There you are: living in a quiet backwater of England. It’s a few weeks before England’s secret services get rapped across their claws by their own watchdog, because a few of their activities are in breach of Human Rights.
It may be a backwater, but of course, you know what happens in the rest of the world. You’re shocked by recent events in Paris. You hear the stricken magazine will print a special issue.
Extra copies will be dispatched throughout the EU, including your country. Charlie Hebdo’s commemorative issue will be available at the local post office and newsagent in your peaceful Sleepy Hollow.
And then it turns into a nightmare. For your friendly Bobbies lean on the local newsagent and post office. The Boys in Blue order them to jot down personal info of every person who dares buy the commemorative Charlie Hebdo issue.
The shop owners are blackmailed into complying with this Stasi-like order. They’re told it’s all “in the name of community cohesion”. They’re told it’s an act of “vigilance”. These law-abiding citizens help “assess community tensions”.
You think I’m fibbing? You think I’m pulling your leg?
The victims thought it was a hoax as well.
There are at least four people in Wiltshire, who recently received an apology from their police force. Police confirmed they had deleted names and addresses of all buyers of the commemorative Charlie Hebdo issue from police databases.
So in theory, these buyers of Charlie Hebdo are no longer registered as criminals or terrorists. For after the post office and newsagent closed, police collected their lists and entered the collected personal info with an accompanying note in police crime and intelligence databases.
At first, the victims were totally unaware of what had happened. But then, one of the victims – well into her seventies – , wrote a letter to the Guardian. What had occurred in Wiltshire became public and only then did police delete “the accompanying intelligence note”.
And only after journalists of the Guardian and Independent started asking questions, did Wiltshire police dispatch an apology and stated the gathered information had been deleted. As if dispatching an apology after such acts, takes the sting out of created community tensions. As if such police behaviour improved community cohesion.
I’m highly sceptical. As my former IT colleagues used to crow gleefully in such cases: “Yeah, sure: deleted from their police system and databases. Oh – oopsie, forgot: not from the database exports accidentally filed on USB sticks or illegally burned on DVDS; or spinning on a family member server ; nor from the daily and weekly and monthly backups. Cheers!”