Sometimes You Want to Go where Nobody is Allowed to Ask Your Name

Anonymity — it's not just for bloggers any more. Cops like anonymity too.

Of course, when bloggers fight for anonymity, they tend to do it with sarcasm and impassioned arguments of the tl;dr variety. When cops — who generally don't like to be photographed while doing what our tax dollars pay them to do — fight for anonymity, it tends to be with the less refined but more effective tools of truncheons, knees in the small of your back, handcuffs, and criminal charges.

Case in point: Rogier at Nobody's Business has the video of British cops arresting Val Swain and Emily Apple, who had the indecency to ask a cop for his name and badge number and take his picture when he would not give it. Swain and Apple are part of a group called FitWatch. FitWatch exists not to harass me for eating entire large pizzas in one sitting, but to observe and protest Britain's Forward Intelligence Teams, which "monitor" (or, if you credit FitWatch, harass) protests over in Merrie Olde. In this case FitWatch was watching cops as cops watched the "Kingsworth Climate Camp" in a British town called Hoo. I am reliably informed that "Hoo" is not made up. Nor, regrettably, is it proximate to a village called "Ha."

FitWatch is now trying to identify the arresting officers in this case.

What FitWatch does is dangerous to itself, in England or anywhere else. It's particularly dangerous in England thanks to that worthy nation's drunken careen towards comic-book authoritarianism, which includes a recent proposal that could criminalize taking pictures of police officers. The same conduct will get you in trouble in America as well, of course. There are many ways to punish the crime of contempt of cop, and they come under guises like "obstructing a police officer" and "resisting arrest" and "creating a public disturbance" and "disturbing the peace." If you try to question a cop — or take a picture of a cop in the course of his or her public duties — you may find yourself wearing one of those labels, may find yourself faced with a fraternity of armed and uniformed people pleased to perjure themselves to assure your conviction, and find yourself faced with a justice system that views your side of events with a mixture of hostility, cynicism, and apathy. So good luck with that.

This situation will prevail as long as people put up with it. Cheap digital cameras, broadband, and citizens who do not believe that cops are owed unquestioning deference will help limit it.

Last 5 posts by Ken White