Thursday, July 16, 2009

Horowitz: government's twisted view of society

I've admired Anthony Horowitz's range of entertaining writings for some time and when I brought my kids, who consider him 'brilliant', to see him speak at the Oxford Literary Festival a few years ago, was interested to hear him express some mild disquiet over our growing surveillance society. He wasn't openly critical of government but expressed his concerns in a way that was very accessible to the children in the audience, encouraging them to be thoughtful about the deployment and their use of new technologies at the same time as enjoying them.

The UK government's latest 'cure it with a database' plan, however, has Horowitz and other widely admired children's authors criticising those with a "twisted view of society" that could conceive of such a thing.
"A group of respected British children's authors and illustrators will stop visiting schools from the start of the next academic year, in protest at a new government scheme that requires them to register on a database in case they pose a danger to children.

Philip Pullman, Anne Fine, Anthony Horowitz, Michael Morpurgo and Quentin Blake all told The Independent that they object to having their names on the database – which is intended to protect children from paedophiles – and would not be visiting any schools as a consequence...

The Vetting and Barring Scheme (VBS) is being managed by the Independent Safeguarding Authority, set up after the 2002 murders of Jessica Chapman and Holly Wells by Ian Huntley, a janitor at their school. All individuals who work with children from 12 October will be required to register with a national database for a fee of £64."

Horowitz, writing in the Independent says:
"It is hard to know what is most objectionable about the database proposed by a government that seems more and more like a dying wasp, determined to sting one last time before it goes.

In essence, I'm being asked to pay £64 to prove that I am not a paedophile. After 30 years writing books, visiting schools, hospitals, prisons, spreading an enthusiasm for culture and literacy, I find this incredibly insulting.

It is also so ludicrous as to be very nearly insane...

This is a law made by people with a bleak and twisted view of society. And such people, quite simply, should not be making laws."

Very well said Mr Horowitz.

The editorial in the paper is less polite:
"A toxic combination of bureaucratic stupidity and popular hysteria over paedophilia has brought us to this absurdity."

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