As a resident of Salisbury, I was interested to see a number of – shall we say – agenda-driven tweets this week, from an organisation calling itself “Wiltshire Police”. There was this, for instance:
“Hate has no home in Wiltshire. Report anything that makes you question if you’re being treated fairly #999WhatsYourEmergency”.
Anything? My children were particularly pleased to see that. They often find themselves to be the apparent victims of terribly unfair treatment, such as not having the same amount of pudding as another of their siblings, or missing their turn to sit in the front of the car. They assure me that any instances of such blatantly unfair treatment in the future may well be reported as a hate crime.
Another tweet put out by the organisation calling itself “Wiltshire Police” went like this:
“You can’t hide from us if your spewing abuse from behind a computer screen. Our boys & gals in blue will find you ??#999WhatsYourEmergency”.
“Your spewing”? Not “you’re spewing”? My immediate thought on reading this was that I ought to phone Wiltshire Police to report that someone had hacked into their Twitter account and was sending out infantile and semi-literate messages to tarnish their reputation. Impersonating a police officer is, I believe, a crime, and so presumably impersonating an entire police force must be a very serious crime indeed. Not to mention what might happen if people think that Wiltshire Police is following a strictly binary agenda – “Our boys & gals” – and so neglecting “non-binaries in blue”.
But as I was mulling over whether to alert Wiltshire Police to this possible hacking, the dreadful realisation came to me that perhaps the “Wiltshire Police” on Twitter and Wiltshire Police might actually be one and the same organisation. I mean, I can’t say I’ve seen them patrolling the streets around my neighbourhood since I moved to Wiltshire at the start of the century, so it’s just possible that they’ve given that malarkey up for good and have instead carved out a new role for themselves – patrolling the internet looking for bad thoughts, rather than patrolling the streets looking to deter crime.
Assuming they are the same organisation, one thing that can be said for them is that they do take their new role very seriously. After releasing the tweets mentioned above, a number of cruel and vicious persons took to Twitter to take the proverbial Michael. Their hateful jibes must have hit a raw nerve back at HQ, as they soon took to Twitter again to issue the following stern warning:
“We will not tolerate any form of abuse or discriminatory remarks made on any of our social media platforms. We are reviewing the posts and will consider any potential criminal offences which might have been committed. We will also ban anyone who is posting offensive or abusive material. Hate crime will not be tolerated in any form in our communities or online.”
This rather ominous statement had the desired effect on me. After reading it, I decided that phoning to inform them that their Twitter account appears to have been hacked by a bored 12-year-old with poor spelling might not be the best course of action. One of the tell-tale signs that you’re heading towards totalitarianism is that those in authority start taking themselves more seriously than anyone has the right to, mysteriously losing the ability to laugh at themselves. They reserve the right to put out all manner of twaddle, practically inviting the mockers, yet when the mockery comes they adopt the most po-faced expression they can muster, before climbing onto their highest horse to warn you that you are in danger of falling foul of some law or other. In any case, phoning them up to laugh at them might itself be seen as a “hate crime”, and as you know, hate has no place in Wiltshire.
Oh, except that it does. Just a day before these tweets, I read about a horrible incident in Elizabeth Gardens – a rather lovely park with views of Salisbury Cathedral across the water meadows. It was a Monday afternoon, about 12:30pm, broad daylight, and a woman was punched in the face by a man who then stole her dog. Was it a “hate crime”? I doubt the police will register it as such, but I can tell you that it was a “real crime”, of the sort that most of us want the police to spend their time trying to deter, and it certainly doesn’t appear to have been motivated by love.
It’s impossible to say whether this incident could have been prevented by a proper police presence in that area, but it is possible to say this: since the police have abandoned the communities they once patrolled, and especially since they retreated behind their computers to become social workers in fast cars, these sorts of incidents have become much more likely and much more common. The type of person who assaulted this woman in broad daylight might well be worried by a proper police presence in the area, but they are unlikely to be too worried by a police force that now seems keener on spending time and money patrolling Twitter and Facebook looking for offensive words.
The rest of us, on the other hand, do have reason to be worried. What we now have up and down the country is no longer police forces that see themselves as Servants of the People, whose job it is to protect the weak, the vulnerable and the law-abiding from those who would do violence. Instead, we increasingly have Servants of the Agenda, whose job is apparently to police speech and thoughts to make sure they do not contravene PC orthodoxies. Smelly little PC orthodoxies, as George Orwell might have put it.