Do the Brits live in fear of being "black bagged" by the government?

I was watching V for Vendetta the other day, and it occurred to me that there’s a lot of movies and books with themes of governments that curtail people’s freedom of expression. Examples: 1984, Brazil, V for Vendetta, even **Pink Floyd’s The Wall **movie had Pink imagining himself in charge of a neo-nazi fascist ruling party. Then it hit me that these almost all have one thing in common: They all come from the Brits. Ok, I know Terry Gilliam was born American, but he was a member of Monty Python and Brazil was full of Brit actors and very much a Brit movie.

Sooo, where does this come from? Does the average British citizen live in fear of an oppressive government that can swoop in at any given time and haul them off, never to be seen or heard from again? Brit dopers, do you have a fear that listening to the wrong music or having the wrong opinions will someday get you “black bagged”?

No. I fear my homeowners’ association more than the British government.

What you gotta understand about V for Vendetta: the filmmakers updated the setting and tossed in some references to the war in Iraq to make it more modern (and get in some potshots at the American government), but the graphic novel was written back in the 1980s. Alan Moore was envisaging a post nuclear-holocaust Britain–basically, what would have happened if the Cold War had gotten hot–and he thought it would be very easy to tip the country’s scales into fascism.

So no, I think it was more a product of the time than anything. I’m not British, though, so YMMV and all that.

My guess would be anarchism. Anarchists have been pretty active in England since at least the start of the 20th Century. If you read Joseph Conrad’s The Secret Agent, you’ll find out that London has been being regularly bombed for the last 100 years; Anarchists, Irish, Muslims, it’s a fun town!

And of course Alan Moore, who wrote V for Vendetta, is an anarchist.

Did anyone ever write a fictional Britain that’s controlled by Communism, rather than Fascism? Are we to infer from all of the Russian slang in A Clockwork Orange that the British government is somehow controlled by Russians or Communists?

I can’t say that I ever thought much about the Russian in ACO. To make a guess, trying to rehabilitate a criminal is generally a liberal preoccupation. Since they went for an extreme version of that, the government could be presumed to be significantly more liberal, which would indicate that yeah, they might have some better or closer ties to the ol’ USSR.

I’d have to watch the movie again to form a real opinion on the subject though. (Or better yet, read the book.)

I’m not a Brit (except by birth), but I suspect it might be a combination of three things:

1)The experience of WWII. Britain (like the rest of Europe) was in great danger of actually being overrun by a fascist state. Following WWII, many other European nations were overrun by an absolutist communist state. I get the sense that fascism and other forms of governmental authoritarianism feel much closer at hand in Europe than in North America.

2)A parliamentary political system. Unlike presidential-congressional systems, parliamentary systems allow for multiple parties, and so give much greater power to the political fringes. While the UK has a much more moderate-tending system, with two dominant political parties, than many European countries, it is still much more likely that a fascist or communist party could play a large role in government than it is in the US. The British system also lacks the checks-and-balances safeguards and constitutional guarantees of freedoms that the US has. (There are, of course, many strengths to a parliamentary system and to the British system in particular that aren’t relevant here.)

3)Margaret Thatcher. As mentioned by others, the 1980s were a time when the right wing held enormous and long-lasting political power in Britain. The Conservatives under Thatcher changed the political landscape and the role of government in society in a fairly radical way. It was easy to imagine that the political spectrum had permanently moved to the right and that Labour and liberalism would never recover. (And to some extent they haven’t.)

4)The Troubles. I said three, and I was originally going to roll this into the others, especially number 3, but I think it should be explicated. The government undertook some radical and oppressive steps to counter the terrorist bombings of the IRA. Bombings of civilian targets on UK soil were a regular occurrence. Given the political landscape, it was easy to imagine that a worsening of the attacks would throw the whole thing to hell.

“The Brits”? No, of course not. The great majority of Britons are sane enough to know they have practically nothing to fear from their government.

A certain lunatic fringe of British Leftists? Yes, and they’re STILL peeing in their pants in fear of Margaret Thatcher.

It’s almost as funny as watching American Leftists still trembling that Ronald Reagan may yet find a way to blow up the world.

Hey. That is not dead which can eternal lie. :mad:


Well, there was this guy called Orwell who wrote a book called 1984 one time. And me, I think there’s a pretty big case for arguing that The Scouring Of The Shire from LotR is a metaphor for a communist England.

Oh, and in the crumbling socialist Britain of the 70’s Anthony Burgess wrote a not particularly clever or funny satire imaginatively titled 1985 about the future of England under communism.

I would question the premise of the OP. It’s not true that “almost all” such books and films come from Britain. What about The Handmaid’s Tale, This Perfect Day, The Giver, etc.? Many more examples at

I concur that the all the things mentioned (WW!! Thatcher etc) have had an influence but it’s not so much we fear it could happen NOW as that we (not just the loony left either) see it as something to be vigilant against.

Where I live, we’re more in fear of the maddie jihadis.

We don’t have that hatred and/or fear of government that one so often sees expressed on (say) gun owners’ forums. Indeed, many of our citizens are in favour of more government intervention, not less.

Nah, we don’t wander about in fear, much though I might dislike certain government policies, e.g. wars, plans for Identity cards, etc. But, all the same, eternal vigilance and all that. :slight_smile:

They wanted to reform criminals to free up space for the expected wave of “political offenders” expected under the new government, not reform them for their own sake. I know that’s explicitly stated in the book, don’t remember about the movie.

And I don’t think the Nadsat slang having Russian roots was supposed to imply a connection with communism. I think Burgess was just having fun with the language, and wanted to use an invented slang, not replicate one in use.

I believe both Len Deighton and Ted Allbeury did. I’ll have a look through the shelves to find the specific titles. Both were just short-ish novels so not too much depth unfortunately. But they are both superb authors and well worth reading!


Ted Albeury’s All Our Tomorrows and Constantine Fitzgibbon’s When The Kissing Had To Stop

Thanks for the list! I’m familiar with some of the ones on the list, some of the others are going to be added to my reading list. Anyhow, it seemed to me that the situation I described (citizens are passive drones, an oppressive gov’t crushing signs of individuality and creativity) came more from Britons than anyone else, and was wondering if there was an origin behind it all.

Some interesting responses, especially from Alan Smithee. I read 1984 in 8th grade and thought it was interesting but was disappointed that it didn’t have a happy ending. Read it again in my early 20’s, thought it was brilliant, and started checking out other stuff like Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, etc. I’ve been a big fan of dystopian fiction ever since.