This weekend Amazon invited me to review Alan Pearce’s Whose Side Are They On? the book to get the angry Daily Mail reader for Christmas, full of short stories of big government gone wrong, often in the most petty ways. It will almost certainly succeed in getting Middle England’s blood boiling.
We should be concerned by, for example, the threats to our civil liberties and opportunities created for crime by ID cards and excessive surveillance. But in Alan Pearce’s hands everything is trivialised, his arguments are based entirely on anecdotes that do not stand the lightest scrutiny and so this is a rather silly book.
Pearce opens up with the ‘easy targets’ who are easy to criminalise: people given heavy fines for overfilling wheelie bins, say, or dropping a little litter. A quick Google search on victims quoted reveals that these innocents are often serial offenders who regularly allow their rubbish to blow around the street, they ignore warnings, fail to pay fines and don’t turn up when summoned to court. Consequently, the fines mount up.
Who’d want Alan Pearce’s heroes for neighbours?
From page one Alan Pearce introduces the heroic Eric Pickles, Tory party spokesman and man of common sense to roundly condemn the ‘bin bullies’. He comes to rely heavily on Pickles, Tory think-tank The Taxpayers Alliance, and an assortment of oddballs that includes Daily Mail reader comments and even the BNP.
So having established himself as the most unreliable narrator from page one, Alan Pearce is difficult to take seriously. Hysterically invoking Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot, Alan Pearce is a Tory propagandist, but he will never be in the same league as Joseph Goebbels.
Inevitably driven by anecdote, Alan Pearce is on the side of victims of the inappropriate, heavy handed use of rules and regulations. The invocation of anti-terror laws for minor offences, say. But one can’t help noticing that the victims in his ‘Nothing To Hide, Nothing To Fear’ chapter did have something to hide, with the exception of someone mistakenly accused by a Tesco CCTV operator and they were fully compensated.
Often there’s nothing to his anecdotes: a couple who fed squirrels received an anonymous note from a malicious neighbour threatening to apply for an ASBO. But so what? Nothing ever came of it.
Naturally, Alan Pearce is constantly contradicting himself. He rightly worries about CCTV and hangs his head in shame at the way society demonises children, but he also stands up for the worrisome individual who goes around photographing young teenagers on street corners. Overzealous, sometimes violent, police and other officials are rightly condemned, but in each example appear to have been dealt with appropriately under the law.
On our multi-cultural society, Alan Pearce is sadly predictable. Urban myths against Muslims, like the false accusation they attempted to ban piggy banks, are repeated and he starts quoting the BNP.
‘We should now be in a state of civil war,’ concludes this silly book. Alan Pearce will be fighting to restore democracy, by giving more power to the Queen!