Brits in Revolt

How do torturers boil a frog? Slowly. Do it too fast, the critter will jump out; but do it by degrees, and he will enjoy the warmth and when eventually it gets too hot, he will have lost the ability, or the will, or both, to escape. Most governments know this, which is why we are enslaved bit by bit. First a tax on the profits of the very rich, whose fat government contracts quiet their tendency to protest; then on the earnings of those somewhat rich, whom others envy; then on the wages of every last laborer. First a driver license for safety, then a renewal every few years, then a mandatory ID system. First a court order to wiretap, then an emergency to allow delayed notification, then a permanent tap on every PC. You know the pattern.

My good and ever-watchful friend Elmo Zoneball noticed that usual plan may have gone awry in Britain in the last few years. In decades gone by, Brits had road rules and speed limits, but enforcement was somewhat lax. But in the new millennium, Smiling Tony has changed all that: six thousand roadside speed cameras have been installed throughout the Queendom. They are called Gatsos; fairly big, painted yellow, preceded by warning signs, they snap a photo of any vehicle exceeding the local limit and transmit it to Revenue Central for a ticket to be mailed to the owner. Six thousand!

I was driving there for a week during last Summer, and they are scary. Drivers did what would have been unheard-of, a mere decade ago; they slowed right down! Traffic moving at a sensible 50 mph in a 30 zone would suddenly brake to 36, for rumor has it that a leeway of 3 mph plus 10% is allowed. I didn't see one, but obviously this can cause many a fender-bender since the only reason is a yellow government box at the roadside, not an actual hazard. Then, out of range, speeds increase again to what is realistic. The system has produced a great deal of extra loot for Tony and his friends.

Though unfamiliar with any actual debate that preceded this form of spying, I do know that it came about quickly--so flouting the frog-boiling principle. This rapidity of change has, I'm happy to report, caused the British frog to get on his hind legs and start leaping.

In the last couple of years six hundred--10% of these yellow monsters--have been destroyed, apparently by admirers of a group called MAD : Motorists Against Detection, led by one Captain Gatso. Ten percent! That's a very creditable portion. Weapons used have varied from BB guns and spray paint to plastic explosives.

A pleasing number of Internet sites describe the rage felt by UK drivers, and portray some of their backlash--the photos here are lifted from those sites and link to them; this one shows a nicely gutted Gatso in Northamptonshire, cleaned out by a plastic bomb. The use of explosives is, of course, hazardous; for it openly invites government agents provocateurs to bomb a Gatso where passers-by would be injured, so bringing great discredit on the rebel movement--in fact, perhaps they already have. Seems to me that spray-painting lenses would be easier, cheaper and much safer--while almost as effective.

As if to prove that even in furious rebellion Brits retain a proper sense of humor, another and very seasonal way to block the lens at least for a while is to wrap the yellow auto-spy in Christmas gift paper. What a splendid and productive use for all those discarded wrappers!

As well as the good news above there is, unfortunately, some bad news there too: Captain Gatso, and presumably his MAD group as a whole, hasn't done his philosophical homework. Consider this quote, from the Speedcam site: "We totally agree with existing road traffic laws and speed cameras sited within built up and urban areas and we APPLAUD them. In fact we feel there should be more of them in towns and cities, but we are tired of having speed cameras sited on major trunk roads . . ." Nonsense like that gives away the store, and will eventually cause the revolution to fizzle out.

Mind, it may do some measure of good--like the Thatcher Revolution of the '80s. But I fear it will not have a truly radical effect. The UK government may adjust its spying a little, raising "gotcha" thresholds here and lowering penalties there or perhaps, as the good Captain demands, taking Gatsos away from open highways--whatever is needed to quieten protest and to make the public tolerate the root principle of spying and control. But by statements like his, MAD has accepted that speed limits can validly be set and enforced in a free society, that roads can properly be "owned" and operated by government--that government, indeed, has a proper and rational business to exist. It does not.

The leftish Guardian newspaper recently showed how the Establishment has been alarmed by the revolt; its headline refers to "Libertarian Bastards" and the text alleges that MAD supporters want freedom to act without responsibility. The author has it exactly upside down (which is how we can be sure he's part of the Establishment) since:

- It is government, not libertarians, which is devoid of legitimate origins; for every one of its supposed powers was allegedly delegated by individuals who never possessed any of them in the first place.

- It is government, not libertarians, which alone is able to act freely without responsibility for its daily oppressive and murderous actions.

I wish these British rebels the best of luck, and congratulate them on progress to date, but urge them--and all good rebels in America--to work from root principle downwards, starting with a reasoned attack on the government jugular--its pretended need to exist. It's very encouraging to hear of large numbers of people angry with government, but unless that's done, their action will remain superficial; the very best they could achieve here would be to reset UK road-rule enforcement back to where it was five years ago. Impact on the government as a whole would be minimal.

For large parts of the population to "work from root principle downwards" implies a huge task of re-education, and I can see only one way to achieve that: one at a time. Then when an educated population just withdraws its support, government will implode and take its law-enforcement toys with it; yet nary a shot will have been fired, even from a can of spray paint.

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