May 06, 2006

A musing

I have become very aware that many recent posts have delved into the consideration of human rights, and there are a great many different viewpoints expressed by all the contributors.

Is the advocation of human rights always a good thing or is there a point at which the rights of the individual become detrimental to society as a whole? Are people, particularly in the social climate we have now, willing to surrender their rights for the sake of society? Should they? Do all members of society have equal rights, and if not, should they?


- 29 comments by 1 or more people Not publicly viewable

[Skip to the latest comment]
  1. Well my opinion is that human rights and civil liberties and so forth are insufficiently respected at the moment.

    "Is the advocation of human rights always a good thing or is there a point at which the rights of the individual become detrimental to society as a whole?"

    "Society as a whole" – is that even a well defined concept? Either way, rights have to be balanced against each other because many of them are fundamentally incompatible.

    "Do all members of society have equal rights, and if not, should they?"

    In practical terms no, and yes they should. Who should have less rights than everyone else?

    06 May 2006, 17:08

  2. An interesting reference point for this debate is Asimov's Laws Of Robotics which lay down how robots should behave but also has implications for humans as well.

    06 May 2006, 17:33

  3. James

    "Is the advocation of human rights always a good thing or is there a point at which the rights of the individual become detrimental to society as a whole?"

    All human rights have to have some restrictions to make sense. Freedom of expression bows on occasion to things such as military secrecy, copyright laws etc. The right to life of a rapist would give way if one of his victims killed him in self–defence.

    This is recognised by our current 'charter' of rights, the European Convention on Human Rights. Most of the 'rights' within it, such as freedom of speech, are explicitly made subject to the qualification of the wider interest. I forget the precise wording, but it is along the lines of the right being subject to such restrictions as are necessary and proportionate in a democractic society. The only one that doesn't, I think, have any qualification is the right not to be subject to torture. Even there, however, we may be dealing with semantics, since one person's acceptable prison conditions might be another's torture.

    Are people, particularly in the social climate we have now, willing to surrender their rights for the sake of society? Should they?

    Well see the thread entitled "First they came for the terrorists" to see how some feel about civil liberties in the face of terrorism!

    Do all members of society have equal rights, and if not, should they?"

    Children and the disabled do not and should not, not being of full capacity. Otherwise the starting point is that all capable adults do. But then we get to questions such as stop and search. Some minority community members have complained that they are targeted more than others by the police. But what if the reported crime in the area shows that people fitting the same ethnic, age and gender profile are committing a disproportionately high percentage of crimes? Surely the police would not be expected to stop and search little old ladies in equal numbers so as not to offend teenage males?

    Holly: I always liked the three laws of robotics as an admirably clear set of commandments. However, though I haven't read it, isn't the premise of I, Robot that the robots decide in order to protect humans as a whole, they have to take over and render them powerless because humans are always having internal conflicts? Hence adopting a 'purposive' construction of the three laws … ? Still, it's a shame that HAL from 2001 wasn't programmed with them …

    07 May 2006, 10:00

  4. James – my memory has temporarily failed me but I think you are right, I, Robot does feature robots getting the wrong end of the stick about their programming, although I think the one which does go crazy has some sort of malfunction in it, or something. I reallly need to check up on that.

    Also the point about stop and search is a good one. My dad and thousands like him spent the 1970s and 1980s aware that they could be stopped and suspected at any time because of what they were – i.e. Irish in a time of IRA activity. But they accepted this as it was scattershot but logical. Any group which contains a higher number of criminals than the general population should expect this sort of thing.

    On the flip side, the Irish case does show that the police weren't above just arresting anyone who'd fit a profile, often with terrible consequences of false imprisonment and the like. The individual under suspicion should always have their human rights respected as they may very well be completely innocent. Even in 'dangerous' times we have to keep the innocent safe.

    And we should not be surrendering our rights. If the right to trial or freedom from indefinite detention is lost then innocent people will be jailed for long periods on spurious charges. Those rights are there for a reason and they've suvived the IRA so how the current day is different enough to warrant change… well, I'ev yet to be convinced.

