Friday, October 12, 2007

Have a Go

Southwark Council have a little series of posters and billboards proclaiming their campaign on anti-social behaviour. A typical one runs:

We will catch you.
We will prosecute you.
No excuses.
No exceptions.'

Then, as a final flourish,
'No place to hide'.

No liberal rhetoric here: I've spent enough time on estates to be quite familiar with the unpleasantness of constant petty violence and brutality. But this is horrible. Who is this 'we'? Council tenants? Doubtful, seeing as the number of people that vote in council elections in Southwark is roughly the same as the election in Blackadder the Third. The 'we', then, is the fundamentally unelected council itself - one that is no longer a provider of services, with housing, health, leisure all busily sold off to the highest bidder - which is left as a security state rump, making staccato declarations at the youth unlucky enough to be living in the remnants of their former, welfare state incarnation. Like the Benefit Fraud 'Dole Spotlight' ads (eg the one above), which are truly ethically vile in a state that has turned itself into an offshore tax haven, these posters are about surveillance, singling out, terror - the vigilante's simulacrum of popular action.


Blogger Dominic said...

There's been a drift over the last few years towards ever more macho and threatening language in public poster campaigns like this - "Benefit Cheats! We Know Where You Live! We Will Follow You Home From The Boozer! And Give You The Thrashing You Richly Deserve!", and I scarcely exaggerate. I strongly suspect it's the work of media grads with Daniel Craig fixations, back from their team-building paintball day and channeling their hard-man fantasies into slogans. I tend to think, first, you wankers, and second, how dare you talk to us like that.

2:53 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This process is, as everyone understands, driven by a simple language-switch that allows public bodies to label a commonly known type of person as a benefit thief/cheat — however the wording runs — even before they've been charged, let alone been prosecuted or found guilty of anything.

A similar language change over time is already in place in the world of income and tax, where the Treasury's surveillance measures are so ingrained it doesn't even have to advertise the fact that it regards people as already guilty if they're subject to financial investigation.

And it's already worked through the home affairs system to the extent that it's readily accepted that anyone under surveillance/investigation for anti-state/national security activities must bear some level of guilt. I say that because there's no sense of a popular outcry over those detained without trial in HMP Belmarsh, and little

It's the language of security overruling the langauge of political representation. It may also have something to do with a strain of national self-righteousness that allows a "we know what those people are like" discourse.


3:49 pm  
Blogger Dominic said...

It's also intentionally divisive language; in a way my pique at being addressed in such a vulgarly nasty way is missing the point, because I'm not the implied addressee (if anything, and this is perhaps more galling, I'm the implied addressor). The structure of the address is that there is a "we" which implicitly includes all decent, right-thinking and law-abiding people, and a "you" at whom we collectively wag our fingers and suck our teeth. Members of the former group are not supposed to identify with members of the latter - and indeed I don't, being decent, right-thinking and law-abiding to a fault - but I will make it a point of honour to refuse to recognise the distinction, which means refusing to be identified as belonging to either of the groups it distinguishes.

5:50 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This reminds me of a card my housemates and I received through the letterbox from the TV Licensing people c. 2002/3. We didn't have a TV & as a result were sent numerous threatening letters, the implication being that NOT possessing a box is a crime in itself. The card was custom made for our address (WE know where YOU live) and read something like - in bold black capitals - "28 Colville Place, DON'T BOTHER TRYING TO HIDE YOUR LACK OF A LICENSE FROM US". We tippexed it to read "28 Colville Place, DON'T BOTHER", stuck it on the back of the bathroom door, and never heard from them again.

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