Talk about Newsnight

Latest programme

Thursday, 2 November, 2006

  • Newsnight
  • 2 Nov 06, 06:27 PM

surveillance203.jpgOn Thursday's programme: the Asbo generation and CCTV - why are our youths so unruly when they are being monitored so closely? Salam Pax, our Baghdad blogger, reports on the trial of Saddam Hussein; on Wednesday, Madonna told us the Malawian child she is trying to adopt has no grandmother - we find out if that is true; and why China is so interested in Africa.

Join Jeremy at 10.30 on BBC2 or watch live on the website and leave us your thoughts below.

Comments  Post your comment

  • 1.
  • At 10:04 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Suresh wrote:

I am constantly on the move, so rarely can I be sitting up near a tv when your programme is broadcast. Nevertheless, your programme is a favourite of mine...and I do subsribe to your daily bulletin.

It would truly be wonderful if summerised versions of the tv discussions held the prev night (or as convenient) could also be included or sent out in separtate newsletters for the benefit of people like me who do not live in UK. I am sure there must be hundreds of thousands like me wanting to keep abreast!


  • 2.
  • At 10:45 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Kevin wrote:

sorry - but how can anybody take that woman (Camilla ?) in red serious?

  • 3.
  • At 10:47 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Nick Gale wrote:

THe main reason for so many cameras is that it is a cheaper option for policing. The police in my area (Richmond Surrey) have given money towards these projects.

In our local areas Ham and Petersham W London we now have our safer Neighbourhood. Prior this we fought for cameras as we had no other means of policing in the area and was the best option at the time. I beleive the lack of police and having no park wardens etc people of authority in the last 15 year and have conbributed to this decline

  • 4.
  • At 10:48 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Jacqueline Nye wrote:

Please tell Mr Ferrari that I work as a teacher in a young offenders prison where we take boys from 15 to 21. His comments are so ill informed that they are frightening. It is not an easy option and most of these boys have backgrounds that you wouldn;t wish on a dog.

Personally I would rather deal with the lads that in prison than sit in a room with someone as stupid as Mr Ferrari!

  • 5.
  • At 10:48 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • david dalton wrote:

again I see the same video from 1995 of some lad smashing a car window. Can someone tell me how many times this particular has been shown?
Can anyone say what has happened to that lad in the eleven years since? Perhaps he is in gaol? Perhaps he's an estate agent? Perhaps he's dead? Perhaps (passim Kerry) he is one of our 'brave lads' jumping thro. the burning hoops for George and Tony?
If nothing else such dusty videos as that are little more than donuts for fatheads to chew on .. that was a Tory crime init!

  • 6.
  • At 10:50 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • L Briggs wrote:

Crime figures are down because the police will not recognise a report if they have no chance of solving the crime.
They say they will grow out of it.
Did you see them do the damage?
it is frustrating getting them to act but if you try to do something about it yourself they will soon be knocking on your door.
As an average Joe we will be honest and own up and be an easy collar.
So are the stats a true reflection?

  • 7.
  • At 10:50 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • David wrote:

because she talks a lot of sense you bigot

  • 8.
  • At 10:51 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Simon wrote:

I am watching the program with interest and listening to this I felt I had to comment. In March this year a total stranger of about 15 yrs old attacked me with a hatchet. Had I not turned to face him I would not be sending this in. I would be dead. And yet even now this child is still on the street. Since the incident the group invlolved, living in my area have gloated and taunted me about this.

I agree that the initial fault may lie with the parents, even with our society itself BUT AS LONG AS THERE IS NO REAL PUNISHMENT FOR THESE CRIMES IT WILL CONTINUE TO BE A BADGE OF HONOR, just like the ASBO. I don't believe that prison is the way. But, I believe that a process of tagging, monitoring, permanent records, financial penalties and curfews might be a start. These kids are by mission of action ruining the lives of others, so lets return the compliment. Let's show these individuals that if they do these actions there are consequences. And lets show their families too.

Am I biased? Yes, I probably am. But all i see is our country getting worse. So lets target those doing it.

  • 9.
  • At 10:52 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • steve wrote:

Are you guys nuts? That firework in the phonebox was spectacular! Why broadcast something like that? Have you not just put the idea into a dozen young heads? Or are you assuming that those who might be tempted into such homemade Hollywood special effects are not watching Newsnight?

  • 10.
  • At 10:52 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Eric Bell wrote:

Organisations like Child Line are a contributary factor in the yob culture of today. Teenagers know that no adult can chastise or challenge their actions for fear of reprisal themselves.

