Mark Thomas: 'According to the police, I’m a domestic extremist – that’s my category'

This article is from 2014

Opinion Mark Thomas

Photo: Idil Sukan

The comedian, actor and activist, performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, discusses being spied upon

The comedian, actor and activist, whose Cuckooed reveals how a friend spied on him, considers the personal trauma caused by surveillance

It seems to me that one of the key issues of the moment is privacy and data protection. For instance, I won’t have a loyalty card – I don’t want some supermarket knowing whether I bought porridge on a Friday or not. Also, I’m not loyal to them – I shop around. I see other shops.

Britain is the country with the most CCTV cameras per capita, and it’s incredible that you have the situation where you walk down somewhere like Oxford Street in London, and god knows how many times you’re filmed and how many databases you’re on. And we just accept it.

It’s very shocking when you find out that you’re been spied upon, and especially when it’s a friend who has done it – when someone has deliberately got close to you in order to get information, and you don’t know who they took it to or what it’s being used for. The notion that this is some kind of victimless crime is totally wrong. People I know who have been spied upon by corporate spies have huge psychological issues as a result. And there’s a real shame that goes along with it – it’s very damaging. Has it affected the way I live? If I’m honest, it probably has.

According to the police, I’m a domestic extremist – that’s my category. There are over 9000 people on the domestic extremist database, which means you can be put under surveillance and that they can collect data on you. I joked with mates that thank god the police actually sent me back the file they had on me – imagine if they had nothing. It would have been so embarrassing. But that’s only partly true.

But we have to stick together. The bottom line, I believe, is that all progressive political activity, all activism is based on cooperation and fellowship. We have to celebrate our community, and mutually work together – and that’s a fantastic thing. It’s the strength of the movement and its weakness.

Cuckooed, Traverse, 228 1404, until 24 Aug (not 18), times vary, £19 (£14).

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