    07 May 2006, 11:14

  5. "I, Robot" is the title of a book of Asimov short stories. Almost all of his stories have robots as sympathetic characters, not menacing ones. Although there are elements of Asimov's stories in the film (which has the plot that James described), they were put together in a way that Asimov never would have done. Holly's wikipedia link has more information about all this than you could possibly want to know. :–D

    07 May 2006, 11:40

  6. James

    Holly – the Irish during the IRA troubles is a good example, though the one I had in mind was the stopping and searching of black people in South London in the 1980s and 1990s. Another former acquaintance of mine is half Kiwi and half Irish. Her Kiwi father lived in Ireland in the 70s, and has the misfortune to look quite like Gerry Adams – Adams was a wanted man for some of that time. He was stopped by police once and protested "but I've got a New Zealand accent!" They smirked that he'd obviously been practising hard, and it was only after several hours of questioning that they bought his story …

    Indeed we cannot give ourselves over to a police state, certainly not to detention without trial, in pretty much any circumstances. But there may be other curtailments on liberty that might become necessary. I have never been 100% convinced about the jury system anyway. If I were Arabic looking and was wrongly charged with terrorist activities, I would far rather be tried by a judge alone than have 12 members of the BNP decide my fate. France takes a much harder line on deportation of non–French citizens than we do regarding the likes of Abu Hamsa. They have a variety of other measures brought in after the terrorist attacks on Paris a few years ago; it may yet come to pass that the UK has to follow suit.

    I don't think the IRA situation is really comparable to the current terrorist activities we face. The IRA was never committed to civilian murder as an end in itself, even if they were indifferent to innocent victims as a side effect. Al–Qaeda on the other hand has civilian murder as a primary goal. On the other hand, on the evidence so far the IRA was much better organised in Britain than any Islamic terrorists are now.

    I, Robot – I thought the film was pretty dismal. I've never read the stories but am sure that they are quite different. The one interesting thing about the film was the way the robots managed to avert apparently clear laws, though that was hardly the object of it. I've always suspected sophisticated robots/computers are gay, anyway (HAL seemed to be, Dr Smith and the Robot in Lost in Space were always a bit dodgy, C3PO and R2, welll … and then you have KITT…)

    07 May 2006, 19:56

  7. "If I were Arabic looking and was wrongly charged with terrorist activities, I would far rather be tried by a judge alone than have 12 members of the BNP decide my fate."

    I think I'd go for something in between.

    "I, Robot – I thought the film was pretty dismal. I've never read the stories but am sure that they are quite different."

    I quite enjoyed the film in a mindless fun kind of way. But yes, the books are much better. Subtle and sophisticated, and many of them are worth reading even if you're not usually a fan of sci–fi (but he also wrote some real stinkers which you have to avoid).

    07 May 2006, 23:01

  8. Hmm, how strange. You know, I was just thinking about Asimov the other day. His stories haven't made it to the university library, tragically: I had wanted to read them.

    07 May 2006, 23:23

  9. My answer may seem a bit irrelevant, but its just a thought i wish to add.

    Give a monkey a book and it will learn to read in a few centuries.
    Give a monkey a gun and it will shoot you in a few hours.
    Give a monkey a banana, it'll peel it and eat it right away.

    We all know what our rights are, some rights may not exist in other countries due to leadership issues or in regard to tradition. Start talking about rights to a crowd of people, you will get the following effect.

    The crowd being a collection of jungle creatures. Some monkeys are in the process to read while the others are in the process to use the gun. Considering the time factor, who will survive? The answer simply is, no–one. The monkeys with a gun have no interest in books, so they kill off the monkeys with bananas. Once thats done, they try to enslave the ones with books to do the banana collection, but the literate monkeys resist and use their knowledge to fight back … both monkey groups die.

    Moral of my story: Give a group of people something: it will be seen as various things .. for some, education, for others a weapon, and the rest? a luxury in life. Somethings in life are jsut there to piss you off, like the inability to move your ring finger, so we accept the immobility of our hand and yet our hand is one of the most important parts of our body! So tell me, if we have rights or not, would it change anything? Some use human rights as an education, some as a weapon they wish to make dominant and some simply want to enjoy it. But in the end, as we saw with the monkeys, everyone perished and was in the end: a murderer!

    Give the monkey with the gun the permission to make alterations to the book of human rights, what would happen? Now consider, who in our history, had the ability to influence human rights? Our leaders and governments. So now I ask, who are the monkeys with the gun? The answer should be clear.

    Best wishes.

    08 May 2006, 10:11

  10. Not always… if governments had free reign throughout history then the world would be very different to how it is today. A better analogy would be the monkey with the gun being government and a group of monkeys with an axe being the people. The axe is less powerful than the gun but were the monkeys to get annoyed with gun–monkey they woudl use the axe and the weight of numbers would eventually see the gun–monkey die although it would cost many axe–monkeys their lives.