Most of us have had children, they're all bored, and they all know right from wrong. Some conciously choose to commit crime knowing they can get away with it. Crime isn't going down. Politicians are manipulating the figures as always.

Bring back the birch!!

  • 11.
  • At 10:52 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Drew wrote:

I think that fear is the only solution. the Youths have no respect and the police can't do anything. Prisons should be used and should be the most horrible place ever. So the youths will do anything never to go there. A large problem is human rights stopping things like the cane.

  • 12.
  • At 10:55 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Nick Gale wrote:

The reason for so many asbos on young poeple is that we the public have had to put up with so much anti social behavour proir to Police, politians and local council taken appropriate action. The police and government are very much aware of public feeling so I am sure in some circumstances asbos have unnecessilary awarded

  • 13.
  • At 10:57 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Elizabeth wrote:

Tonight's feature on Youth Justice was extremely interesting as I work in Youth Justice, however, I do think that Newsnight could have focussed an entire programme on the subject. It is an important topic, and should be analysed more thoroughly in the public eye.

  • 14.
  • At 10:57 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Garfield wrote:

I'm sorry but why should we be giving these teenagers respect? Whatever happened to growing up to respect your elders? It's bleeding heart liberal views such as this that has led to the total breakdown of discipline amongst children. We should no longer be 'empowering' our children, more like teaching them how to respect others and instead of handing out ASBO's which is the equivalent of saying "don't do it again you naughty boy!", we should be teaching them that breaking the law means that you pay a penalty either financially or with your freedom...

  • 15.
  • At 10:58 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Adam wrote:

I have just seen the report about Police wasting their time.
As a serving Police officer, I totally understand what PC Copperfield is talking about.
Get rid of the legislation that is slowly bogging down decent Police Officers who want to serve their community.
Stop listening to the do-gooders, we have turned into a nanny state, where criminals do not see the judiscal system as any form of punishment.
Decent law abiding people need a strong and tough legal system.

  • 16.
  • At 11:02 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Sue Mellor wrote:

I'm a Primary teacher who has taught infant children for 13 years. I firmly believe that the discipline problems in this country are because many parents do not give children any boundaries or limits.
Parents often come and ask me - please can you ask her to hold my hand when we cross the road or please tell him that he has to get dressed in the morning!! That should be a parent's responsibility!
At school, children have a clear structure - rules, routines and limits are negotiated and referred to. Expectations are high and the vast majority of children wouldn't dream of saying no to a teacher but will quite happily rant at their parents and even hit them.
Many young parents have no idea - they have experienced few boundaries or structure themselves so how can they understand the importance of this?
Schools need to engage parents early on in their children's schooling and provide them with support and strategies. being a parent is hard going - giving in and not bothering is quite often easier.
ASBOs are the end of the line - it's too late - that child is out of control and knows no limits. Early intervention is the answer - most Reception/ Year 1 teachers will be able to tell you who will have an ASBO in 10 years!

  • 17.
  • At 11:03 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Suraj Ram wrote:

I'm 18 years old and I strongly believe that the main reason for young people to act in such a way is due to a lack of strong family values in their up bringing. Learning to respect yourself and to respect others will ultimately make a better person and it is the parents/guardians responsability to make sure that their child is properly loved & cared for.

As everyone knows we are talking about a very small number of the new generation and I believe that most of the time, all these people need is one good smack. Each individual should realise that they are a part of a community and as a community we should stand up for each other and despite who the young person is, if they are doing wrong the community should stand together and intervene.

  • 18.
  • At 11:04 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Ray wrote:

I agree that the lack of visible police on the street has contributed to this decline in the behaviour of young people; especially at night and during the weekends. I don't think the police can be blamed completely everyone has a responsibility to report crime and not to asume someone else is going to do it. As for ASBO's I don't think they can work on their own, along with an ASBO there needs to be a multi-agency support package in place. This will enable families to deal with the issues underlying the anti-social behaviour. There needs to be more emphasis on preventative work with families, it works, see the recently published Sheffield Halam research.

  • 19.
  • At 11:10 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Michael MacCourt wrote:

Young people absolutely need discipline, boundaries and consequences but correct too is the assertion that it must happen in the right setting, namely the home, where love and security and commitment also exist but equally where positive, responsible behaviours can be modelled and learned.

The best schools manage to deliver this also but many are now overwhelmed by the need and complexity of so many students.

