Wednesday 11 August 2010

ACPO Anti-Terror Radio Ad Banned

"The man at the end of the street doesn't talk to his neighbours much, because he likes to keep himself to himself. He pays with cash because he doesn't have a bank card, and he keeps his curtains closed because his house is on a bus route. This may mean nothing, but together it could all add up to you having suspicions. We all have a role to play in combating terrorism. If you see anything suspicious, call the confidential, Anti-Terrorist Hotline on 0800 789 321. If you suspect it, report it".

This was the message from the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO) broadcast as a radio advert on Talk Sport - and now it has been banned by the Advertising Standards Authority, who concluded that:

"... the ad could also describe the behaviour of a number of law-abiding people within a community and we considered that some listeners, who might identify with the behaviours referred to in the ad, could find the implication that their behaviour was suspicious, offensive. We also considered that some listeners might be offended by the suggestion that they report members of their community for acting in the way described. We therefore concluded that the ad could cause serious offence."

The Metropolitan Police, responding on ACPO's behalf, said the behaviours described in the advert "were based on trends identified by police", but quite obviously they are also the behaviours of a whole number of other people - students and several unemployed mates of mine, for example.

Of course they would only really need to worry if they looked "a bit Muslim" but this is excatly the type of message that explains why Muslim communities are so auspicious of the police - making real religiously motivated killers even harder to catch. Insubstantial information from dubious sources is also what gets citizens placed on secret databases without their knowledge and it's what led to one of neighbours getting shot by the police in Forest Gate in June 2006.

There seems to be something of a trend for the state encouraging curtain-twitchers since the start of the week. Yesterday it was reporting benefits fraud and plans to involve credit agencies in what one Telegraph headline writer compared to as the creation of a privatised 'British Stasi'. Whatever happened to the new dawn of civil liberties promised by the ConDem government?

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