    Gun–monkey will always be baring in mind that the axe–monkeys could rise up at any time IF DISSATISFIED, and therefore must make the rules amenable to them. The good new for gun–monkey is that as all concerned are monkeys a lot of the desires they have (bananas) will be shared by everyone – for us, these are the fundamentals like the right to life, the right to not be a victim of crime, to expect a decent standard of living (at least in most countries). When these get violated you get revolutions and risings.

    The real mitigating factor is what the monkey with the book has managed to spread amongst the axe–monkeys, be it obediance or ideas about freedom…

    08 May 2006, 11:46

  11. James

    Holly, I'm glad you understood that post. What if the monkeys were starving, but after some sort of external intervention figured out that using the bones of dead animals as weapons would help them obtain new food sources and kill the weaker monkeys? In other words, maybe conflict has been the spur for much of human development. Were it not for WWII we would probably only now be at 1950s technology.

    08 May 2006, 12:26

  12. James & Holly, good points made! :) thanks for following on with my monkeys lol

    08 May 2006, 13:31

  13. The book I, Robot is absolutely awesome. I remember enjoying it thoroughly. A lot of the stories involve quite subtle implementation of the Laws of Robotics which the humans in question hadn't anticipated. It's a great lesson in unpredictable behaviour governed by seemingly simple rules.

    As for rights, I have a hard time even coming to terms with the concept. I think the idea of a right is a very ambiguous one and I can't begin to come up with 'proofs' that certain rights are 'worthy'. I guess I believe in the right to live – that people shouldn't be killed or otherwise have their lives shortened by external, deliberate factors. That simple one is a minefield in itself, not least because ' the right to live' has become such an overused slogan of the 'pro–life' (oh how I hate that loaded term, as I do 'pro–choice').

    08 May 2006, 14:15

  14. "...they accepted this as it was scattershot but logical. Any group which contains a higher number of criminals than the general population should expect this sort of thing."

    Hold on.
    No "logic" there for one thing.
    And the "higher number of criminals" point is rather misplaced. Could you clear up what you mean there?
    And "expect that sort of thing" is a dispicable way to think of these kind of things. I expect more from yourself, Holly.
    This kind of behaviour is well documented to be covert racism/politically motivated action. You're paragraph after the one i qoute points to this, so why you're so happy to go along with "they should expect this" is beyond me. I be more comfortable with this kind of thing if I trusted the police, government, and indeed state of this country, or any other for that matter. This would be idiocy, however.

    08 May 2006, 18:43

  15. James

    Hang on, Vincent. Why is there no logic in the quotation from Holly's post?

    Suppose in any particular area there have been a lot of muggings of pensioners and shoplifting. Suppose that all the reported crimes and the cctv footage indicate that those at fault are white skinhead teenagers. Would it not be logical for the police when looking for the perpetrators to concentrate on those meeting that description? Or to avoid offending the supposed silent majority of skinheaded teenagers who don't commit such crimes, should the police try and stop and search everyone equally, including elderly Asian ladies in sarees? That would be 'politically motivated' indeed – political correctness gone mad.

    The police seem to be falling over themselves today to appear PC. A friend of mine lived in Camden, North London. Outside his flat he regularly observed crack dealers and the like. His complaints to police fell on deaf ears. To test the waters, he also rang to complain when a Lib Dem MP said something which he found offensive about Israel. The police assured him that they'd send someone around immediately to take a statement. He declined the offer, but observed that it would have been nice to have had the same response regarding the crack dealers. I wouldn't for a moment belittle the feelings of someone who was genuinely offended, though would question whether a police response would be appropriate – there is such a thing as freedom of speech after all. But to deal effectively with the crack dealers (and we could go into one here about legalising drugs, something I'm broadly in favour of, but that's for another blog) would require the sort of police presence on the street that the likes of Vincent seem terrified of.