Institutionalised punitive interventions in young adulthood are too late and whilst they offer a cheap appeal to some simply damage and alienate young people further.

There is undoubtedly a mass failure of parenting in a wider crisis of values and aspirations.This is a crisis of example and personal responsibility in that whilst it is easy to demonise young people we are quick to ignore the irresponsible behaviour of adults across society.

What kind of example are we setting?

Outside the gates of my own school upper middle class mothers on the school run habitually speed in their poisonously thirsty 4X4s passing comfortably off dog-walkers whose animals soil the pavements and footpaths while they discuss house prices.

Many children in my care see worth only in possessions encouraged by the greed of marketing men and secretly suck on cigarettes more furtively but no less skilfully promoted and see speeding in cars as heroic and sexy (another four local youngsters killed in the past week) yet the Top Gear fella is the nation's darling?

Mr Ferrari needs to stop ranting the Kidscape crew need to stop idealising and we all need to look to ourselves as parents and citizens?

We get the young people we deserve.

  • 20.
  • At 11:41 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • David Bell wrote:

comment from Elizabeth is spot-on. This is such a vital subject a whole programme should be devoted to it. With someone a bit deeper-thinking than Nick Ferrari on the "birch" side hopefully.

  • 21.
  • At 11:41 PM on 02 Nov 2006,
  • Mimi Harker wrote:

I was surprised but not shocked to hear the statistics that we in Britain have the least contact with our children. we are actively encouraged to stop interacting with them as they may be seen as 'soft' and then get bullied if their parents are loving and supportive in public.

They go to secondary school and we are not 'allowed' to accompany them as they will get teased - ridiculous!
They go to their first school disco and we are told we are an embarassment for wanting to capture the moment and take pictures of them with their friends or indeed if we simply want to make sure they enter the premises safely. We allow ourselves to be dictated to by who or what when we give in to these attitudes? I personally never ever want my children to be bullied or suffer becasue I am over protective or love them too much,(if that's possible!!!) therefore I am cautious and keep a watchful eye from a slight distance. I know that even this much is frowned upon. Why?

Our children need our love and support - it makes them feel confident and reassured - and I think the pressure on them and us to be so 'grown up' is causing this fracturing of society. We are not allowed to follow our instincts any more and to treat our children like children- there is a formula for everything and to ignore the formula is to isolate yourself and your child from the rest of the 'clan'.
We all need to take responsibility and teach our children that it is absolutely ok for your family to love and support you and that they should be proud of that and not embarassed! we should not give our children so much lea way to dictate to us as parents and adults and when they try and isolate themselves in an attempt to break free we should give them even bigger hugs! They need it even if they don't realise it and we need to be the mature grown ups here who have learnt from our experience!

Iraq: The videos by Salam Pax are always enjoyable and interesting. It is noticeable now that his optimism - I remember him saying hopefully "we are seeing the birth of the new Iraq" - has been replaced by a much more gloomy outlook. His latest film shown tonight on the trial of Saddam emphasised this sense of foreboding.

Crime in Britain: The gloomy outlook in Iraq is matched by that in our own country. The police are basically useless, according to one of their own blogging undercover. The youth are out of control due to the parents being worse than useless. The prisons are full. Instead of trying to come up with a new set of policies on a countrywide basis, could it be worth trying small-scale pilot schemes in one or two areas. A different way of policing for say one market town as a test. Put aside all the paperwork and let the police out on their own initiative for a few months or a year and see the results. Similarly with teenage offenders. Some sort of boarding school should be set up where the teaching is of good quality and the criminal children are kept under strict supervision with lots of sports training. Keep them there all the time for say a year and see whether that is a better option than the ASBO. If these ideas work on a small scale they could be spread to a larger area and if they aren't any good should be replaced by something else. Eventually there must be a working solution to these problems we all face.

  • 23.
  • At 02:08 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • vikingar wrote:

What's the real benefit of CCTV:

- to deter & prevent crime *
- make prosecution easier (i.e. cost saving)

* simple Google search on 'CCTV' & 'assault' reveals useful litany of incidents.

