Hats Off to Big Brother!
They're tightening the screws over in the UK. First it was license plate reading cameras used for computerized tracking of every vehicle in the country. Then it was a smoking ban in the pubs. Now comes word of a growing trend in those newly smoke-free pubs: remove your hat, or get out.
The reason for the ban? As one barman candidly put it, "We don't allow hats to be worn in the bar. We absolutely don't allow it. We need all faces to be seen by the CCTV [closed circuit television cameras]."
In another pub, a woman was told to remove her rain hat because the "CCTV camera would not be able to see her face clearly enough." As the pub owner explained, "it was pub policy to always ask people to remove their hats. 'It's all to do with the CCTV. We have 13 cameras inside the pub...'"
Writer Neil Davenport observes:
The enforcement of such a bizarre rule as the 'hat ban' may be an attempt to assert control in the name of tackling crime... But the fact that such a ban seems to have been accepted at all shows how a demand for security and safety permeates society at present. It's interesting that while respectable pensioners have kicked up a fuss at the hat ban, younger people have tended to acquiesce to the demand to remove their headgear. In fact, surveillance is more or less seen as acceptable if it leads to a greater sense of security...You know, 10 or 20 years ago nobody would've believed such a ban would ever be implemented in the real world. Nobody would've imagined that people would stand for it. But the British license plate tracking scheme has already been imported to some cities in the US. Any bets on how long it'll be before the British "hat ban" follows?
What lies behind such demand for safety and security is a perception that individual autonomy is problematic in and of itself. Thus all individuals need some kind of rules and regulation because anyone can suddenly 'get out of hand'... there is something servile about forcing customers to 'remove their hats', with ugly echoes of the 'doffing your cap' reverence to society's supposed 'betters' in the past. In this case, it's a reverence to New Britain's principles of authority, order and knowing-your-place.
As Davenport puts it, "So the government hasn't made wearing hats in pubs illegal (yet)... Making people take their hats off isn't the end of the world— but it fits into a corrosive, creeping process of restricting our freedoms, large and small."