    09 May 2006, 10:18

  16. first off:
    "Logic" is the wrong word, and what I'm more interested in is "higher number of criminals than the general population", which I asked Holly to get back to me on to clear up the meaning. Why don't you wait for her to talk about it, rather than butting in with your own repeated crap?

    second:
    Police services turn a blind eye to a load of stuff for a number of reasons, available resources/manpower, possible negative consequences of trying to deal with every crackhouse/dealer. We know what's going on where, they generally know what's going on, but there's a certain tactic in the inner–city to "contain" activities, rather than continually persue an unwinnable war.
    I'm sick of your "the likes of Vincent" crap. You have no idea what you're talking about. I've been in favour of increased police presence on the streets since I became aware of the issues, which was many years ago. So….there goes that one. I notice many cop cars and vans round my area when I walk around. I think that makes it less likely x will be attacked on his way home on the main street in the night. It won't "deal effectively with the crack dealers", don't be so naive. "police presence" is for citizens feeling they are safer, not them actually being safer.
    If there is a perception that the police are falling over to themselves to "appear PC", you have to look at their brief history to see why. If you can't figure it out, here's a clue: it's the same reason why central government pumps millions of pounds a year into deprived estates and why it's not practical for police services to persue every crime in these areas.
    In any case, it's absolute crap that they are "PC", and it's interesting you use the word "appear". If you've met any of those "black" youths, maybe you could talk to them about it.

    Oh, and I would definatley belittle someone who was "genuinely offended" by what a LibDem MP said about Isrea. Certainly belittling that is the way to go.

    09 May 2006, 13:48

  17. james

    Good to see you back on form Vincent, though I doubt you'll feel the same. Earlier you have urged me to take a more robust line with you instead of complaining about ad hominem abuse; now, however, you complain "I'm sick of your "the likes of Vincent" crap."

    "I've been in favour of increased police presence on the streets"

    Really? But you said you didn't trust the police? I wouldn't be in favour of a bunch of untrustworthy types wandering around with batons.

    … I notice many cop cars and vans round my area when I walk around. I think that makes it LESS LIKELY x WILL BE ATTACKED on his way home on the main street in the night. It won't "deal effectively with the crack dealers", don't be so naive. "police presence" is for citizens FEELING they are safer, NOT THEM ACTUALLY being safer."

    Which is it then? That it is less likely they will be attacked, which = making people ACTUALLY safer; or that it is just to make them FEEL safer?

    On whether PCs are PC: see link

    I think there's a pretty good argument that certain elements within the force have lost the plot in an attempt to appease the unlikes of Vincent. Of course, there would be objectionable elements the other way, I'm sure Vincent has the examples to hand.

    I did say I didn't want a police response to the lib dem comment. I did say that I believed in freedom of speech, though I could have said that more strongly. You've done it for me. Mark it down – we actually agree on something! I feel like a satisfied customer at Fawlty Towers …

    Finally, V, some advice from HAL: why don't you take a stress pill, and relax …

    09 May 2006, 14:13

  18. David Ezekiel

    Many people believe there are negative and positive human rights. The former is a feature of liberal domocracies, particulalry the UK and the US. That is freedom of the individual. The latter refers to rights such as education, healthcare and a minimum standard of living and is seen moreso in continental Europe and particularly non–Western countries.

    So the question isn't so much is the advocation of human rights a good thing but what does one considers human rights are and is there a hierarchy? I guess there has to be if there is a conflict.

    Holly But they accepted this as it was scattershot but logical. Any group which contains a higher number of criminals than the general population should expect this sort of thing.

    James_Would it not be logical for the police when looking for the perpetrators to concentrate on those meeting that description?_

    I think we're getting slightly muddled here. If a crime is committed and the police identify people who fit the description of the suspect(s) then that is good reason to arrest, never mind stop and search.

    If, for example, most of the people the police have been arresting lately are black or indeed from any other broad social group, this doesn't justify (legally and in my view morally) the stopping and searching of any member of that group on the offchance that they may be involved in criminal activity.

    Some members of this broadly defined group may well accept it as 'co–operation' (Holly's dad). Others will most certainly resent it. I suggest there are far more in the latter group.

    I don't think the IRA situation is really comparable to the current terrorist activities we face. The IRA was never committed to civilian murder as an end in itself, even if they were indifferent to innocent victims as a side effect.
    However the IRA killed far more civilians per year and in total than Islamic terrorists have done. Therefore the threat was much greater.
    Should Islamic terrorism develop so as to have 'intent' and organisation/competance then we might consider the threat to be greater. Until then we must accept it isn't and respond accordingly.

    The police seem to be falling over themselves today to appear PC

    The reason for this apparent enthusiasm to deal with possible racist (and homophobic) behaviour is that the police now have a legal duty to record any report of such behaviour as a crime and investigate it.

