THE LAST DITCH An Englishman returned after twenty years abroad blogs about liberty in Britain
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July 2011

I despair

The posh left is triumphant. The people are bamboozled once more by their own sentimentality. A co-ordinated and well-timed plan of attack (judging by the steadiness of the daily leaks) is succeeding.

No-one sees the elephant in the room (the bloated, biased and soon-to-be-even-less-challenged state broadcaster). When people talk of Murdoch owning 40% of the British press, no-one takes any account of Auntie's dominance in forming British opinion.

Once again, the knee-jerk reaction to wrong-doing was not to leave it to the prosecutors. Instead - stupidly - it was to call for even more law. Law that will raise barriers to entry in the media, therefore reducing diversity of ownership and accelerating the decline of the dead tree press. Law that will put a chill on free speech and reduce the newspapers to the same subservience to the liberal elite as the BBC.

It's no-one's damn business who owns a newspaper. No more than it's anyone's business (but mine) who owns this blog. There is no need to regulate the press at all, beyond the ordinary obligations of all citizens (many of which the British tabloids have clearly broken). There is now no hope however - with cross-party agreement on Labour's impudent motion on Thursday - of avoiding even more regulation. Soon, there will be a frenzied settling of the elite's scores, and we will become less free.

Our nation sickens more. All our 'remedies' are poison. It's our own fault.

Grammatical incrimination

Dear diary: thief makes record of armed robbery - Telegraph.

Please notice how the idiot wrote it:

Robbery happens.

All my criminal clients spoke this way when I was briefly a defence lawyer, many moons since:

I was doing so well staying out of trouble, Mr Paine, and then this happened.

I have blogged before about this. It's not that really that they robbed someone, you see. They were there and a robbery happened. My theory is that we could distinguish between the responsible and the irresponsible in society by simply tracking excessive use of the passive voice.

Perhaps we had better not though. The politicians would only want to redistribute wealth from the former to the latter.

Book review: Single Acts of Tyranny, by Stuart Fairney

Single Acts of Tyranny: Stuart Fairney: Books.

I come late to this party. Leg-iron, The Nameless Libertarian, Neil Craig, Anna Raccoon, NickM and The Englishman have already reviewed this book and left little enough for your humble blogger to add. To be honest, I put off reading it for fear I might not be able to write a positive review. The author, Stuart Fairney, is a commenter here and on other right-thinking blogs. I was reluctant to risk upsetting so worthy a soul, but it turns out I need not have worried. I picked it up yesterday, read it in one go and enjoyed it.

Stuart has no problems with the aspects of writing fiction that have always deterred me; plot and characterisation. I fear any novel of mine would be catastrophically Randian in those respects. Ayn Rand's novels were polemics in sheep's clothing. Her plots were weak and her characters at best unbelievable (and at worst obnoxious). Any one of the orations she passes off as dialogue could fill a broadsheet's opinion columns for decades. Sadly, it's possible to believe in such bores (particularly if you hang out in the political blogosphere) but not in any characters who are convinced by them.

Single Acts of Tyranny is a counterfactual novel. In this universe, the "late unpleasantness" between the states turned out the other way. Modern Confederate America (slavery long-since abandoned) is a libertarian nation. The Northern States have become a sclerotic and strangely familiar welfare state; a thinly-disguised modern Britain. It's a good idea and it works well, particularly for British readers; distancing us from the "our NHS" type sentimentality that often blinds us to other views. The plot is thrillerish and the characters (if a little too white hat/black hat) are plausible.

I have some criticisms. There is too little humour. Stuart seems overly keen to get all his political points across in one book. There are some Randian moments as the characters lengthily talk politics in complete sentences. While the videos the hero posts on the 'net are not remotely on the scale of the infamous Galt monologue, they are reminiscent in their intent.