For example:

Pro: Speed Cameras may catch legal accountable speeding drivers

Con [A]: utterly useless against preventing drivers with no insurance driving on false/cloned plates **
Con [B]: utterly useless against bad drivers (with/with out ins & plates) **

** for that you still need manpower i.e. police in cars with kit & most of all experience.

Even when CCTV has been available did not get impression it led to more severe/accurate sentencing (i.e. we could see what actually happened & could relate to the sentencing) rather it just made guilty verdict easier to reach, if not just/appropriate. ***

*** ref case of 3 yobs who walked up to student sitting on bench, then hit him in his head & then he died

Do the changes in crime record, make it more important for Law Enforce to fill in the paperwork for all 'crimes' rather than applying resources to tackle related crime (low level & serious).


  • 24.
  • At 02:54 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Liam Coughlan wrote:

BBC1 was more entertaining tonight as David Dimbleby had Charles Clark and Michael Heseltine amongst his panelists. As good as some of the questions were, one issue struck forcibly: where is the next PM Gordon Brown? Shouldn't he be popping up on Newsnight and Question and Answers every week to make his pitch to the electorate? Or does he believe that he has the job sewn up, and therefore the country sewn up?

There should be a Brat Camp in every town in Britain, modelled on the US version that seems to have worked wonders with some of our ASBO generation.

  • 25.
  • At 03:39 AM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • vikingar wrote:


Overall Rating - good programme (esp Saddam trial bit), pity not more time for crime & youth discussion.

7/10 Prof Rod Morgan (Youth Justice) [1]
7/10 Camilla Batmanghelidjh (Founder Kids Company) [2]
7/10 Nick Ferrari (radio presenter) [3]
8/10 Jeremy Paxman


Heard several arguments ...

Emotional Poverty in vulnerable children is caused by failure in families & Social Services e.g. 7,165 referrals made to 1 social department, of this 215 entered on child register with 50% of these being 'decanted'.

Are we misunderstanding how we go about law enforcement as there has been 27% increase in last 3 years of children being 'criminalised' which is linked to polices 'low fruit' policy to meets stats.

Crime Stats say nation experiencing lower crime, though fear of crime & experiences of crime does not back these figures up.


Whilst not agreeing entirely with what Camilla Batmanghelidjh says, do believe she has put herself emotionally, professional & financially on the line for children in need - she has earned the right to give an opinion & its based in experience (from her standpoint).

Batmanghelidjh is right in certain aspect, that it is the failing of adults & the blame should not be wholly be put on the children.

But the State is not going to put extra billions into Social Services on promises of future success, after 30-40 years of department that enjoyed greater responsbility but delivered failing services.

Once such children/teens/yobs have become like they are, the unfortunate answer is 'tough love' is the minimum they need to save themselves, their communities & our society.

Intervention by pressure groups & a more centralised state & plethora new laws ref individual, family, state & law has not prevented violence against children, its increased violence within society .. .primarily caused by other children, most often against the vulnerable (women, elderly & children).


When one train of political thought dominates in an area of policy but does not bring positive results & only makes things worse, we are duty bound to try something else.

Social policy in the UK since at least 1960s onwards has been largely dominated by liberal left, both in strategy/policy & service delivery.

That aside, the current situation we face post war - increasing lawlessness & anti social behaviour, is directly related & attributed to loosening/removal/breakdown of controls in society, combo of:
- demise of empire
- demise of religion.
- demise of class systems.
- demise of 'nuclear' family (increased state support for single parents & other incentives)
- lack of quality time (work pressures) between children & parent/s
- economic & working cycles.
- extension of rights & laws.
- raising of expectations (not often met/satisfied)
- change in how JCS works & how law is applied.
- popular media influences
- popular movements influences (trends, fashion, entertainment etc).
- greater population movements (internally & internationally)


Batmanghelidjh stated "children are not born criminals, they become them as a result of adult failures":

We need two strategies:

1. Strategies to deal with next generation up & coming through the system (some additional resources & better use of resources overall & better process in place, better recruitment of diverse staff, not domination by certain types, rather staff which reflect diversity of society not just those of a particularly persuasion).

2. Strategies to deal with existing problem generation/s, too be frank unless immediate & draconian intervention made on sizable proportion, they could be lost on society, so robust solution required.

Anyone who have had military services (esp Army) perfectly aware of what discipline is doable & what effect disciplines have on most types (but there are always exceptions, who need to be treated differently)

I would not want to see Conscription or National Service into the military however a Civil Corp / Peace Corp doing 12-24 months of work/service for communities & society could have real positive benefits.

But the military is a good example of cultural diversity (often made up from people from bottom of the barrel & people without good family experiences who have real problems, social & personality).

Yes 4-16 strangers in a room make it work - how & why?