    This is to counter the fact that historically the police couldn't be arsed to deal with racist abuse. (In fact the Stephen Lawrence affair showed the Met. couldn't even be arsed to investigate the murder of a black teenager but I digress).

    Unfortunately, although there is a general duty for the police to enforce the law they are not legally bound to remove the crack dealer from your doorstep.
    I agree this is an anomaly and it is unfortunate that there have been cases where the police appear to be throwing their weight around by overreacting to some reports of racism or homophobia.

    However, in my view, dismissing this committment to deal with racist behaviour as 'PC' undermines the seriousness of the issue.

    In other words, maybe conflict has been the spur for much of human development. Were it not for WWII we would probably only now be at 1950s technology.
    So James. 50 million people being killed (mostly civilian and many as the consequence of hatred and murder) and the consequent technical advances are 'human development'?

    Had Western European countries not had protectionist policies in the inter–war years I doubt their economies would have stagnated. It is this stagnation that comparatively overemphasises the significance of wafare in technological advances.

    09 May 2006, 15:34

  19. James

    David Ezekiel, thanks for an interesting response. You have selectively quoted me on the IRA/Al–Q distinction. I specifically stated that the IRA was much better organised in Britain during the 70s and 80s than Al–Q is now, from which I intended to infer that it was more of a threat. Then you have the question of whether we just sit back and wait for Al–Q to get better organised – as it did in America between 1993 and 2001.

    Certainly there is evidence that the stop and search policy was misused – I know of incidents from first hand testimony. But I think Holly and I were more concerned with the issue in abstract; any policing policy however good on paper might be misused. Banning 'hoodies' in Bluewater shopping centre in Kent has apparently had a positive effect on shoplifting and other crimes that the centre was suffering.

    "The reason for this apparent enthusiasm to deal with possible racist (and homophobic) behaviour is that the police now have a legal duty to record any report of such behaviour as a crime and investigate it."

    No, if you read the link I placed in the post, you will see that the police are exceeding what is required of them by law. And of course there's a freedom of speech argument about whether offensive statements should be banned in the first place.

    I didn't say WWII was a good thing, but its impact on technology was undeniable. Of course that particular post was just a facetious mention of 2001: Space Odyssey. Then again, you might be familiar with Orson Wells' 'cuckoo clock' speech from the Third Man, about the fact that peaceful and stable Switzerland seems not to have invented anything much compared with countries which have experienced conflict.

    09 May 2006, 15:54

  20. Let's get some distinctions here. I said I did not trust the police to do certain things properly, not that I wanted them sitting at the station. There's a difference there. Their presence does not entail improper use of stop and search and other powers. Link this to other things I said last time, and you have a satisfactory answer.

    James I knew you were going to pull me up on that "safer" issue.
    Where I think someone was less likely to get attacked or something like that was rather narrow, you will notice. Let me make it clear. If there is a cop car sitting there on the main road, yuo're less likely to get attacked. Get off the main road, where a copper is not visible, and there's no difference. People are not significantly safer just through extra police on the street is what I meant.

    "police presence" is for citizens feeling they are safer, not them actually being safer.

    is what I said. The "is for" thing is what is important to note. I'm talking about police tactics. Actual reduction is a bonus. The real reason is to make the community feel safer, and make an attempt at better community–police rapport. Also, you were talking about presence in reference to crack dealing. I pointed out it was irrelevant.

    09 May 2006, 17:09

  21. James makes a point I didn't but probably should have. My contention "But they accepted this as it was scattershot but logical. Any group which contains a higher number of criminals than the general population should expect this sort of thing" was in meant to be made in a matter of fact tone, not loaded with any judgement. I never said it would be right or wrong. It does not surprise me that Vincent took it to be a statement which is unreasonable as we've had the IRA debate before and he supported their aims and, to a degree which you'd have to ask him to specify (I'm not trying to put words in your mouth Vincent, hence the vagueness), their methods, whereas I don't.

    To answer Vincent, if I were to go looking for those who committ large scale financial fraud, I would not look amongst the minimum wage cleaners in a fast food restaurant. I would go looking amongst the bosses of companies like Enron and similar. A lot of the annoyance at police targetting of the Muslim community looking for terrorists, or the young looking for hoodie–ed hooligans comes from those communities and their sense of invasion. The FTSE 100 bosses would be similarly annoyed if I started pointing the finger at them as fraudsters, but they'd have to admit that that is where most big fraud occurs. As I said, this is not a statement I make about right or wrong, it's merely a statement of fact. If you want a value driven debate on this then it'll be hideously complex, PC vs ideas of necessity, ensuring the purity of the police, etc etc.

