“The Dying Light” by Observer journalist Henry Porter is terrifying because it is so humdrum in its approach to the creation of a very modern form of tyranny. The story follows a young British lawyer (And former SIS operative) who is investigating the death of a friend and former head of the Joint Intelligence Committee. Downing Street doesn’t like that, and deploys the subtle but suffocating tools of the state against her and her allies.
What is genuinely troubling about the book is its believability, and how the “If you have nothing to hide, you’ve nothing to fear.” argument has been used to equip the state with a frightening array of powers open to misuse by unprincipled people in power, or worse still, people who think they know what’s best for the rest of us. The scariest thing of all is that the arguments made by the chief baddy in the book are the exact same arguments I’ve heard a well-meaning political aspirant make to me about the need for the Irish government to have these powers!
Also worth noting is the difference between the role of the British Parliament in the book, and how the Oireachtas would respond to the same challenges. Suffice to say it’s hard to see the Dail acting as a bulwark of individual freedom.
A lot of the powers used by the government in the book are already in law in the UK. Just look up the Civil Contingencies Act 2004 which is practically a police-state-in-a-box.
I found “The Dying Light” to be pretty much unputdownable.