As a resident of Salisbury, I was interested to see a number of – shall we say – agenda-driven Tweets this week, from an organisation calling itself “Wiltshire Police”. There was this, for instance:

“Hate has no home in Wiltshire. Report anything that makes you question if you’re being treated fairly #999WhatsYourEmergency”.

Anything? My children were particularly pleased to see that. They often find themselves to be the apparent victims of terribly unfair treatment, such as not having the same amount of pudding as another of their siblings, or missing their turn to sit in the front of the car. They assure me that any instances of such blatantly unfair treatment in the future may well be reported as a hate crime. Another Tweet put out by the organisation calling itself “Wiltshire Police” went like this:

“You can’t hide from us if your spewing abuse from behind a computer screen. Our boys & gals in blue will find you 💻 👀#999WhatsYourEmergency”.

“Your spewing”? Not “you’re spewing”? My immediate thought on reading this was that I ought to phone Wiltshire Police to report that someone had hacked into their Twitter account and was sending out infantile and semi-literate messages to tarnish their reputation. Impersonating a police officer is, I believe, a crime, and so presumably impersonating an entire police force must be a very serious crime indeed. Not to mention what might happen if people think that Wiltshire Police is following a strictly binary agenda – “Our boys & gals” – and so neglecting “non-binaries in blue”.

But as I was mulling over whether to alert Wiltshire Police to this possible hacking, the dreadful realisation came to me that perhaps the “Wiltshire Police” on Twitter and Wiltshire Police might actually be one and the same organisation. I mean, I can’t say I’ve seen them patrolling the streets around my neighbourhood since I moved to Wiltshire at the start of the century, so it’s just possible that they’ve given that malarkey up for good and have instead carved out a new role for themselves – patrolling the internet looking for bad thoughts, rather than patrolling the streets looking to deter crime.

Assuming they are the same organisation, one thing that can be said for them is that they do take their new role very seriously. After releasing the Tweets mentioned above, a number of cruel and viscous persons took to Twitter to take the proverbial Michael. Their hateful jibes must have hit a raw nerve back at HQ, as they soon took to Twitter again to issue the following stern warning:

“We will not tolerate any form of abuse or discriminatory remarks made on any of our social media platforms. We are reviewing the posts and will consider any potential criminal offences which might have been committed. We will also ban anyone who is posting offensive or abusive material. Hate crime will not be tolerated in any form in our communities or online.”

This rather ominous statement had the desired effect on me. After reading it I decided that phoning to inform them that their Twitter account appears to have been hacked by a bored 12-year-old with poor spelling might not be the best course of action. One of the tell-tale signs that you’re heading towards totalitarianism is that those in authority start taking themselves more seriously than anyone has the right to, mysteriously losing the ability to laugh at themselves. They reserve the right to put out all manner of twaddle, practically inviting the mockers, yet when the mockery comes they adopt the most po-faced expression they can muster, before climbing onto their highest horse to warn you that you are in danger of falling foul of some law or other. In any case, phoning them up to laugh at them might itself be seen as a “hate crime”, and as you know, hate has no place in Wiltshire.

Oh, except that it does. Just a day before these Tweets, I read about a horrible incident in Elizabeth Gardens – a rather lovely park with views of Salisbury Cathedral across the water meadows. It was a Monday afternoon, about 12:30pm, broad daylight, and a woman was punched in the face by a man who then stole her dog. Was it a “hate crime”? I doubt the police will register it as such, but I can tell you that it was a “real crime”, of the sort that most of us want the police to spend their time trying to deter, and it certainly doesn’t appear to have been motivated by love.

It’s impossible to say whether this incident could have been prevented by a proper police presence in that area, but it is possible to say this: since the police have abandoned the communities they once patrolled, and especially since they retreated behind their computers to become social workers in fast cars, these sorts of incidents have become much more likely and much more common. The type of person who assaulted this woman in broad daylight might well be worried by a proper police presence in the area, but they are unlikely to be too worried by a police force that now seems keener on spending time and money patrolling Twitter and Facebook looking for offensive words.

The rest of us, on the other hand, do have reason to be worried. What we now have up and down the country is no longer police forces that see themselves as Servants of the People, whose job it is to protect the weak, the vulnerable and the law-abiding from those who would do violence. Instead, we increasingly have Servants of the Agenda, whose job is apparently to police speech and thoughts to make sure they do not contravene PC orthodoxies. Smelly little PC orthodoxies, as George Orwell might have put it.

3 thoughts on “From Servants of the People to Servants of the Agenda

  1. Hi again. I have yet to read to responses to my previous criticisms of conservative ideology from a perspective of Christ-driven morality. I regret that but I know those comments will be there when I get to them. But you see, here you make good sense, and I like to see it. And you are making the same point I was, in a way. It’s all about wherein lies the “real and present danger” both on the human level and the spiritual one. Real crime is much scarier than unpleasant language, civil war is much scarier than gay marriage. And on the spiritual level, I think it is tragic that massive amounts of youth who are “finding themselves” are being shown people calling themselves Christians who extol intolerance, hate, and repression. That, to me, should be one of the biggest issues for any Christian…winning souls for Christ. We need to be calling people out for behavior unfitting a Christian.

    1. Hi Richard,

      Yes, sorry I haven’t been able to reply. Very snowed under at the moment. I think your original comment referred to Christians on the right in America. The difficulty I have in commenting on that too fully is that I don’t live in the States and so don’t get to see too many US Christians on the right. One danger that I don’t want to fall into is believing what the media tells me about such people. I know a good many people in one particular church in the North West of the US, which would very much fall into the Christian right / Christian fundamentalist bracket you are talking about. They get a terrible press, yet knowing them personally, and being on the receiving end of their amazing hospitality and generosity, I know better than to trust the caricature that is painted of them in the local and sometimes national press of being intolerant, stupid, gun-toting bigots. It simply isn’t true.

      That being said, I’m sure the caricature is, in some cases, very true. What can you do? Pray for them, I suppose. Pray that their witness will be consistent with the teachings of Christ. Pray for repentance, where it is needed.

      But I think we also need to bear in mind that the modern church often let’s the world define what our Christian witness should look like. We are expected to be nice. CS Lewis put it well when he said “God doesn’t want nice people. He wants new men.” And we are expected to be tolerant. And the world generally tries to contrast our apparent bigoted and intolerant behaviour with that of Jesus.

      Except that this is not the Jesus of the Scriptures. He was more than willing to offend, if need be: “You snakes, you brood of vipers”. And he was at times unbelievably sardonic, making his opponents into objects of derision: “You are those that swallow camels and choke on gnats”. And contrary to what many moderns suppose, that he was so gentle, loving and tolerant that he would have been fine with “two men who love each other very much”, he took everyone right back to God’s original purposes for men and women in Genesis 1&2, which rules out every form of sexual union other than one man and one woman for life.

      If he were on earth today, it may well be the case that some on the Christian right would soon be playing the part of the Pharisees. But I have no doubt that he would also be the most hated man on the planet amongst liberals too. He came to call such people to repentance for their decadent and immoral lives, and as we see on a daily basis, many of them don’t tend to take kindly to that message.

      Best wishes,

      Rob

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