    I think the latter part of comment 4 of mine should be seen as my values, the belief in the sanctity of individual rights, etc. But then, as Sarah said, about a million years ago, who decides on these?

    I'd like to know what nationality David Ezekiel is. The reasons for this is his comment:

    Some members of this broadly defined group may well accept it as 'co–operation' (Holly's dad). Others will most certainly resent it. I suggest there are far more in the latter group

    very much assumes what a lot of English people commonly and erroneously assume about the Irish. I (with English accent and known non–violent beliefs) have been asked by people, upon learning of my Irish heritage, if I support the IRA. This has happened as recently as the last year. It then falls to me to explain that my family have hated the IRA for longer than most British people, partly because the IRA were killing members of our family long before the vast majority of people in this country were born. Without going too deep into the Irish political scene post–1921, a hell of a lot of Irish didn't sympathise with the IRA's cause and never supported the IRA methods. A lot of those then emigrated to England and were subjected to the conditions I described above. It's the case that they would have been quite happy to see IRA murderers being put behind bars, and there may have been feelings of resentment the other way, at the terrorists who made life annoying for the non–violent majority.

    In the case of the quote above, I don't believe that David's assertion that the 'latter' in his scenario were the majority, though I would prefer for decisive evidence of this before saying that it is 100% true either way.

    09 May 2006, 17:44

  22. Then you have the question of whether we just sit back and wait for Al–Q to get better organised
    Slightly misleading James. It's not a question of sitting back and waiting. It's a question of a proportionate response to the threat. With respect, protecting people from being killed in terrorist attacks is not the be all and end all of our society. The US could've avoided 9/11 simply by having reasonable security on domestic flights. They chose not to.They chose wrong. The cycle of violence their Government chooses to perpetuate is, in my view, wrong also.

    Pre–emptive anti–terrorist measures are rarely necessary and allow for abuse of human rights by the authorities.(My 'selective' quotes are merely highlighting the points I would like to comment on. Not trying to pick fault with anything).

    Certainly there is evidence that the stop and search policy was misused – I know of incidents from first hand testimony
    My interpretation of Holly's comment was that stop and searches carried out on people because they come from a 'high risk' section of society isn't actually an abuse of power but necessary to prevent crime. I guess what Holly means is that it isn't necessarily motivated by racism.

    My point is that stop and search is only acceptable if there is reasonable suspicion that the particular individual is involved in criminal activity. 'Fishing expeditions' are illegal (except when carried out pusuant to the 2001 Anti–terroism, Crime and Security Act).

    Holly. i'm not sure that suggesting you or your family supported the IRA was a possible intepretation from my comment but I apologise if that is what you think. I certainly have no evidence to make such a claim.

    My point is that your post implied that your father saw being stopped by the police as necessary so he accepted it. Others obviously didn't. The same goes for the Muslim community today. All I am saying is that not everyone accepts it and in my experience I would say most probably don't, especially if it happens often.

    _No, if you read the link I placed in the post, you will see that the police are exceeding what is required of them by law._This is however one person's opinion which I accept but don't necessarily agree with. I don't really have the time at the moment to research the law on this but I concede my comment isnt conclusive although I maintain your link isn't conclusive either.

    And of course there's a freedom of speech argument about whether offensive statements should be banned in the first place.
    Well James, that depends on the nature of the comment. Racist abuse is illegal although not all racist comments are necessarily serious enough to warrant criminal intervention. As mentioned by both of us, the police often misuse their powers however as you say, the general effect of the powers can be a positive one.

    Althought the link you highlighted mentions a handful of silly examples (which are bound to iritate) there is no mention of the probable thousands of race hate incidents that have also been dealt with by the police that 10–20 years ago would have been ignored. In other words no–one highlights the immense benefits that ethnic minority people now have because racial abuse is taken seriously by the police. They prefer to concentrate on the apparent misuse of these powers by the police (which I agree are not, acceptable).

    If people are free to say whatever they want even if their comments are deeply offensive and indeed psychologically damaging and said with the intent to be so I suggest that the perpetrators of such abuse should not be afforded the almost absolute protection of the law should they be assaulted. And then we have anarchy. Which is why there can never be absolute freedom of speech.