Anyone who has served is aware of practical notions of discipline esp the barrack room kind, of the type that have been largely removed from society:
- willingness of people to intervene, the formal & informal (turning a blind eye by others)
- level low forms of discipline, hands on variety to low level intimidation.

Reality is if people do not know what's right/wrong or choose to ignore such, life in a barrack room quickly brings order & get to 'know the score' regardless. Such behaviour & attitude conditioning does not make soldiers rocket scientists or overly sensitive & in touch with their inner feelings, but it makes people understand the norms of behaviour, which I would argue, last you a lifetime (benefits vast majority).

In all seriousness a comparable practical solution about our problem youth, read bit about puppies & biting '1. properly socialize your puppy' [4]




I'm living outside UK but sense much of youth activities when they appear in Tv and other media.I believe young people are desperately seeking a helping hand through out their day's work very often.But it is known fact that no adults are available in such situations and it's true that kind of erronds cannnot be performed by any intimate of perticular youth.Gov.and media have greater responsibilities in forming up advisorey councils to get youth society to a certain order within the frame work of highly deciplene citizen law.This is what world needs now for it is to survive in peaceful environment.Youth are a innocent lot in any kind of adult- society and they are the lot having potential courage to carryout any kind of action-plan for the benifit of children and adults.

  • 27.
  • At 02:10 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Tracy Lochaden wrote:

My friend and I watch Newsnight in disbelief last night. Admittedly, I haven't watched it in a while but I expected a thought-provoking analysis of current events delivered in a challenging and intelligent way. Instead, I watched a programme more akin to Tonight with Trevor McDonald.
The pandering to Madonna's ego was cringe-worthy. If you must do an interview about this relatively inconsequential subject - at least make her come in to the studio like everyone else, and like far more important people than her have done. The candles and silk - please! I take back the Tonight comparison - this was more like OK magazine.
And how about the voice of the police officer. Complete sensationalism and totally unnecessary. If he didn't want to be identified, why not have someone else read his words in a 'normal' voice?
Poor Jeremy Paxman - what has become of him?

  • 28.
  • At 06:00 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Flyingbolt wrote:

Ref: vikingar #25

The anti 'liberal left' drone almost inaudible. Instead some interesting and good points. And blessedly free of knee-jerk punitiveness (to paraphrase another contributor: society gets the problem children it deserves).

You won't be surprised to learn that I disagree with some of the items on your 'blame' list. For instance, why do you believe that extending 'rights & laws' necessarily leads to a weakening of support for the notions of self-discipline and obligation to others? Nevertheless, you do touch on several of the factors that make it difficult for some children to become good citizens. Would you not agree, however, that such a list should be interpreted in the context of a highly visible disjunction between what is preached by society as a whole, especially by its rule-makers, and what is widely practised - a disjunction that the young, even those in supportive families, can find seriously disorientating?

If your solutions overall are a mixed bag, your idea of 'a Civil Corp/Peace Corp doing 12-24 months of work/service for communities & society' is an excellent one, even if some of the benefit you rightly predict for those who experience it is likely to dissipate if poor housing and meagre job prospects continue to provide the framework of their lives.

I have some sympathy for your evident regard for military virtues. I would point out, however, that forging a group mentality is good for an army, less obviously so for civil society. I would rather have young people who could think for themselves, while thinking of others.

As for the puppies - you were joking, yes?

  • 29.
  • At 11:15 PM on 03 Nov 2006,
  • Cloe Fribourg wrote:

Well, there you go: be off-line for a few days and log back on to find: a rather indecisive discussion on the future of this great planet of ours; yet another 'victorious campaign' by Blair and consorts to shield us from the truth or at least an approximation of it (Bob: I may even agree with you on this one); an excellent piece on Burmese 'governance'; and irrelevant tripe about Madonna's adoption (bothered?! who?!).

I get a ribbing relating to some, admittedly rather irascible 'right-arguments-wrong-presentation', remarks I made a couple of weeks ago [Bob: fair enough], find some rather amusing comments on Mark Urban's fetching dress in Iraq [Jenny: erhm...?] and am told to bring up children as puppies [Vikingar: were you kidding? really?!]...

Newsnight, ... miss it at your peril!

As far as this programme (02.11) is concerned, its main discussion should have distinguished more between arguments relating to youth crime/punishment and those concerning civil liberties. The link between the two topics is rather strenuous (too much supervision on issues that shouldn't matter but not enough 'real' crime being punished) and civil liberties are too important an issue to be discussed by people like Mr Ferrari or even Ms Batmanghelidjh. I agree with Michael MacCourt #19 in particular, I won't add more, enough has been said above.

