Bureaucrats and Blackmailers

Over Christmas I happened to catch the Orson Welles Sketchbook broadcast December 26th on BBC4. Welles may have been speaking decades ago, but his message couldn’t be more pertitent to today. He disccuses state surveillance, police powers and blackmailing bureaucrats.

You can watch it here: http://bbc.co.uk/i/plbtd/

Welles relates stories from his travels around the globe dealing with border police and bureaucracy in general. He longs for his father’s day when people had free movement as opposed to, “nowdays [when] we’re treated like demented or delinquent children.” What on earth would he make of modern-day Britain, the most watched place on the planet?

He tells of being stopped at the border of a nameless European country by typically officious and bullying policemen. He’s at pains to tell us he is by no means an anarchist or against the police. He may play a practical joke on the police but he does not advocate breaking the law. Rather he wants to bring the policeman to law.

The best bits begin 9 minutes in where he explores the insidious dangers of ‘red tapism’.
“Think of all those forms we have to fill out. Why should I have to confide my religion to the police? No one’s race is anybody’s business.”

Yes the policeman has a difficult job a very hard job, he says, but, “it’s the essence of our society that the policemans’ job should be hard. He’s their to protect the free citzien. Chasing criminals is an incidental part of his job. The free citizen is always more of a nuisance to the policeman than the criminal. He knows what to do about the criminal.”

“We should be grateful for the policeman. But we should be grateful, too, for the laws that protect us against the policeman. There are those laws and they’re quite different from police regulations. And those regulations do pile up. The forms keep coming in.”

“The bureaucrat, and I’m including the policeman here, is part of one great big monstrous thing – really like a blackmailer. You can never pay him off. The more you give him the more he’ll demand.”

We accept each new demand because we don’t want to get into trouble with the police. It’s easier just to hand over whatever new piece of our personal lives the authorities require, to agree to yet more surveillance, more forms, more databases; to grant the police more powers of arrest.

Why should we make trouble? A better question in a democracy would be, as Welles says, “Why should the policeman make trouble for us?”

3 Responses to “Bureaucrats and Blackmailers”

  1. Mr Andrews says:

    Why should the policeman make trouble for us?

    Simply because a citizen dares raise complaint about their oppressive and unlawful behaviour.

    My own personal experience, follows raising an ‘IPCC upheld’ complaint against officers of the Metropolitan Police.

    Following which I have had to endure their ‘unofficial action’. This includes;

    1. failing to respond to 999 call
    2. losing evidence (taped interview, custody suite photos) in relation to apprehended offender that caused significant criminal damage to my property
    3. Failure to investigate reported crime
    4. Falsifying criminal allegations
    5. dawn raid on home
    6. put through criminal trial, (not guilty)

    That’s a brief summary of what trouble the police will cause for you. They are sadly not to be trusted and quite comfortable to act in an oppressive and criminal manner should they decide your conduct warrents it, even if that conduct is reporting the ‘bad apple’.

    Despite this and the significant impact it has had on my life, would I report the officer again? Everytime, and so should each and every citizen.

  2. David Mery says:

    The transcript of this excellent episode of Orson Welles’ Sketchbook is at http://www.wellesnet.com/Sketchbook%20episode3.htm

  3. IAN PAYNE says:

    Love Orson Welles – he saw so much that others never even bothered to see. We will sadly never see celebs like him again who challenge the status quo, rather than go along with it !!!!

    I have the complete audio of his radio play WAR OF THE WORLDS which half the US believed in 1930’s when it was broadcast – his voice is so dramatic, I think I would have believed it also !!!!

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