by Ralph Leonard
Wednesday, 17
March 2021
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10:54

Undercover police in nightclubs won’t reassure anyone

It reveals our culture's obsession of safetyism
by Ralph Leonard
Credit: Danny Lawson – WPA Pool/Getty Images

The government, according to The Times, has announced a raft of new measures meant to “reassure” women of their safety. One eye-catching pilot scheme will assign plain clothed police to patrol bars and nightclubs to look out for “predatory and suspicious offenders” who may intend to harass and women. Boris Johnson announced that “we must drive out violence against women and girls and make every part of the criminal justice system work to better protect and defend them”.

That makes sense — but many of these schemes do not. Of all the ideas that could’ve been chosen to ‘reassure’ women of their safety, the government opted for the worst: a nightlife Mukhabarat. This is the logical end result of a culture that fetishises ‘safety’ at all times and in all places — to the point where it degrades social freedom.

It is notable that in this case the responsibility for ‘protection’ is contracted out to the state, which has a proclivity to exploit any crisis to increase its power. Whenever a terrorist attack occurs the state always seeks to beef-up anti-terror legislation to the point of harming civil liberties in the name of protection. Likewise, the pandemic has served as cover for the Tories to attempt to legislate an anti-protest bill that will give the police more powers to restrict the right to protest during the pandemic (and probably beyond).

This turn towards safetyism is the result of what Erich Fromm once called the “fear of freedom”, where freedom, in our fragmented and alienated society, feels like a burden and a conduit to danger. Then, fellow human beings start to fear one another. In the book of the same name, Fromm noted that the “modern man is still anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds.” At the time, the author was describing the appeal of fascism, but today, his argument could apply more or less unchanged to the culture of safety.

Relieving people of the burden of freedom in order to make them feel safe is a cliché of authoritarianism. Trading in freedom for state ‘protection’ rarely makes people actually more safer. Quite the opposite: you end up without freedom or safety. In fact, it compounds people’s anxiety, heightens their perceived insecurity and only makes them more aware of how little self-determination they have over their own lives.

If we want to stop being a society of “frightened individuals” as Fromm described, we have to understand and embrace the burden and responsibility that comes with freedom. This will never involve stuffing nightclubs and pubs with undercover coppers. Above all we must make our own choices, and never expect a ‘higher’ authority to do it for us.

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Alex Lekas
Alex Lekas
1 year ago

How often do we see this: activity disguised as action with the intent of preventing what has already happened. That mentality is the foundation of the TSA in the US. There is a difference between cops patrolling areas where nightclubs exist, and officers going inside.
How does the mission of to look out for “predatory and suspicious offenders” who may intend to harass and women. even work? Do the predatory and suspicious wear certain items of clothing, or have other identifying marks?
In bars, drunks will sometimes behave badly. That’s why bouncers exist and when the drunk gets overly belligerent, that’s when law enforcement is called. But this approach almost smacks of thought policing – “may intend”? Really?
I keep wondering when cops notice how their bosses are setting them up for scorn and failure. It won’t be a politician who is enforcing this law, any more than it was a politician ignoring crime in one area while arresting a protestor who was genuinely peaceful.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago

This reeks of another round of “let’s been seen to do something”
The people that care, or have thought about it for any time, will see it for the relatively useless gesture it is.
However when the goverment/ministers are questioned they can point to their stats and talking points “we have over 200 [or whatever] officers who are out in the community vigilant for any would be offenders”.
And that’s it. The government can say they’ve taken measures (along with whatever else they come up with). Regardless that this measure won’t actually do anything at all, or that the problem is not easily sorted. It’s all ok. Something has been done, and the government has avoided the worst case for itself where someone accuses them of having not done anything

Last edited 1 year ago by A Spetzari
Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

I agree with you but the underlying problem is why governments will “do something”. What would happen if they spoke the truth – its about as good as its going to get. We’ll always have some nasty men (and some nasty women) around. We can’t protect everyone all the time.

Remember what happened when Boris wanted to do the sane thing and go for herd immunity?

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
1 year ago

Agreed – was going to draw the same comparison but didn’t for the sake of brevity. It’s why policy in the West is so constipated.

Richard E
Richard E
1 year ago

It’s typical police, going after easy targets who are not the problem.
As a result of their wokeism they ignore the black inner city gangs that intimidate both men and women on the streets, they hold back on the muslim rape gangs but give them an easy target like a bloke trying to chance his arm in a pub or club and they will be there in force – just as they have been out in force arresting women meeting up with friends on beaches or families with no gardens picnicking in the park. They love targeting people for offensive speech violations but don’t deal with serious crime when you need them.
While going down on one knee for BLM and ANTIFA, they typically went in hard on the women’s vigil the other night, as they did when people came out to protect against the vandalism of statues.
And while the police patrol the pubs and night clubs for easy cops, it’s the police out there kidnapping and killing girls like Everard. They are literally the scum of the earth.

Nick Johns
Nick Johns
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

This is not a police, but a politician led plan. Cops, in general, think it asinine and impractical.

Mel Bass
Mel Bass
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard E

The police are out there ‘kidnapping and killing girls’? What a ridiculously sweeping statement. And police are ‘scum of the earth’? Yes, there are officers who shouldn’t be in the job, but we can say the same about our corrupt politicians, or any other profession. One appalling example does not make a trend. You generalise when you have no concept of what policing is actually like for front-line officers. I suggest that you volunteer as a Special Constable for a while and actually try the job for yourself. You will quickly see just how difficult and sometimes dangerous it can be, particularly when the politicians want something impossible, the bosses are trying to comply or push their own agenda (for promotion, of course) and most of the people who you are sent to deal with will be the most difficult, obnoxious and deceitful members of society.

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
1 year ago
Reply to  Mel Bass

Good comment. Unfortunately ridiculously sweeping statements, absurd exaggerations and unhinged conspiracy theories unfortunately make up at least 50% of the posts on almost any subject on this forum!

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
1 year ago

Yes, another insane idea dreamed up by our deranged and repulsive political class. But when have they ever done anything else?

Johnny Sutherland
Johnny Sutherland
1 year ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

I often agree with you but not here. Insane idea – yes but what options do the political class have? If they suddenly decide to stand up to the twitering classes and the MSM how long will they be in office for?

How about there is no sensible solution? What are they supposed to do?

Steve Gwynne
Steve Gwynne
1 year ago

If we want to stop being a society of “frightened individuals”, then it is necessary to call out stereotyping and profiling and implore people to not internalise them, whether they are based on race, ethnicity, colour, sex, gender or beliefs.

David Uzzaman
David Uzzaman
1 year ago

So a women will now have have to consider if the man eying her is a undercover policeman or a murderous pervert or both.

John Wilkes
John Wilkes
1 year ago

Another idea without merit.
We are in serious danger of criminalising rudeness. Wolf whistles, bad jokes and crude comments are not criminal behaviour, they are rudeness. This is still something which a society believes to be wrong but is no business of police, courts or government. Where does this stop? It is hard to imagine a behaviour more harmful or hurtful to a person than if their partner cheats on them – in this brave new world would an adulterous husband (or wife) be facing police action?
The safety culture can be seen everywhere at the moment. In all daily video messages for my son’s school during what was laughably called home schooling, the message began and ended with the call to ‘stay safe everyone, that is the most important thing’. We are moving towards footballers not being allowed to head the ball and rugby players not being allowed to tackle. The obsession is becoming overwhelming.
We appear to have forgotten that there is a difference between being alive and living.

Julian Townsend
Julian Townsend
1 year ago

Any undercover police in nightclubs are far more likely to arrest people for possessing drugs, than they are to protect women from predators.

Ian Perkins
Ian Perkins
1 year ago

And many more people will attend unlicensed, illegal, ‘underground’ clubs as a result.

Paul Hunt
Paul Hunt
1 year ago

While Fromm was a powerhouse of 50s social theory, he was also a post-marxist with a drag towards using institutions to create freedom. I think saying that, whilst a multi-layered and complex theory, it appears a superficial and objectivist theory where people are entirely pulled by external social structures. The real factor is we have a reasonable justification to be aware of risks and respond to them: to say we can put the genie back in the bottle and not be worried about tangible, grounded and pretty fundamental risks to our person which we are all now aware would require an apocalyptic event. I do agree with the conclusion however that the solution would ideally be intervention by civil society to build a framework for individual freedoms, but where are these institutions? While I have fronted up to many students and weasels creeping over women in clubs and the street, people carry knives and people do respond to assertiveness with aggression- I am not equipped to quash every situation and don’t currently trust other people to help me. And skeevy people carry knives.

Fran Martinez
Fran Martinez
1 year ago

Competely agree with you.
As someone who grew up in Venezuela and escape that country basically because wanting freedom, it has been very dissapointing to see how the “developed” world (where I live now) is trading real freedom for a perception of safety. Because in this safety-fetishism as you well call it, it is only the “perception” of safety what matters not the actual numbers.
I have been always puzzled when people ask me questions like: “Is it safe to do … or to go …?”
Like if at any time you could be truly safe in a place. It’s just when you learn to live with the brutal fact that being alive is by definition “not safe” (you can die at any moment) that true freedom and calm can exist.