    10 May 2006, 00:10

  23. i'm not sure that suggesting you or your family supported the IRA was a possible intepretation from my comment but I apologise if that is what you think. I certainly have no evidence to make such a claim.

    It's ok, I definitely wasn't accusing you of that, just unnamed others out there. I don't take offense to that either, I just remember that in schools here kids learn about WWII not the Ireland situation (which is more challenging but more relevant). It's the nature of living in Britain. :)

    I accept that being stopped often would be highly irritating, I know I'd feel that too, but hopefully the fishing trips you mentioned are sufficiently underused to avoid this. Obviously in the past this has not always been the case, but that's a debate on the state of the British police which I won't enter into as everyone else here seems better informed on it.

    10 May 2006, 00:32

  24. No. My interpretation was not based on believing a value judgement was being made, or on any specific personal views on the actions of any particular organisation.
    For the third time, I took issue with the "group which contains a higher number of criminals than the general population" part. So, there were more Irish criminals in Britain thancriminals in the rest of the population?

    And it's not a "PC v. necessity" debate I was "looking for". "political correctness" means nothing to me. Basic civil liberties are ntohing to do with "political correctness". The words should not be used synonomously.

    10 May 2006, 01:38

  25. So, there were more Irish criminals in Britain than criminals in the rest of the population?

    No. I said more terrorists, not (crime unspecified) criminals. You said yourself that there's reasons why the police don't stop every crack dealer in town, but they couldn't take that attitude with terrorists hence why populations thought to contain more terrorists than the general average will be targetted (again a statement of fact, not a value led assessment). Remember in stopping people with Irish/Northern Irish accents they'd be stopping Protestants as well, possibly ones who were terrorists themselves. It's not a purely anti–Catholic measure as the Protestants were prone to outraeg themselves.

    I've already clarified myself on the concepts associated with judging which criminals are prevelant in which group so I won't repeat myself.

    10 May 2006, 10:25

  26. James

    "The US could've avoided 9/11 simply by having reasonable security on domestic flights." Rather naive I think – would the perpetrators of 9/11 just have packed up their bags and gone home if they found security on flights better? I think they might have come up with another form of atrocity.

    The actions of the US since have been rather unfortunate. In particular, going after Iraq when, if anything Saddam was an ally in the "war on terror" as defined since he ruthlessly crushed religious extremists. They should have stayed committed to Afghanistan and tried to finish the course there, instead of getting bored as seems to be the case. But that's all off the topic.

    Vincent gets annoyed about groups being singled out as supposedly having a higher incidence of criminals. But it is true that teenage males contain more criminals than elderly females. Profiles of criminals is legitimate provided it is not used as an excuse to victimise those the police don't like, as was alleged to have been the case with the stop and search activities.

    David – if you read my earlier post, I specifically said that complete freedom of speech is impossible (and have blogged to that effect many times before, including on Sarah's blog). But there's a question over whether it is a good thing to try and circumscribe things simply on the basis that they are offensive. Homophobia is an odious phenomenon and much progress has been made in the past few decades as with racism, but it remains doubtful to say the least that anything would be achieved by, say, imposing criminal sanctions on the likes of Iqbal Sacarine because he says things offensive to gays.

    10 May 2006, 12:36

  27. Knowing that a higher proportion of criminals/terrorists/whatever exists in a certain group than the national average isn't good enough reason to start randomly stopping and searching (or whatever) that group. The proportion would have to be very high indeed (say 25% or something like that) before this sort of thing would be justified. In fact, the difference is often something like 0.015% instead of 0.01%.

    Compounding the problem, the choice of categories is often racist or otherwise discriminatory. For example (I'm making this up because I don't know if it's true or not), the proportion of petty theft is probably higher among poor people than well–off people, and the ratio of poor black people to well–off black people is higher than the same ratio for white people. Therefore, if poverty was a significant causative factor in petty theft, you would expect the percentages of instances of petty theft to be higher for black people than white people. But, by choosing to profile based on skin colour rather than wealth you are making the (racist) assumption that skin colour has a causative effect on criminality. The end result is harassment of the group singled out, and its also ineffective and lazy policing as well.

    10 May 2006, 15:32

  28. Rather naive I think – would the perpetrators of 9/11 just have packed up their bags and gone home if they found security on flights better? I think they might have come up with another form of atrocity.

