A Simpol take on “BBC Any Questions – 03/12/10”

This week’s “Any Questions?” focused on the effects of “WikiLeaks” on democracy and on the effects of elected police commissioners on crime handling.

The uncensorable non-profit organisation “WikiLeaks”, launched in 2006, aims to expose oppressive regimes by publishing leaked documents. “WikiLeaks” strongly supports radical transparency which is part of the ethos of the young internet-generation.

In late November 2010, the leaking of diplomatic cables caused international turmoil with regards to the damaging effects that “WikiLeaks” may have on personal and national security. American conservative political commentator Glenn Beck has gone as far as saying that “WikiLeaks” is supporting anarchy and chaos across the world. The exact effects that “WikiLeaks” is having on democracy are still unknown, but it clearly highlights the distrustful relationship between the people and the government.

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Even though crime rates have gone down in the U.K., it is still a major topic. David Cameron’s plans for elected police commissioners comes with the worry that these police commissioners will see the police increasingly dealing with ASBOs instead of dealing with high-profile criminal cases. Attempts to tackle the CAUSES of crime and Anti Social Behaviour are widely ignored since these causes are not often recognised as stemming from social injustice or poverty. The Home Office states that there is no causal link between poverty and crime, even though it is evident that many young people are committing crimes due to poverty and unemployment.

 

Is “WikiLeaks” good for democracy?

One of the questions raised was whether or not “WikiLeaks” should be seen as beneficial for democracy.

In sum it was believed that “WikiLeaks” is a historic moment for democracy, and no consensus was reached on whether or not it was damaging to democracy.

As a supporter of Simpol, I think that the effect that “WikiLeaks” is having is to illustrate the air of distrust between the people and the politicians. The fact that information is being leaked which was previously unknown clearly indicates that there is an existing believability gap between the people and politicians. “WikiLeaks” is thus a way towards open-source organisation. This open source organisation cannot only be found on the computers but it has started to develop outside of them. Simpol is open-source grassroots global politics and intends to ride the wave of open-source organisation.

 

Is there a danger of that elected police commissioners will see the police turn their attention to dealing with car parking complaints and low level anti-social behaviour rather than catching burglars and high-risk missing persons?

Another question raised was whether there might be a danger that elected police commissioners (if David Cameron’s plans succeed) will see the police focus their attention on low-level ASBOs instead of catching burglars and finding high-risk missing persons.

The answers given to this question were mainly focussed on negligibilities, such as whether or not ASBOs should fall under the same category as crime, and whether or not elected police commissioners will have too much power in their hands. What was missing, however, is the main issue and that is the root cause, of which crime is merely a symptom.

The answers given ignore the broader and social causes of crime and ASBO. The main cause of crime is poverty and injustice, and it is only by solving these, that crime rates will go down for good, no matter how good the police are, and whether or not any of them have been elected.

Conclusions

At the moment it remains largely unknown what the exact effects of “WikiLeaks” on democracy are, but there is no doubt that they will come to light soon. What is certain, however, is that “WikiLeaks” has changed how governments and the media work, and it has changed the view of the relationship between the government and people. “WikiLeaks” is a path towards open-source organisation which is the very basis on which Simpol works. I believe that the information released on “WikiLeaks” could lead to the thought that the question is not so much whether or not “WikiLeaks” is good for democracy, but whether or not we live in a democracy at all.

 

With regard to crime and Anti Social Behaviour, I believe that these definitely have an effect on democracy and are also to a large extent caused by its implications. It is essential that the government realises that tackling crime without considering its causes will lead neither to a fairer system nor to crime reduction in the long-term. Crime rates will only truly decrease if we live in a system that encourages recognition of our collective humanity and social justice is achieved.

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