was soon followed by Romanticism whose "long-term effect on the growth of nationalism was perhaps more significant" than the artsy stuff it was mostly known for.

      AoE was in the 1700s, long before our time. This mess we now have has been brewing for a while. I suppose we can take some satisfaction from that. It takes a long time to fuck things up as bad as this.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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