Sunday, May 27, 2007

Blair's legacy: Celebs get an upgrade


To be perfectly honest I'd never heard of the The Fixated Threat Assessment Centre (FTAC), a Metropolitan Police unit "quietly" (ie secretly) created by Tony Blair's illiberal government last year.

"The FTAC [identifies] individuals who pose a direct threat to VIPs including the Prime Minister, the Cabinet and the Royal Family," reports the Mail on Sunday. "It was given sweeping powers to check more than 10,000 suspects' files to identify mentally unstable potential killers and stalkers with a fixation against public figures. The team's psychiatrists and psychologists then have the power to order treatment - including forcibly detaining suspects in secure psychiatric units...."

"The purpose of the centre is 'to evaluate and manage the risk posed to prominent people by...those who engage in inappropriate or threatening communications or behaviours in the context of abnormally intense preoccupations, many of which arise from psychotic illness.'" Click here for full report.

The most delightful aspect of the FTAC is the government's acknowledgement that VIPs, or "prominent figures" - or, in a word, celebrities - should be afforded extra special protection from obsessed loonies. Ordinary victims of stalkers, whose attackers are routinely released if at all detained, can only look on in shock and awe. And the wording of the FTAC's remit is sufficiently abstract as to encompass all manner of obsessions with stars.

My own interest in the sex life of Kevin Spacey could, arguably, be regarded as an "abnormally intense preoccupation". And, Robin Tamblyn - are you reading this? The Daily Express has evinced until recently a very peculiar fixation on Diana - we must assume that the only reason why editor Peter Hill has not been sectioned is because his subject is dead. Harrods boss Mohamed al-Fayed is consumed with his crazy idea that Prince Philip ordered Diana's and Dodi's deaths - he never stops repeating his foul allegations against the Nazi philanderer. Surely signs of mental disturbance? The Telegraph worships Liz Hurley, almost daily: I blame past editor Charles Moore ... he does look odd at the shrine.

Paparazzi must also wonder whether their relentless pursuit of such stars as Victoria Beckham, Madonna or even Jade Goody might be viewed as "threatening". Some snappers actually insult their targets to provoke a response. An unlimited stay in a mental institution might knock some sense into these thugs.

But of course, as Tony Blair would remind us - and do see his latest blast against civil liberties today in The Sunday Times - the FTAC was created in response to "terrorism". This maybe true, but no one in the field actually says this. The test is something called "psychotic illness" in relation to an abnormal fixation on a mega-being. Meaning is only contextual - you suspect Blair would want to say, "but you know what I mean".

This "but you know what I mean" bit is the most worrying aspect of the government's own abnormal preoccupations with curtailing our basic freedoms and monitoring our lives. Measures are expressed in a generality, but the political understanding is a particularity. This maybe because if Blair came out and said: "I wish to limit the freedoms of Moslem beardies" we would get side-tracked into a debate about racism. In his Sunday Times piece, Blair argues in effect that police should have "wartime" powers to stop and question "people": by people he wants us to think "foreign-looking beardies". Know what I mean? This dislocation of meaning is one of the great flaws in Blair's whole reaction to "terrorism".

But at least he's inadvertently discovered his legacy - Club Class protection for A-listers.

15 comments:

Dinu said...

[My own interest in the sex life of Kevin Spacey could, arguably, be regarded as an "abnormally intense preoccupation".]

Arguably? I’d rather say undoubtedly. At least – and at last – you’re admitting to it, that’s courageous. But do you seriously think your cheap gossips, slanderous though they may be, are of the kind that could be called “terrorist threats”, or even “threats” in any way? As Mr S. says in an interview someone posted here recently, it’s been the same old stuff for ten years. Easy money for the tabloids, and if a couple of psychos are obsessed about it, it’s their problem much more than his. Nobody’s taking it seriously (although I did one day I was in a bad mood), and it would be very naïve and vain of you to believe you ever could be watched by the FTAC for such a harmless activity. But I don’t want to destroy your pipe dreams….. :-)

[And, Robin Tamblyn - are you reading this?]

I think she’s angry with you because of that paedophile you showed obvious sympathy for.

[This "but you know what I mean" bit is the most worrying aspect of the government's own abnormal preoccupations with curtailing our basic freedoms and monitoring our lives.]

If your “basic freedoms” consist in scandalising the petit-bourgeois society by dropping so-called revelations about the poor bedroom secrets of Mr or Ms so and so… well baby, step into my time machine, and abracadabra, I send you back in the late sixties behind the Iron Curtain. You’ll see clearly what “basic freedoms” are and what freedom of speech is basically meant for, you spoilt child and Western mass culture product!

