I flew from Istanbul to London to deliver four of my collages
to be included in an exhibition of Stuckist artists at the "A
Gallery in Wimbledon."
It had been
a long time since I've been back in England (apart from a stopover
last September after one of my pictures of the Prime Minister
led to my arrest and expulsion from Turkey). This time I was in
London for a week and had time to notice the changes. I was mostly
struck by the huge increase in security. I had a taste as we changed
planes at Amsterdam airport, every passenger being x-rayed, physically
frisked by guards and made to remove shoes before being allowed
on the plane (with shoes back on, of course.)
I had occasion
to use London Bridge railway station several times during my stay.
There were uniformed transport police strutting everywhere carrying
guns or gathered in loafing gangs. They say you're getting old
when policemen begin looking young. I suppose I am, because they
looked young to me, and most like arrogant trigger-itchy bully
boys, and reminded me that innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de
Menezes, suspected as a terrorist, was held down in a train at
Stockwell Tube Station and shot in the head seven times by just
such a little gang.
for your train you are constantly reminded to remain alert by
recorded tannoy announcements. Zomboid male and female voices
alternate to soothe and warn:
POLICE PATROL THESE PREMISES 24 HOURS A DAY."
ON THE LOOKOUT FOR UNNATTENDED PACKAGES. REPORT UNUSUAL
BEHAVIOUR OR ANYTHING THAT SEEMS SUSPICIOUS."
NOT LEAVE LUGGAGE UNNATTENDED. UNATTENDED LUGGAGE MAY BE
TAKEN AWAY, DAMAGED OR DESTROYED."
announcements on other platforms play at different times, so you
hear a mélange of security warnings echoing around the
station all at once, repeating each other, maddening and brain-numbing.
are CCTV surveillance cameras everywhere not only at the train
stations. Attached to lampposts in the streets, on traffic lights,
in buses, atop buildings, outside and inside houses, shops and
offices, scanning and spying 24 hours a day. According to the
latest studies, Britain has 4.2 million CCTV cameras - one for
every 14 people in the country - and 20 per cent of cameras globally.
Twenty-five years after George Orwell wrote his prophetic novel
'1984', Big Brother is alive and watching in Britain. The book
reads more and more like a modern documentary every day.
have cameras inside churches too, but I didn't get a chance to
find out when I went to visit Westminster Abbey and St Paul's
Cathedral, because I was refused entry! The formerly-free Abbey
now charges a whacking £10 entry fee, and £5 for St Paul's, where
they even have a turnstile!
When I told the ticket seller that I couldn't afford to go in,
and that they seemed to be serving Mammon rather than God, he
told me to address any complaints in a letter to the Dean. As
I was leaving the lobby I noticed a pretty message emblazoned
on one of the glass doors: "YOU ARE NOW ENTERING THE GATES OF
PARADISE, FOR A CHURCH IS THE HOUSE OF GOD." I snorted cynically.
So, you have to pay to get into Heaven nowadays?
to the spying. Of course, difficult though they may be to avoid,
at least you are usually able to spot a surveillance camera and
know when you are being filmed, but now along comes a new little
surveillance device (only 70 cm wide) fitted with high-resolution
still and color video cameras as well as infrared night vision
capability, that actually flies!
police surveillance I have personally
experienced here is a bit crude and obvious.
My phone is bugged. There's a sort of echo
that everyone notices. The radio technician
controlling an international phone interview
between me and Dr Susan Block on her
radio show a few months ago detected
that my line was being listened to.
battery-operated drone's four carbon-fibre rotors are so quiet
they cannot be heard from the ground once it is higher than 50
metres, and at 100 metres up it cannot be seen with the naked
eye. It takes off vertically and can be flown even when out of
sight, because it beams images back to video goggles worn by the
developed by a German company for military use, the remote-controlled
drone has been enthusiastically adopted by the British constabulary
to police public order situations and prevent antisocial behaviour.
Recently they used one for the first time at a major public event,
to monitor crowds at the V music festival in Staffordshire, and
officers said that the remote controlled helicopter helped capture
offenders at the festival site. By the end of the festival, there
had been 62 arrests, and over 100 cautions, 32 of the arrests
made for possession of drugs.
at the same festival, popular songstress Lily Allen announced
on stage during her gig that George W Bush is a "fucking cunt."
She wasn't arrested.
the company that distributes the mini camera-plane in the UK,
plans to improve the drone's capability by adding a so-called
"smart water" spray - a liquid infused with unique chemicals which
can be squirted onto a suspect from above. It infuses their clothes
and skin and the chemical code can be used later to identify them.
Perfect for picking out people in political demonstrations, for
is virtually surveillance-video-free, and you can walk around
without having to worry about your camera angle. You usually only
see them at the airport, in banks or outside exclusive clubs,
but I suppose it won't be long before they're everywhere here
too, as Turkey matches itself up with Europe.
on the graphic for more details.
The police surveillance I have personally experienced here is
a bit crude and obvious. My phone is bugged. There's a sort of
echo that everyone notices. The radio technician controlling an
international phone interview between me and Dr Susan Block on
her radio show a few months ago detected that my line was being
year, during the last few days between my release from custody
and my leaving the country, I was followed quite obviously in
the street by plain clothes cops, who admitted it when stopped
and confronted. I learn that after I left the country my apartment
block was under surveillance for several days, and police questioned
other residents. They said that they'd seen me enter an apartment
building on the European side and that I had never come out. (Huh?)
They said that they thought I was a spy. My neighbours pointed
out that it hardly seemed likely after all the attention I had
brought to myself with my protests.
Chaplinesque techniques will disappear as Turkey strides into
the 21st Century. Before long I'm sure there will be little drones
in the skies over Y'stanbul, too far up to see, watching and recording
our every move.
But, as Western
technology develops even smaller and more sophisticated spy devices,
even then Turkey might not be quite as up-to-date as their European
neighbours, where in the streets, now free of obtrusive bulky
surveillance cameras, one hardly notices the tiny flies that hover
silently and zip past so quickly in and out of rooms. You'd hardly
know they were there.
Michael Dickinson is an English teacher working in Istanbul, Turkey.
Dickinson did the cover art for two of CounterPunch's books, Dime's
Worth of Difference and Serpents in the Garden, as well as Jeffrey
St. Clair's Grand Theft Pentagon. He can be contacted via his
or at [email protected].
Also visit Saatchi
The Catholicization Of Tony
Incident At Westminster Abbey
The King's New Clothes
Arrested In Istanbul
Censoring The Carnival Of Chaos
Listening To Lennon In Istanbul
The Madness Of Money