First they came for the anarchists...


anarchThe clipping attached comes from the City of Westminster police’s “Counter Terrorist Focus List” (PDF, H/T to Liberal Conspiracy). I’m not quite an anarchist – although some of my best friends are, and the works of people like David Friedman (PDF) and Georgetown legal philosopher John Hasnas (PDF) make me unsure. But saying that "anarchists should be reported to your local Police" is a pretty extraordinary command that should worry everybody. Disliking the state is now enough for your neighbours to report on you, and for plod to take notice.

Instead of a legitimate request for information about people who might be violent at riots (who quite incorrectly call themselves anarchists while demanding more state spending), the police have targeted people who believe something to spy on. The reason, in the police’s own words, is that anarchists:

consider the state undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, and instead promotes a stateless society.

Heaven forbid that anybody think the state might be harmful. Where could they have gotten that idea from? Fortunately the police are on their way, and they’re here to help.

The thinking behind this is, at best, a misunderstanding of the police’s role. They police are supposed to protect people from harm – not the state from peaceful change. Thinking that the police should protect the state from peaceful reform is more akin to 20th century totalitarianism than modern liberal democracy. Let’s not fall for the myth that a small group of violent thugs somehow implicates other people who share some of their beliefs. Nobody should be considered a criminal because of their opinions. If the police are getting involved, actions are what count.

We should be profoundly disturbed by this development, and not because it’s people who mistrust the state that are being targeted. The police section that released this piece is probably incompetent. But they’re incompetents who have the power to throw innocent people in jail, and they're sniffing around people who've had "bad" thoughts.

No, this isn’t East Germany, where you’d be thrown in jail (or worse) for holding unusual political opinions. But, when the police investigate people for thoughtcrime, it’s not the England that most people think they live in either.