But you’re right on one point: if the mention of indefinite detention without trial isn’t a media manipulation (let’s be careful), it’s just incredible, and very worrying indeed, that a Western democracy has slyly come to this.
Anyway, you can sleep in peace: your tiny “gossip revolution” won’t lead you to the new psychiatric gulag. But maybe you should think of a cure for your paranoia?

robin tamblyn said...

"I think she’s angry with you because of that paedophile you showed obvious sympathy for."

Not really - I just thought it was in somewhat poor taste to be supporting an anti-child abuse campaign AND a convicted paedophile. As for Spacey - I'll repeat what I've said on my website: I've renounced all interest in him since discovering he's a Daddy's boy. Period. (And just in case you were wondering - that "people who send me 25 page letters every single day" remark wasn't a reference to me).

Arcati said...

Dear heart Dinu:

Re "My own interest in the sex life of Kevin Spacey could, arguably, be regarded as an "abnormally intense preoccupation". This is called irony. But, still, grab at straws if you must.

And don't imagine I sigh with relief at your bathetic contrast between old Soviet tyranny and Blair/Brown's attempted erosion of civil liberties (which in this instance has to do with confusing mental illness with alleged criminal conduct towards famous people). Freedom of speech is not "basically meant for" anything other than this: freedom of speech (balanced by a rights to privacy - in some circumstances. Kevin Spacey has no right to privacy beyond those laid down in protective legislation: he happily talks about mummy and daddy and certain aspects of his life to promote his plays and movies - but then you like that bit, don't you? All that career stuff).

Now, on other matters, tell us where you're playing this summer - I'm sure CNN and the International Herald Tribune will not broadcast or publish anything untoward.

Dinu said...

[bathetic]

I beg your pardon?

[Freedom of speech is not "basically meant for" anything other than this: freedom of speech]

That's a short-sighted theory, but quite convenient for those who regularly misuse and pervert it in minor undertakings.

[he happily talks about mummy and daddy and certain aspects of his life to promote his plays and movies - but then you like that bit, don't you? All that career stuff).]

No. When I admire an artist, I'm interested in the first place in the personal way he/she expresses his/her art. Do me a favour please, Madame: don't project on me your anecdotal conception of life.

[Now, on other matters, tell us where you're playing this summer]

I certainly won't. But I can tell you what I'll be playing : Mozart's string quartets, Enescu's Romanian poem, Samuel Barber's violin concerto op. 14 and Philip Glass' Dracula. Now try to imagine that... if you can. :->

Arcati said...

Philip Glass' Dracula - that's a new one on me - I must get the download.

Dinu said...

That's the new soundtrack Glass composed for Tod Browning's movie.
Absolutely brilliant.
Glass also made a wonderful opera out of the dialogues of Cocteau's Beauty and the Beast.

Anonymous said...

Robin Tamblyn said:

< As for Spacey - I'll repeat what I've said on my website: I've renounced all interest in him since discovering he's a Daddy's boy. >

Oh, is he, really? Well, that's something his brother will be delighted to know. Up to now, he's been persuaded that Kevin was "a lifelong Mama's boy" (his own words).

< (And just in case you were wondering - that "people who send me 25 page letters every single day" remark wasn't a reference to me). >

I was not wondering. Do you think you are (were?) his only stalker? Every star has to deal with that sort of nutcase, anyway. It comes with the job. :-)

Duralex said...

<< he's a Daddy's boy. >>

Wow ! If that really means what I understand, I think I'll try everything to steal the formula : it produces miraculous results when men get pregnant. ;-)))

Robin Tamblyn said...

Well I'm not going to spell it out for you...he knows what I mean and if he wants me to elaborate is perfectly capable of saying so himself.

JP said...

Robin Tamblyn said...

Well I'm not going to spell it out for you...he knows what I mean and if he wants me to elaborate is perfectly capable of saying so himself.

---------

Hmmmm......HE? Do you mean Kevin? Uh-huh. I REALLY believe he checks here all the time just hanging on our every word.

Dinu said...

Please, for heaven's sake, let's leave that poor girl alone. She's so deeply pathetic in her delusion that I'm left utterly speechless. But I confess Duralex' joke made me laugh heartily. :-)

JP said...

Of course, you are right Dinu. Unfortunately, I let my incredulity get the better of me. I will try harder to control my utter amazement. :)
JP

Duralex said...

<< When I admire an artist, I'm interested in the first place in the personal way he/she expresses his/her art. >>

I'm 100% with you, Dinu. Paraphrasing Margaret Atwood : taking interest in an actor’s life because you like his performances is like taking interest in a goose’s life because you like goose liver…

Dinu said...

Excellent. I'll remember it. What's the original quote?

Duralex said...

“Wanting to meet a writer because you like his work is like wanting to meet a duck because you like pâté.”