A ruthless professional editor could have improved the book. He would have picked up the typoes, but more importantly persuaded Stuart to make a few, illustrative political points rather then drive all of them home so hard. He might have suggested that if the characters won a small victory that left hope for the future, it would be more plausible than total success. He might have steered him to make his points more in the style of the novelising luvvies of our political establishment. They present their point of view casually, as if it's obvious. To be fair, they don't face the same resistance as Stuart.

I enjoyed the polemical aspects of the book. I also enjoyed the characters and the plot. I even enjoyed Stuart's handling of the sex scenes, which are notoriously difficult - and another reason I won't write a novel any time soon. Anyone who is a regular reader here will enjoy the book but to reach a wider audience, Stuart should allow his politics quietly to inform his story-telling, rather than putting them front and centre.

Babies and bathwater

Andrew Gilligan, Telegraph London editor - Telegraph.

I am concerned by the current threat to our free press and glad that the question is being raised in the mainstream media. I am not surprised Andrew Gilligan is prominent among the warning voices. As he points out in the Daily Telegraph;

In my career as a journalist I have lied, I have received stolen goods and for these things I have won two of the top awards in the profession.

Quite. And the Daily Telegraph committed at least one crime to expose the rampant expenses fraud in Westminster. When the hysteria dies down, let it please be remembered that no-one cared about the News of the World hacks hacking phones until they crossed not a legal but a moral boundary. The real danger now is that "the great and the good" (not to mention the self-serving slebs) will screen their wrongdoings for ever from the people's gaze, using the weapon of a sentimental indignation that cannot safely or properly be translated into law.

Gilligan knows exactly what regulation of non-broadcast journalism would mean. He famously faced the wrath of the authorities when he was a highly-regulated BBC broadcast journalist and that cost him his job. He resigned from the BBC after Alistair Campbell successfully set out (in the words of his own diaries) to "fuck Gilligan" over his story about how "the dodgy dossier" was "sexed up".

This despite the fact that, as recorded by Wikipedia:

A later official enquiry into the government's use of intelligence, conducted by the former head of the civil service Lord Butler of Brockwell found that "more weight was placed on the intelligence than it would bear", that the dossier "put a strain on the Joint Intelligence Committee in seeking to maintain their normal standards of neutral and objective assessment", and that the judgments in the dossier went to the "outer limits … of the intelligence available."

Gilligan has, to his credit, been banging the free speech, free press drum for some time. Wikipedia also records that:

In a speech to the Edinburgh TV Festival in August 2004, the main annual gathering of the broadcasting industry, Gilligan spoke of his "awe" at what he claimed was the Government's "industrial-strength, 45-carat shamelessness" over the dossier and said that the BBC should not retreat from journalistic probing of the Government.

But the BBC did retreat. And now - if indeed it ever accidentally advances in the right direction - it always will. Gilligan embarrassing a left-liberal PM was an aberration probably never to be repeated. No member of the leftist elite in Britain need fear Auntie, but all their enemies must. That is precisely what the unholy alliance of Guardian, BBC, vengeful slebs and gleeful politicians will now seek to achieve for the press. God help us all if they succeed. When a state with limitless power over its citizens (including the power to do legally everything it complains of in others) says those others are 'too powerful', watch out!

Government knows best?

News International's share price is falling. But so is that of BSkyB, its acquisition target. The market says - in effect - that the takeover adds value; that BSkyB is better fully owned by Murdoch. That the politicians are about to exact vengeance for years of having to crawl to a man who could only be ethically superior to the likes of them is destroying economic value. That, gentle reader, is what governments do. What the "eevil" Murdoch does is create it. Neither can be trusted, of course, because they are human. But a society that trusts those who destroy more than those who create deserves its fate.

The fight is on

David Cameron's self-serving attack on press freedom - Telegraph.

The oligarch supporters of President Yeltsin discovered by accident how to get their drunken but reliably corrupt puppet re-elected, despite national embarrassment at his failings. In desperation, they bought the national TV stations, whose newsdesks informed the political opinions of a decisive majority. To their surprise it worked. Their unsavoury skins were saved.

When Vladimir Vladimirovich Putin was made Yeltsin's political heir, their media machine got him elected. They were confident he would reward them, but they underestimated their man. He and his "Chekist" faction didn't want to depend on them for power, so they seized those TV stations "for the nation". They used them to develop what they amusingly call a "managed democracy".

Having ensured a consistent line from key news desks, they found they could cheerfully ignore the otherwise free press. You can read criticism of VVP in Russian newspapers and magazines. You can hear it on local TV and radio too. He will happily point to it as evidence of Russia's free press. But you won't hear a word of effective criticism on national TV, which is all he cares about.

The occasional murder of a journalist seems born of exuberance, not necessity.

Living in Russia for several years, I wondered if the Chekists got their ideas from observing the relationship between the BBC and the British ruling elite. Why did the Conservatives not win the last election outright, despite economic circumstances that would have made Labour unelectable in any other place and time? Two reasons. Firstly a rigged election system. Voting figures that would have given Labour a working majority were insufficient for the Tories. Secondly the BBC News team (and their incestuous faux-competitors at Channel 4) did the same job for Labour that their Russian counterparts do for United Russia. The same team now consistently keens and wails about "Tory cuts" despite the fact that public spending is still rising, thus keeping the hapless Boy David firmly to leftist lines in all key respects.

By the way, how can that rigged election system remain in place? Because the BBC will never give airtime to anyone who points it out - and will report any attempt to reform it as Tory election-rigging. So there's really only one reason.

Love him or hate him (and he doesn't make himself easy to love) Rupert Murdoch represented the only well-funded and plausible threat to the BBC hegemony in British opinion-forming. For the good of the same ruling elite that loved him when they were successfully bribing him to do their bidding, he therefore had to be stopped from gaining full control of BSkyB. His reported remark that Sky News would be more like Fox News if his British management ever listened to him made that very clear.

Search Twitter today for the hashtag #newsnight and see the vengeful, malicious British Left in full triumphant cry. Having pitched the pompous right-on comedian Steve Coogan against a carefully-selected rat-like specimen of the tabloid press, the BBC's Newsnight team could barely contain its near-sexual excitement last night. It was glorying (as the BBC has for days) in doing immense damage to its only serious enemy.

Today's Telegraph leader has it almost right.

To punish the whole of the press for News International’s misdemeanours is wrong; so, too, is the sneering disdain of the political classes for the tabloid newspapers that are read by the majority of their constituents. It was a revolting spectacle to see Labour politicians cheer the closure of one of this country’s oldest newspapers, with the loss of 200 staff, most of whom had nothing to do with the scandal – especially since they only found their voice once News International had ended its support of their party.

Why almost? Because this is not about "them" - the Press, but about us, the people. What the dangerous new coalition of vengeful slebs, spurned and furious Labourites and politicians determined to ensure no repetition of the expenses scandal threatens is our very way of life.

The Britain I knew and loved, now fighting for its feeble life, was formed by centuries of press freedom.  The broadsheets might debate the issues of the day, but few were following them. It was the ferocious tabloid press that kept the elites in line. It instilled fear into those who, by dishonesty, excess, immorality or even mere snootiness towards the public that feeds them, deserved popular disapproval.

The BBC is a primary source of work for Coogan. It has the ability to enhance the career of Hugh Grant. They and other celebrities have their own reasons (for which the public had no sympathy before Millygate) to hate and fear the tabloids. After all these are the papers that personify the prurient interest in their private lives of the British public on whom they live - and for whom they feel such disdain.

We know what they want from new regulators. We also know what the BBC and Guardian will want. Most of all we know what the politicians of all parties will want. But it's not their disparate agendas that are the problem, it's what they have in common. That is a desire for working people to have neither ready access to anti-statist views, nor regular evidence of the moral corruption of the British ruling elite and its luvvie running dogs.

We don't need to like Mr Murdoch to recognize this. His employees' disgraceful misconduct has given our elites their greatest chance for decades to undermine that sturdy contempt for the powerful that makes us free men.