Reds Under The Bed

At the time I first heard the saying ‘Reds Under The Bed’ I was more frightened of those monsters that lurked in the dust under my bed. Seriously, (and this was in the days before bedside lamps) I turned out the light and took a running leap, so those monsters couldn’t get my feet.

Of course, while I knew what monsters were, I was too young to have a realistic concept of what a ‘Red’ was, but by the tone with which people spoke about them, I was in no doubt, they were equally as dangerous.

Now, if you are not familiar with that idiom, it is a reference to the imminent invasion of ‘the much feared communist’.

After some significant passage of time, I can confirm that the communists did not invade,  and incidentally, that those monsters never got my feet or my toes either.

So, what was all the fuss about?

Baseless, unrealistic fears of children, and adults alike – something similar to our current day ‘mass surveillance’?

“You have microphones under our beds,” said the people.

“Of course not,” said the politicians, you’re behaving like children.

Some time ago we progressed, as you may remember?

“Your phone might be tapped, we joked.”

And we learnt from the Watergate Scandal, that, yes, that CAN happen.

“It wasn’t us,” said Tricky Dicky.

So, what about New Zealand?

What about current events?

Was Nick Hager, just a ‘whale o’ a story’?

I first encountered the use of electronic surveillance in the 1980s, and there were two things that immediately troubled me, even though I was not, or had any desire to be, an aspiring philosopher;

Firstly, the secrecy surrounding the use and development of such technology and its intended use and possible benefits. It was the domain of the Hush-Hush brigade.

Secondly, the invasion, not of the homes/households of the country and of individual privacy, but the disruption to families and their daily lives.

Freeze frame for a moment, and leap forward to the late 1990s, when I did personally encounter electronic invasion, and lo and behold, it was my fears realised.

Why was I/We being spied on, and why did this need to happen?

The answer was quite simple. Other people were up to no good, didn’t want to be found out, and it was to their advantage to have advance warning, so they could keep ahead of their game – THEIR GAME.

If that wasn’t enough, I then discovered something much more sinister, that came from an interaction with a journalist, who wanted my help with a story.

He rang back in a state of shock and told me, “my editor just tapped me on the shoulder and said, ‘drop the story, don’t waste your time’.”

“But no one knew about this, except you and me,” he added.

There are a number of possibilities here, but I later learned that the person who was in my phone made a habit of shutting down news stories by successfully threatening editors with financial consequences.

Of course, this sort of thing doesn’t happen in little old Nu Zeeland, does it?

There’s a harsh reality to be taken on board here. We are spied on in this country, of ours, whether we like it or not. If you’re doing something wrong you may well deserve that, but if you’re not, you may find like me, and many other people, that you, or your family, become the unwilling victims of someone else’s advantage.

Well, I no longer fear ‘Reds Under The Bed’ but as for those monsters, I’ve learnt something about them; they are actually real, they do hide in the dark, and as I feared in my childhood innocence, you never know when they’re going to strike, although now I understand – it’s the rug under your feet – that’s what they’re really after.