We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day


We can confirm that eight of the nine people quoted on the website at the time either worked for the Identity and Passport Service (IPS), the Home Office or another government department or agency.

- A spokesman from the Identity and Passport Service (IPS) of the Home Office, in answer to a Freedom of Information request from Phil Booth of No2ID, asking how many of the people quoted on an IPS website expressing enthusiasm for the wonderfulness of their ID cards did in fact work for the government.

Actually, this was not a direct response to the FOI request, but was only admitted after the good Mr Booth demanded an internal review from the IPS after they answered the question with several lengthy paragraphs of content free bureaucrat babble the first time. Details thanks to The Register here.

10 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Aren’t they clever?

  • Sadly, I think that the “Obfuscate at length, in the hope that the other person will go away” technique is too often effective. You get such a letter, and you think “Do I want to continue dealing with these prawns, or will I go and have another beer”, and despite good intentions, a lot of people do choose the beer.

    Of course, the Home Office should know better from experience than to do this to Phil Booth and Guy Herbert.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    Another thing to do with a zero-content response is to cite it as proving your point: “a Department spokesman did not deny ***, saying only that [insert bafflegab]….”

  • John B

    It’s called the Identity and Passport Service, now, is it? So identity has become an officially endorsed issue as a valid, accepted and integral function of government. I can remember somebody joking that a birth certificate is so you can prove you’ve been born.
    How does anyone ever take anything that politicians and their servants say seriously?
    I know we all know it but we just carry on in the pantomime.
    Amazing.

  • I am fascinated by the actual wording of the bureaucrat babble. The first answer to the question of how many of those quoted as supporting ID cards work for the government, and how come they’d already got them by 4 February, was:

    We have asked customers to tell us of their experiences, including via our website. Individuals who have provided accounts of identity card usage were then contacted to seek permission to use their experiences in the public domain. We have also received unsolicited feedback.

    Of course, this does not answer the question, but I am interested in how it avoids doing so. The strategy here seemed to be to provide an apparent account of the process by which the people to quote were selected. (Which would be an answer to a question fairly close to the original one.) But actually it does not even do that, because that would be too revealing. What it does is state two almost irrelevant things that were done in the process of getting quotes. They were: (1) a request for experiences was put on a website, (2) some individuals were asked for permission to be quoted. Note how (1) happened before the period of interest, namely that of how they selected who to quote, and (2) came after it. So you read them, one after the other, and you could easily think you’ve been told something relevant. Masterly!

    The final statement, that the government had received unsolicited feedback, does not say whether any of it made it into the quotes.

    The next reply uses the same technique of making a series of almost-relevant statements:

    “However, the accounts are all drawn from individuals who were eligible for a National Identity Card under the commencement orders in place by the date 4 February 2010. Accounts have come from a range of sources, reflecting the eligibility outlined in the commencement orders.”

    I shall leave detailed analysis as an exercise for the reader.

  • Eric

    Well, to be fair, ID cards probably packed full of wonderfulness if your job is to control the peons.

  • Nuke Gray

    What- it only took two or three attempts before they answered your question correctly? Is this a new record? Should someone tell the Guinness Book of Records?

  • guy herbert

    John B,

    It’s called the Identity and Passport Service, now, is it? So identity has become an officially endorsed issue as a valid, accepted and integral function of government.

    Has been since 1st April 2006, having been renamed with extraordinary haste 3 days after the passage of the Identity Cards Act 2006. The present government, while engaged in scrapping that Act, appears to have been bamboozled into keeping that principle of bureaucratic fundamentalism, that personal identity is something fixed, unitary, compact, and to be authorised by the state.

  • guy herbert

    @ Natalie,

    Almost all communications issuing from the Home Office are built like that. It is all literally true but utterly misleading.

    A reader familiar with the technique can see the invitations to jump to the wrong conclusion and significant ommissions immediately. But it is curiously beyond the ability (or perhaps the will, since pointing them out doesn’t seem to work) of many specialist crime and home affairs correspondents to do it.

  • John B

    Thanks, Guy. Afraid I do not keep up with all the details of bureaucracia.
    Interesting to see that the individual has become a function of the government.
    I truly begin to find my fulfilment from my placement within the collective?