Mechanic Michael Allison faces 75 years in jail for recording police

Mechanic Michael Allison faces 75 years in jail for recording police - this is his story

This story has just been brought to my attention in a different arena, and it shocked me. I think it will shock you.

I fear that in all those countries who regularly laud themselves for being “free”,  there is an extremely worrying trend to erode the rights of the individual, and to boost the powers of the state.

When I was growing up, in the UK, my Mum used to say to me “the best thing about this country, Stephen, is that your Dad fought for the right for you to say whatever you like, and we have free speech here as a result”.

That simple thought – that so long as one was not being defamatory or merely insulting, one was permitted to speak one’s mind openly and fearlessly on any topic – has guided my life ever since.

And I have tried to imbue it in my daughter, in my turn.

HMS Clare, 1941

One of the destroyers my Dad shipped on, the somewhat wobbly HMS Clare, in 1941

Mum lost her husband aged 46, a kindly but broken man, worn out by six years fighting the Nazis on tin-pot, turn-turtle lend-lease destroyers. (Those on board these ships (a valuable gift from the Americans at the start of the war) were more worried that they were always about to capsize than they were going to get a torpedo up their collective arses.) She was no great intellectual, but when she contemplated his sacrifice, which must have hurt her so badly, she drew comfort from the fact that “We can say what we like here, because of what your Dad did”. I used to try and talk to her about his sacrifice, and hers, but she would always brush it off, with an embarrassed wave of the hand. “It was just what we had to do, Stephen. We had no choice.” And she would say no more.

This essential freedom, paid for with the blood of millions, is so much a component of my social and intellectual DNA that I fear my world would crumble if it was seriously challenged. I would, without a backward glance, head for the barricades to defend my right to say anything I damn well please, so long as it adheres to the basic rules of civilised democratic behaviour.

That’s why I have so much admiration for the stand taken by this man in Illinois. This story goes directly to just such simple, core democratic freedoms as the right to free speech. How can recording the actions of police in public be a felony offence, equivalent to rape or murder? Especially when the police are specifically permitted, by the same laws, to record citizens? It’s just so ridiculous it beggars belief. The story, still running, is covered in this 14 minute (or so) You Tube video. It’s a long time, 14 minutes, in our time-poor world, but I think everyone who values our freedom really should watch it.

 

Although I suspect, watching him being interviewed, that Michael might be one of those annoyingly vexatious people who invariably clog up public policymaking and government, I am nevertheless in awe of his personal courage. I hope someone makes a Hollywood movie of his fight, which I trust will ultimately be successful, as that would reach more people than a thousand speeches or learned academic papers. And I trust Illinois, and America as a whole, is thoroughly embarrassed by his plight. Because whether or not he is, essentially, the type of character that causes officialdom to roll its collective eyes at his nuisance factor, the fact is that our democracy needs such nuisances to stay healthy and meaningful.

Whether it is this man’s fight to oppose this ludicrous statute (that is on the books in 12 states in America), or the rendition of subsequently-proven-to-be-innocent citizens to third world countries for torture – or to Guantanamo Bay – or the more swingeing statutes of the Patriot Act or its equivalent in the UK, Australia and elsewhere, or, indeed, the now blanket CCTV coverage of our streets, I believe I see evidence for a creeping disregard for our personal liberty in the West that is gathering pace. And fast.

There are what appear to be serious, intelligent people in Illinois defending this law. Look at the prevarication of the public officials. Can you see shame on their faces? I can. But I also see a determination to protect their turf at all costs,  instead of responding, as they should have, with a cheery “Hell, yes, what were we thinking?” and an apology. I note, also, that the state legislature failed to overturn the law.

Look: I think that police in modern society do a difficult and thankless job, and in general they deserve our wholehearted respect. But if they are operating within the law, as they must, then they should have no fear whatsoever of being recorded, whether in audio or video.

I mean, what is the difference between what this man did and jurisdictions insisting that police interviews are now recorded? It makes good sense in a police station, to protect the interests and bona fides of both the accused and the police, but not on the streets? Huh? What’s with that?

On this, as so many other issues, like climate change and casual violence on the streets, we seem to be suffering from what biologist David Suzuki called “Boiling Frog” syndrome.

Drop a live frog in to a beaker of boiling water and it will struggle to get out. But put it in a beaker of cold water and raise the temperature in steady one degree increases, and it will not, just sitting there as it gets sicker and sicker from the rising heat, until it becomes unconscious, and eventually dies.

I think our beakers are being heated up, in oh-so-many ways, and we are just sitting still and taking it. And it scares me.

Aux barricades, mes camarades.

Comments
  1. Richard Ember says:

    Whilst feeling a bit under the weather (probably due to no Saints game), my weekend reading was a book by a Bulgarian who aged 17, fled her homeland and the totalitarian regime, finally ending up in New Zealand only to return 18 years later and try and make sense of the new country, as opposed to the brutal socialism she was raised under.

