Well, this looks odd. The police are saying some young men are terrorists. The evidence as described seems somewhere between flimsy and farcical. They haven’t got any actual evidence of bomb making, which is normally a prerequisite of a bombing campaign, but they’ve got, er, emails with girls’ names in them that may be codewords and a reference to a wedding that may be a codeword.
I don’t trust the police any more. I used to sort of generally trust them. I mean, I knew they planted drugs on people and hit people they shouldn’t, and stuff, so didn’t trust them in that regard, but I generally thought most coppers were decent enough people trying to do a difficult job in difficult circumstances, often in very grey areas, and I happen to think, despite being a minarchist, that state policing has a useful role. But I now think something has gone very very wrong with our entire policing apparat.
Over the past few decades, policing- the capture of criminals- has been replaced by policing as a sort of state guardianship. They are moral guardians now- a mutaween- but more than that we now have this enormous, uber-powerful “security apparatus” which is profoundly menacing. Such apparats rarely stay within sensible bounds- power leads to excess. The days of the village bobby are long gone.
We know that cases like Operation Ore- the paedophile ring that never was- are driven by a kind of excess of zeal and groupthink, often being pushed along by specific high ranking officers who believe they are on a mission to save humanity. When the matters being investigated are the subject of societal panic- paedophilia, or terrorism- we need to be very cynical. There seems to be a psychological effect which occurs whereby the security apparat fall into a groupthink feedback. They’re certain they’re right and, like conspiracy theorists, fall into a mindset of trying to pull together whatever snippets of information they have to fit their preconceived picture. The public tend to be ready to support them too in these panic situations, for much the same reason- when terroristsandpaedophiles are involved, any smoke proves there is a raging inferno. We become too ready to accept reductions in standards of evidence and due process of law because in our gut we know they’re guilty and terroristsandpaedophiles are as sly as foxes and capturing them requires the suspension of caution.
I have no idea whether these young men are terrorists caught in the nick of time, or innocent men caught in a web of circumstancially justified certainty by the security apparat. But when I read about “bombers” who have no bombs, and that emails describing a wedding are the evidence, I feel disquieted.