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Book Review – In Focus: The case for Privatising the BBC

On being a dispirited activist vs being Pamela Geller

I am reading one of the books I snagged at the Think IEA conference last weekend. It's called A U-Turn on the Road to Serfdom and it contains practical suggestions, based on the 2013 Hayek lecture by Grover Norquist, as to how we might effectively work towards a smaller state. In it Norquist remarks on the electoral effect of the Tea Party movement in the US.

There have been some very good studies about how this affected the voter turnout in places where you had rallies, compared with places where they planned a rally, but it rained, so it was cancelled. You could see that we gained between three million and six million voters in 2010 because of increased political activism: the idea of showing up, seeing other people, realising you weren't alone and that you weren't crazy was very important.

This struck a chord. I am an activist by inclination. In my youth, I was regional chairman of a Maoist school students organisation, Chairman of the Conservative Association at my university, marched to legalise homosexuality in Scotland and Northern Ireland and campaigned on political issues. Once my career became serious and I had a family to take care of, however, I eased off and became politically very isolated. I fell prey to the propaganda of the Left-Establishment orthodoxy. With only the BBC and the mainstream media to guide me, I came to believe that I was – if not alone – part of an unfashionable minority.

Then came the "War on Terror". The Islamic terrorists were rank amateurs compared to the IRA whose campaign I had lived through without once feeling civilisation was in danger. The Irish Republican terrorists were highly-trained (by the Soviets), well-funded (by Irish-Americans) and well-protected (by the Kennedy dynasty in the US, by judges in Germany refusing to deport them, by the Catholic Church refusing to excommunicate them and by its priests providing them with safe houses). The Islamic terrorists have money from their Arab and Iranian sponsors and some of the older ones were trained by the CIA during the Russian campaign in Afghanistan but mostly they are laughable InCel losers. Films like Four Lions and plucky Glaswegians like John Smeaton ("We're from Glasgow, we'll just set about ye") constitute an adequate societal response while law enforcement deals with them as the simple (in all senses) criminals they are.

I mourned the losses of my American friends in 9/11 but feared (presciently as it turned out) the nature of their likely response. I feared (even more presciently) that authoritarian opportunists would cynically use 9/11 as cover to attack civil liberties. How was one classical liberal with a family to take care of and a demanding career to take on Tony Blair, George W. Bush et al. as they – by appearing to respond manfully to panicked calls to "do something" – set about dismantling our freedoms? So, my activism revived a little and I started this blog.

I know. It's hilarious. One man writing from Moscow about the PATRIOT Act, the Prevention of Terrorism Act and other such legal euphemisms, was going to make a difference, right? Well, I wasn't quite that dumb. I knew I was lighting a candle rather than cursing the darkness. I had no real hope that I would make a difference but I felt a moral obligation to chip in my two cents' worth. To be honest, I didn't want to die having stood silent while the civilisation I believed in was damaged. I don't believe that I have changed the world for the better but I have changed me

I have experienced the warm feeling Norquist describes, of realising that I was neither alone in my views nor crazy to hold them, through fellowship with the readers of this blog and of others like it. I am not sure I have illuminated much with it, but I have kept that "little candle" alive and with it the hope that one day it will pass to someone who will be able to make the difference I have not. I hope the fellowship that has helped me so much has also helped my little band of readers. We have huddled together in the darkness and, at worst, we are still here and still thinking freely.

Though my little candle has not started any fires, those of other bloggers have. To light a fire you need – it seems – more incendiary views than mine. I have just finished reading Fatwa : Hunted in America by Pamela Geller for example. Her blog Atlas Shrugs, now renamed as The Geller Report, found a readership large enough for its advertising to fund campaigns that made a real world difference. She has become enough of a threat to merit (and I do regard it as a high honour) an ISIS attempt to assassinate her. Her security team killed both of her attackers. Her blog revenue also paid for those trained professionals to be there and do that. I envy her that.

Geller is not afraid. She is a feisty, aggressive, Jewish lady and will not back down in the face of what she fears is an embryonic Shoah, instigated by jihadists and supported by the Left/Liberal Western Establishment. She goes too far with her conspiracy theories. I no more believe that the Blairs and Merkels of this world are secretly plotting the downfall of the West than I believe in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. Blair and Merkel do exist, alas, and their conduct does threaten the West but they are greedy fools, not traitors. Despite her imaginative excesses, Geller does great work in exposing the weakness of the West's leadership and the bias of the West's media. Her reward has been for ISIS to try to kill her and for mainstream journalists to "victim blame" her for that! Even President Trump publicly wondered in the aftermath of the assassination attempt (and this really is a compliment from him) why she was so provocative!