Stephanie Flanders' report on Sino-African relations was inadequate (too short). I don't understand why thrashing out the Madonna story even further is more important than doing a decent piece on China's motives and methods in dealing with African states.

Salam Pax's work, as always, was very good.

Maddona's a superstar - of course we all want to see her (and not just on Oprah!). Newsnight showed Maddona to be a liar, as it had been found that the orphan David does have a grandmother in existence who visited her grandson regularly. Did any other channel do this? No! That's what sets Newsnight apart from other shows. Brilliant. As for Gordon Brown appearing on Newsnight - he's far to scared he's going to be shredded by Jeremy, hence he does not appear!

  • 31.
  • At 03:02 AM on 04 Nov 2006,
  • Manjit wrote:

I agree with message 24#, I've often wondered why Gordon Brown is not prepered to come onto shows such as Newsnight and Question Time. When was the last time the Chancellor was interviewed by Paxman or Newsnight's Economics Editor or Political Editor? His refusal to appear on shows such as Question Time show a fear of being held to account by voters. Thou one could argue the same about David Cameron.


There is some bewilderment amongst the population as to why our youth are so ‘anti-social’. Indeed, the facts do seem to show that they are disconnected from the adult population, and are more prone to ‘bad behaviour’ (whatever that might mean, where youth has always rebelled) than those in the rest of Europe.

In the past I have tended to see this disconnect from society starting in the time of Margaret Thatcher. She was responsible for two relevant features. She tended to preach about individual (property) rights versus societal responsibility (‘there is no such thing as society’); favouring the former over the latter. In addition she took on the ‘professions’ (especially the caring professions such as teachers), who she correctly saw as opposing her, by destroying respect for them – especially amongst the young. Clearly the resulting trends in society – especially disrespect for those in authority - can now be seen in the behaviour of ‘Thatcher’s children’.

But, thinking more radically about the reasons for our current problems, I now consider it may also derive from an unsettling impact of split cultures. We are now torn between belonging to the social-democratic culture of the rest of Europe and the free-market philosophies of the US; and our children are especially exposed to the latter.

In the 1990s there was a phenomenon amongst second generation Afro-Caribbean immigrants, where the comminity’s teenagers performed much worse that their peers in other ethnic communities. This was, at the time, explained as being a problem of them having to straddle competing cultures. Is something similar now happening with our own children, who have to straddle the social-democratic tradition of their elders and the US Internet based culture of their US peers?


It is true that almost every action we take is now scrutinized on CCTV or across the commercial data networks. But should we fear that this will produce a police state?

What we forget is that just a century or so ago, when people lived in tight-knit communities, everyone knew what everyone else was doing. It was almost impossible to hide anything from your neighbours, let alone from your extended family. Society survived this close scrutiny.

The great advantage, now, is that those scrutinizing what we do don’t have the time to pry into our lives in any detail. Where - in the past - the nosier of our neighbours could spend hours considering the quirks of our behaviour, now those watching us on CCTV have a matter of seconds to watch even the small perentage of individuals whose behaviour they decide to check; and commercial data rarely gets outside of the computer.

Of course some people do watch us, the security services for example, but even they – with their massive computer complexes – can only scan the general population for the odd provocative comment. Don’t phone a friend – and especially don’t send an email - to tell them you are about to bomb the tube, that will have the computers at Cheltenham spitting out details of your conversation in a second or so!

But, for most of us, safety now lies in the numbers. Nobody in authority has time to be interested in you, unless you work hard to bring yourself to their notice.

  • 34.
  • At 05:22 PM on 05 Nov 2006,
  • Jenny wrote:

Salam Pax's reports are always worth watching, giving a feel for how an intelligent, eloquent, western-savvy Iraqi man is experiencing things there; may we have more, please? And, as he seems to be your only out-gay correspondent anywhere, perhaps you could persuade him to do at least one piece about how things have changed, since Saddam was overthrown, and are still changing, for gays in Iraq, with perhaps some context from surrounding countries? If it wouldn't be too risky.

  • 35.
  • At 12:27 AM on 07 Nov 2006,
  • Rich Rostrom wrote:

I downloaded the video podcast, but the interview with PC "Copperfield" was missing. What happened to it?

This post is closed to new comments.

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites