Houses of Parliament, London
The UK's Labour government in its infinite wisdom has decided to expand the laws it has drafted to prosecute those who support al-Qaeda to include animal activists who, according to The Times of London
, "glorify militant acts against economic targets and laboratories." People who therefore raise a glass for those who stopped a lab torturing dogs by smashing up the place could, according to The Times
"be jailed for seven years and suspects held without charge for up to three months."
This is, of course, very disturbing news: punishing not only those who commit the crimes in question (which is justifiable under the law) or those who pay for, or otherwise directly or indirectly enable, the crime (which is arguable under the law), but those who are seen to agree in some way (what does "glorify" mean?) with the action (which should not be against the law).
So-called free societies never learn, do they? Those in power always overreact and try to squash dissent rather than deal with the sources of it. They always overreach and conflate genuine threats to our freedom (al-Qaeda) with activists and extremists who should be treated as common criminals, (arsonists, vandals, etc.)and not terrorists. In situations like this, I always ask the question: What is it that the people in power are genuinely afraid of? What debate do they want to stifle?
But this is nothing new. Something like this, I'm sure, attended all of the campaigns for freedom (or against change) in the past: anti-slavery, Luddism, suffragism, against child labor, civil rights, etc. All of these involved civil disobedience and some element of vandalism and threats against human life, and may have swept up fellow travellers and supporters with them. If you have seen Good Night, and Good Luck
, the exceptionally thought-provoking movie about Ed Murrow's taking on of Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s, you will know how reliable a political tactic the fear-mongering, with-us-or-against-us mentality has been and remains for the governments of both the US and UK over the years.
There are voices in power opposed to this legislation, and it may be amended, watered down, or become so unwieldy that prosecutions will be impossible. But the facts remain: Animal activists, of whatever stripe, will need to be aware of who they associate with, what they say, and what they support or do. And that is the scariest thing of all.