    9/11 was a specific event that could have been avoided with rudimentary security measures we are all used to on international flights. It does not follow that terrorists will not seek some other way of killing people. I did not say this so struggle to see how my comment is naive.
    The point is that 9/11 was monumentally catastrophic because of a lack of security.

    The vague assertion that there are alternatives for the terrrorists with equally monumentally catastrophic potential is not sufficient for an all out assault on civil liberties.

    Again you refer to intent; you have a point but intent is not enough, in my view. Suggesting anything is possible with these people leaves the extent of removing civil liberties open–ended. I suggest that is what politicians want. Arbitrary power.

    We have to deal with the situation as it is, not the fear of what people might do in the future. I agree that puts as at slightly more risk than being paranoid but that is a risk I am more than willing to take to preserve centuries old liberties that, in my view, help to define our country.

    Terrorists may succeed in killing some of us but they cannot destroy our way of life. Only we can do this by by the way we deal with such adversity.

    "Knowing that a higher proportion of criminals/terrorists/whatever exists in a certain group than the national average isn't good enough reason to start randomly stopping and searching (or whatever) that group."

    Random stop and searches are also generally illegal. Anti–terorrism law and to an extent public order law being the exception.

    Part of living in a free country is the ability to go about one's business without being molested by the authorities.

    I agree the practical benefit (ie preventing and detecting crime) of random stop and searches is negligable.

    The only effect they may have is make those who witness them feel more secure that the police are doing something and make those who are subjected to these stops feel resentment.
    This does none of us any good in the long run.

    "But, by choosing to profile based on skin colour rather than wealth you are making the (racist) assumption that skin colour has a causative effect on criminality."

    I don't entirely agree with this point. The police may well argue that they couldn't care less whether crime is caused by race or poverty. They are just being more suspicious of those they believe are more likely to be involved in crime, regardless of the causes. (Although I agree there are no doubt some who do make the assumption that being black causes crime).

    The problem is, the police then assume that every black person is fair game for stop and searches so the vast majority of law abiding people are subjected to harrassment. It also has the effect of strengthening negative stereotypes of black people.

    When applied to Asian Muslims in the community it will also have the effect of creating some sympathy for terrorism. This is a price we cannot afford to pay for something that offers us no practical benefit.

    11 May 2006, 15:39

  29. I said:

    "But, by choosing to profile based on skin colour rather than wealth you are making the (racist) assumption that skin colour has a causative effect on criminality."

    David said:

    "I don't entirely agree with this point. The police may well argue that they couldn't care less whether crime is caused by race or poverty. They are just being more suspicious of those they believe are more likely to be involved in crime, regardless of the causes. (Although I agree there are no doubt some who do make the assumption that being black causes crime)."

    First of all, let me start by saying we're talking about a hypothetical example here.

    I agree that the police would argue exactly this point, but my point is that by choosing race as a category for profiling, you are making a racist assumption. It is implicitly racist even if you explicitly try to weasel out of it by saying "We're just doing what works" (the New Labour fantasy).

    In my hypothetical example, the police chose to profile based on race when they could have profiled based on wealth. The statistics were consistent with the (non–racist) null hypothesis that race and criminality are not causally connected (although they were correlated statistically).

    If racism was not a problem for the police and society at large, it wouldn't matter much if they chose such a weak category as race for profiling. They could do better, but it wouldn't be part of a systematic racist bias it would be a sort of random error. The fact that racism is a problem means you have to be more careful not to make this sort of error.

    11 May 2006, 23:22


Add a comment

You are not allowed to comment on this entry as it has restricted commenting permissions.

May 2006

Mo Tu We Th Fr Sa Su
Apr |  Today  | Jun
1 2 3 4 5 6 7
8 9 10 11 12 13 14
15 16 17 18 19 20 21
22 23 24 25 26 27 28
29 30 31            

Search this blog

Tags

Most recent comments

  • To all of you who have been through or are going through IVF – all the best through the ups and down… by Lela on this entry
  • my boyfriend gets an attitude with me when we are around other girls we do not know what does this m… by kelley on this entry
  • I have to say that the comments that some people have posted i.e. "if you cant have kids then hard l… by Dee on this entry
  • But hang on, I work in HE and my income is less than the minimum income recommended for students – a… by Jeremy on this entry
  • Blaming the media is pointless, the child is 8 years old, he doesn't have an income or a job, it is … by Ryan Glover on this entry

Blog archive

Loading…
Not signed in
Sign in

Powered by BlogBuilder
© MMXIX