Month: March 2005


School Uniforms and Thought Crimes

March 4, 2005

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Update: Denbigh win appeal to House of Lords

As the blogosphere’s man in Luton, I suppose I should comment on the Shabina Begum case. The only “local colour” I can contribute is to confirm that one doesn’t see many jibabs around the streets of Luton.

The other point that was made when the case was originally decided in favour of the school, but not made in the press now that the appeal has gone the other way, is that Denbigh School is 80% Muslim. Various arguments I have seen do not take this into account.

That is by the way. I’m less interested in whether religious traditions should override school uniform policies, than in the bizareness of the legal argument that the Appeal Court used.

Their finding seems to be that the School erred by not considering whether their uniform policy breached the pupils’ human rights. If they had considered it, they could have decided, as the lower court did, that the uniform policy was fine, and they would have been OK. They lost because they didn’t have a piece of paper on file saying that they had taken human rights into account.

(I’m open to correction on my understanding here, as I’m working very much from secondary reports, including the Council’s own statement on the judgement.) UPDATE: I found the primary source; more details here.

This trend of legal and regulatory requirement is intensely stupid and irritating. It replaces restrictions on actions and policies with thought crimes. I mean that precisely; the fault of Denbigh School was not in its actions but in the way it decided its actions.

The result of this legal attitude is to drown all activity, in both the public and the private sectors, in a snowstorm of pointless arse-covering paperwork. Hypocrisy is made paramount, and the key managerial skill is, as Dogbert has it, “pretending to care”.

Thought crimes produce hypocrisy, because it is impossible to tell what someone is really thinking. You can act for one reason and claim to be acting for another reason, and if your reasons rather than your actions are regulated, you can get away with anything.

Time after time: employment law, money-laundering law, accounting law, human rights law, we are being required to take various principles into account, and document that we have done so, rather than being judged on results which can be objectively assessed.

This even links with yesterday’s post. I am a fanatical believer in honesty and openness. I like to tell the truth about what I’m doing and why, and prefer other people to do the same. Thought crimes mean that I am still free to act as I choose, provided that I’m prepared to lie about it. It leaves a culture of disinformation which harms everyone’s decision making.


Openness

March 3, 2005

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Via Hit and Run, an overwhelming case for openness in counter-terrorism.

The bullet points: If law enforcement had kept fewer secrets from the public, the Sept. 11 attacks would not have happened. If they had kept more secrets, the attacks would have been more successful.

Our key advantage over the terrorists in our midst is that there are more of us than there are of them — by a factor of tens of thousands. Secrecy is a necessity for them: it evens the odds by taking nearly all of us out of the fight. If they know our secrets, there’s actually not enough of them to exploit it. If we know any of their secrets, then someone, somewhere, can use that to learn more or to act against the terrorists.

In Britain, the government believes there are people against whom no legal case can be made, but who pose a huge danger if released into society. Its solution is to put them under house arrest, without legal proceedings, and a law is now before parliament to permit this. My solution would be to publish their names, addresses and photographs in the Mail on Sunday, and suggest that people might want to keep an eye on them.

There is, of course, a danger that “mob rule” might get out of hand, but I trust the people more than I trust the government. Apart from anything else, private individuals are more accountable than officials, as they do not have the Official Secrets Act to protect them from the consequences of their actions.




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