    Whilst we rage and rant about liberty, this woman experienced it all. The lack of identity, the starvation, the brutal repression of the IngSoc hammer crashing on her skull every waking moment. We may refer to 1984 as mere literature, this woman lived it, as millions did. Totalitarianism of the extreme. The only freedom being the one to worship the party whilst it enslaved all in its path. All her choices were made for her by who she knew and how connected she was to the elites. This was accepted because no one knew or cared for anything different. Just to survive was a triumph to be celebrated. This was a mere 21 years ago.

    She arrived back in modern Bulgaria hoping to heal the wounds that Totalitarianism has inflicted upon her. Deeply scarred, without identity or purpose, it makes fascinating reading.

    And I awake this morning and count my blessings that I do not live under the yoke of the elite. My destiny is not planned by a central committee; I am not expected to toil to achieve the glorious 5 year plan of politicians in record time. I am not a production unit, to be controlled, measured, exploited and silenced by a ruling elite. My life is not dictated by “permissions”, my thoughts are not controlled and manipulated to serve “the greater good”.

    Except of course, it is.

    Just as the hammer and sickle was used to flatten and enslave, our version is taxation, media manipulation and “credit”.

    Behave yourself and tow the Party line or your credit rating will ensure you live in grey decaying social housing, on the piss stained 18th floor of Nelson Mandela House, Democracy Street.

    You will read newspapers and watch television owned by the elites who appoint politicians as the god fathers of their children or are appointed by Politicians to broadcast their lies

    You will live where the State tells you to live through strict planning laws designed to maintain the value of Dachas owned by the elite

    You will obey the glorious 5 year plan to transfer your money to the banking elites or the unelected in Brussels for their “plans”. Object, by withdrawing your compliance to pay tax demands and you will be imprisoned just as quickly as any Soviet dissident was for refusing to pick his quota of turnips from the field.

    Mindless, endless rules, designed to protect us from ourselves, whilst our Politicians bribe and corrupt, our Police bribe and corrupt, our media bribe and corrupt.

    Our children are forced to achieve worthless State certificates of “excellence” whilst being nothing of the sort. Our Police are handed draconian powers to control us, lest we become disruptive and unproductive. At every turn, we are “persuaded” to conform, to obey, to consume – sure, the methods may not be as clumsy and brutal as a Soviet regime, but the power still remains, as ever, with an elite Politburo with no care or interest in the individual.

    Hyperbole? Possibly. Of course, you can always test it by selling a 100w light bulb to people who wish to buy a 100w light bulb.

    As Goethe said, “there are none so truly enslaved as those who believe they are free”

    The book by the way? “The Street Without a Name”. I heartily recommend it.

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    • I hope it isn’t quite as bad as the picture you draw, Richard, but thank you very much for taking the time to write with such eloquence and passion. I suspect there is much truth in what you say, and I think we have to roll back the yoke of the state on individual lives as far as is practical, concomitant with having any sort of sense of order in society at all. This is precisely why, in the UK context, I always considered myself a Liberal, and not a Socialist/Labour Party man.

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  2. Well written piece, Yolly!

    I’d like to see these charges against Allison dropped, but living in today’s “police state”, I expect he will go to trial.

    MR

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    • Thank you so much for writing, MR. I guess if it does go to trial it will be kicked out, as other cases apparently have, so the case law on this type of restriction will at least get updated. but this smacks entirely to me of a monolithic police/public prosecutors department trying to crush the little guy, who lo and behold refused to be crushed. The story is a disgrace, and the charges should, of course, be dropped. More importantly, the law should be changed. Pressure should not be let up if Allison is let off the hook – the next step must be to repeal these laws wherever they are.

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  3. I so heartily agree with all above comments which, by the way, are beautifully expressed. In my heart, I feel so in sync with what has been expressed but, as is common for me, I am unable to express by feelings as well as you have. Thank you for letting me know there are such wise and well expressed individuals as yourselves. I feel quite reassured. Everything is in such a mess in this country, so many pressures persuading us to conform. A little nudge here, a little nudge there. Soon we find ourselves gasping for air and wondering “how did this happen?” We must stand together. We must remain united in each cause. The individual reigns supreme, not “the masses.” We must stand up in unison and not be afraid to defend that which is ours on an individual basis. Please continue to speak out for those of us who aren’t so capable of expressing our inner feelings and the desire to protect our nation and its constitutional laws and God-given rights. To all, Thank You!

    Like

    • Thank you so much for taking the time to comment, and in such kind terms, it makes the effort in maintaining the blog so worthwhile.

      Do please also pass the story and the blog on to friends in your personal network – the more people who read, the more things will change!

      Like

  4. […] such charges, you might not be able to rely on evidence of your own. In the state of Illinois, videotaping the police, under current law, brings criminals charges. Don’t fret. It’s not like the country will really try to enforce it — […]

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