The exact meaning may be lost on most people today (it’s actually from an old comedy sketch, but that’s a different story), but the intention of the quote is still well-known in Poland: those who dare to criticize those in power, are helping the “enemy” – however he is defined.
This sentiment is one that is popularly associated with totalitarian or fascist governments, but it is something that ringed strangely familiar when I read today’s statement from the Home Office regarding David Miranda’s detention:
“Those who oppose this sort of action need to think about what they are condoning.”
This is a sentence that sends a shiver down the spine of anyone who’s lived in a communist state, or even simply read his Orwell. Later today, a senior civil servant and Tory politician in a BBC interview said that “no journalist is in a position to judge” whether they should release information they possess or not. Only specialists – government specialists, he might add – have this knowledge.
There is an air of Sir Humphrey in this, as in all civic servants (“Of course we can’t let the press write what they want!”), but there is a far more sinister shadow hiding in these words. Because if only certain people – not journalists, and certainly not individual whistleblowers – should be able to decide what information is to be released to public, it’s only a step away from putting these certain people in one office and have them read all the newspapers, blogs and TV programme transcripts before they are released, just to make sure no sensitive information is being released. Information that might “help the terrorists” – because let’s not forget, this is all being done for our own good. And while we’re at it, let’s make sure no criticism of the government comes through, because we all know this also helps the terrorists. Let’s call this office, say, “Office for the Control of the Press,Publications, and Public Performances” – a neat little innocent name – and we’re good to go. Freedom be damned – “safety” is everything.