It seems that the Metropolitan Police has turned to Google to place adverts on the internet calling for people to report suspected Right Wing Extremists – and the advert is directing people to the Met Police’s anti-terrorism web pages.
For reasons which are more “gut instinct” than intellectual, I feel really uncomfortable with that.
Surely we live in a free society, and while I personally think hard-right wing political and social views be very yeugh-inducing, I also strongly believe that people have a right to hold whatever views they want. So long as you stay within the law of the land – you can think the world is flat, evolution is false and that Stalin was just misunderstood for all I care. Equally, I expect to be allowed to challenge your views through debate and argument.
I can certainly understand the police wanting to encourage people to report crimes to them – but is holding far-right political views now a crime in the UK?
Would the police (indeed, ARE the police) running adverts headlined with “Muslim Terrorist – Suspect it? Report it. Your call could be vital to us.” How about “Communist Sympathiser – Suspect it? Report it. Your call could be vital to us.”
Again, I can’t put into a detailed intellectual debate why I am uncomfortable with that Google advert, but the discomfort was undeniably heightened by the fact that it appeared on my own blog, specifically the “about me” page, where I comment on my Libertarian political views. Google adverts are targeted by keyword, so someone in the Met Police (or their ad agency) chose what words appearing on a web page should trigger the displaying of the advert – and evidently my combination of political terms set off some sort of alarm and resulted in the advert appearing.
This is just something which makes me very uncomfortable and just feels wrong for the police to be doing in a democratic society.