Intimidation tactics, old and new

Mark D Young writes that the Twitter-trap is the modern hakke-trap

Anyone watching the news in the past months should have noticed a growing trend.

Journalist does job and unleashes a plague on their person.

This is so as one or other politician or party will take umbrage at said journalist for an article, question or even their mere presence at a press conference. Politicians will then make statements which appear innocent when analysed word by word but which result in a Twitter hunting pack shredding said journalist and placing their bodily safety at risk.

Not that the politicians in the eye of the storm ever asked for this. Of course not!

They will – correctly - claim that they never asked their followers to do all those horrible things. In many cases they will deny that the attack pack even carry membership cards.

In the end they will get away with it. Each time. But the level of scrutiny to which the media will subject them will become ever more superficial. Which millennial intern or junior reporter will want to run the risk of being subjected to the same tactics for trying to check the truth?

It's the entire point of the game. 

No matter what our politicians - from across the spectrum - say publicly, it is my estimation that they would all love to shut down public discourse, critical observation and scrutiny.

Sadly, it is not a new tactic. It is, however, far easier to deploy on a wider range of targets than a tactic intended to bring about the same result used three and a half decades ago.

Those of us in the media who actually remember the days of emergencies one and two and who are still lucid enough (or only lightly medicated) might remember hearing of something called Hakke-trap. It may, officially have been something else but that is what I heard it called.

The process often resulted in the target of the tactic giving up their interest in the party or officials upon whom they had been reporting.

However, it could also be a great deal of fun if you were on to the game and kept your nerve. Sadly the modern equivalent tactic cannot be as easily deflected and turned into a toy.

Hakke-trap involved two low level chaps in Scotts’ off-the-peg safari suits and sporting neat number one haircuts following you. Obviously so. Within half a meter of your derriere if you were walking - hence Hakke-trap i.e walking on heels... - or driving dangerously close to the rear of any vehicle in which you were traveling. It could go on for days or weeks on end.

Not everyone got this specialised – and I would think costly – attention. Naturally it was never official. How could officers be expected to control what their staff were doing every minute of the day and if some went “...off the reservation...” as our American cousins say, how could it be the fault of those higher up the ladder?

However, it was wearing.

It could be extremely annoying - which, of course, was the whole point.

Sit in your favourite coffee shop and the chaps were at a nearby table. Go shopping and they seemed to need to visit exactly the same grocery aisles. Many subjected to Hakke-trap would get angry and try and lash out at the guys behind them, which led to arrest on the simple charge of assaulting a police officer. Result.

I know of some who tried to drive rapidly in an attempt to escape the followers and who met with unfortunate accidents. Result.

However, if you were aware of the purpose, you could have fun.

On a sunny day you could drive out into a remote spot and then park your car. You then walked for another fifteen minutes or so up and down rocky slopes, eventually to stop at a very hot, exposed viewpoint. You, of course, knowing this was the location for the day, were suitably protected from the elements with a hat, sunscreen, umbrella, shooting-stick and provisioned with a cooler bag full of cold, icy drinks. You could then, for example, engage in a lengthy spot of landscape photography or bird watching.

The two chaps, under pain of a charge or something similar not to lose sight of you, would have to follow and hang about nearby in the heat.

You could also go to a lake and take a boat out beyond sight. Returning some hours later to the car park your two playmates would be muttering things under their breath to the effect that you obviously think you are “...#$%^&@ snaaks...” (Funny).

If you got your timing right they would, in the interim, have called HQ from a tickey-box and had some of their pals driving out in a rush to cover all of the possible jetties and car parks around the lake to find out if you had given them the slip. Result.

It's what some under the baleful stare of the monitoring teams called fun. 

Electronic signals and social media messages have replaced shoe leather and Datsun pool cars. Thus the game of direct intimidation is still on.

However it carries with it, in latter days, an added thermonuclear side-effect not as easily deployed back in the 80s.

Modern political players are willing to toss the constitution and other laws aside in order to invade privacy and publish personal data of the focus of their ire on social media using a pretext of public interest. Thus anyone being the focus of umbrage these days rapidly finds more than just two agents on their heels.

Laying complaints with the IEC and other chapter nine institutions supposed to protect citizens is a bit of a dead rubber as you have to give them so much more than your Twitter handle and telephone number on the complaint form. Imagine all that data being published “...in the public interest...”?

And those playing Twitter-Trap know this.

What's that? The IEC will sort it all out? 

The police will actually prosecute if a charge is laid?

Of course they will.

Right after a complete and accurate refund cheque reaches the National treasury from Dubai.