David Cameron: Since I Saw It Work On TV We Need To Spy On All Of You

From the BBC News website:

The prime minister told a parliamentary committee that gathering communications data was “politically contentious” but vital to keep citizens safe.

What is Cameron talking about? Basically, a government mandated peephole in all communications so that no one can talk to anyone else without the government knowing about it.

A communications data bill was dropped last year after Lib Dem objections.

The idea of the bill was to allow government access to details of who called whom, when and where – although ministers said it would not cover the content of calls.

It would also have extended laws to cover new online forms of communication, such as internet-based phone services like Skype, and there were suggestions it could also give intelligence services real-time access to the data.

This is probably ninety percent a scam. My guess is that the law is needed to retroactively legalize many things that the British government is already doing, though mandating call logs might make the job of UK spies easier for them.

But the most bizarre part of his remarks was Cameron’s willingness to appeal to TV crime dramas as evidence for why the law should be passed.

“In the most serious crimes [such as] child abduction communications data… is absolutely vital. I love watching, as I probably should stop telling people, crime dramas on the television. There’s hardly a crime drama where a crime is solved without using the data of a mobile communications device.

“What we have to explain to people is that… if we don’t modernise the practice and the law, over time we will have the communications data to solve these horrible crimes on a shrinking proportion of the total use of devices and that is a real problem for keeping people safe.

I have a low opinion of Cameron but I’m shocked that he would say something that stupid. Video dramas are not reliable guides to reality. But if Cameron can appeal to fiction, why can’t we? As Mike Masnick suggests,

Perhaps someone can send Cameron a copy of Enemy of the State or any other fictional work showing how the government can abuse such information. Or, better yet, let’s have our side stick with reality, and we can just point to real historical events of governments abusing such information.

But Cameron’s appeal to TV is worse than that. TV shows are not just reflections of the writers’ and producers’ values—they are actively used as propaganda vehicles. NPR reports on this as a kind of “product placement” by non-profits. Non-profits are organizations that want to, say, reduce teen pregnancy, and thus get stories altered so that there is, if you can believe it, more immorality in a TV show than there would be otherwise. But the military and Federal law enforcement are also entities that can and do get “product placement.”

These TV crime dramas do not simply fall out of the sky. We have every reason to suspect that they are actually produced in ways designed to convince audiences of certain opinions. For all we know, by appealing to a TV show, Cameron is appealing to a government-sponsored message.