As big as the Stasi was, it depended on a myriad of small time informers to rat on their colleagues and neighbours to work. The fear in the German State was never knowing whether that smiling newspaper seller, or that friendly primary school teacher, was watching for a loose word, a small admission of guilt to report. The State encouraged fear and distrust amongst the people.
Like most normal people, I swear at my telly from time to time. At times, in private, my language is neither polite nor politically correct. And now, following the case of Rowan Laxton, I must ensure the windows are closed and that I am inaudible to any other person, or face the risk of a rat reporting me to the police. Rowan has just been fined £350 with £500 costs and a £15 victim surcharge (which will certainly never reach the Palestinians on whose behalf he shouted in the first place) for being overheard.