Meanwhile the social media giants seek to demonetize her online publications and to smear her relentlessly. Yet she remains, and this I can only admire, a spirited activist. I would be proud if I had pulled just one of her stunts: the one in which she put up two near-identical "hate sites" on Facebook. Every word on the sites was the same, except that one said "Kill the Jews" and the other said "Kill the Palestinians". Then she reported both pages to Facebook's team monitoring compliance with its Terms of Service. The "Kill the Jews" page remains, Facebook having ruled that it was free speech in compliance with its ToS. The "Kill the Palestinians" page was (but of course, did you ever doubt it?) taken down. She has cleverly proved the sinister bias in not just "The" Social Network but all the social networks. For another small example of that bias, I use an aggregator called Feedly for my daily reading list of news and blogs. I can't add the Geller Report to that list because Feedly doesn't recognise its existence. Yes, her website is there. Yes, her free speech is unimpeded. But I have to remember to visit her site because Feedly silently declines to accept it. Yet it would (and quite rightly) let me aggregate any number of hateful anti-Western sites.

Geller's book is not well-written. It is in her authorial voice, which is a tiring high-pitched scream. It's repetitive and just a wee bit narcissistic but it's really worth a read. Her career, whether on any given point she was right or wrong, illustrates clearly the anti-Western bias of the West's political, intellectual and journalistic leadership. While most of our citizens remain proud of the West's achievements, it really seems our elites are are subconsciously intent on civilisational suicide out of sheer self-loathing. Reading it made me feel guilty that, in pursuit of comforts she has cheerfully exchanged for physical danger and vilification,  I have sacrificed so little to its defence. 


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David Bishop

A propos your candle metaphor, there is a Buddhist saying along the lines of, “Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the single candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.”
That wording is apparently from a Japanese commentary. Just replace ‘happiness’ with ‘truth’ and your candle has the potential to light many more.

Given how English also uses the metaphor of ‘passing the torch’, Buddha’s recorded words were perhaps even more apt for the context you describe:

The Buddha replied, “It is like a lighted torch whose flame can be distributed to ever so many other torches which people may bring along; and therewith they will … dispel darkness, while the original torch itself remains burning ever the same. It is even so with the bliss of the Way.”

As Matt and Diogenese also say, there are cogent voices still speaking up for Enlightenment values, Peterson being one of the most powerful, and I seem to come across more daily. You’re now sending me down another rabbit hole to see what Pamela Geller has to say!

As Matt also noted, the so-and-sos at the EU Commission will likely tell the European Parliament to vote ‘the right way’ for their infernal internet copyright law, or more likely just enact it anyway. So let’s make good use of the internet to pass the torch while we can.


You reassured us that we weren't alone, too.

Thanks for that.


Forgive me if this is hijacking your blog but on the night that I learn Treason May seems to have got her pretend Brexit at last I watched the speech in the link below.
At 1hour 13 minutes it is very long but I think it is time well spent. I think I have never seen or heard anything quite like it. He is a force of nature.


Thank you. Yes the scene looks a lot brighter than it did even five years ago. The Enlightenment is not over yet.


Reading your blog and others which defend our values has given me comfort and hope that all is not lost, as has my discovery of youtube and young vloggers who haven't been brainwashed.


Milo is one of our own, but he has chosen to fight on a bigger battlefield. His showmanship plays better on the other side of the Pond anyway. We only need a few leaders in politics, thinkers in academia and influencers in the arts. If inclined to despair I remind myself just how few post-modern leftists there are. Most people are sensible and disinterested in politics. Their revealed preference (whatever they tell fanatics on the doorstep to get them to go away) is to get on with life in a practical and productive way. Insulated from reality in their post-modern bubble, the enemies of Reason and Liberty seem intent on pushing these normies into politics by leaving them no area of life untouched by it. This will be their downfall.


Thank you. I would love to believe that's true. Either way, the ideas of the Age of Reason endure and its post-modern enemies in academia are so obviously divorced from reality that the intelligent youngsters they indoctrinate wise up quite quickly after a year or two in the real world They have built such a safe space for themselves in their universities that they are battle-softened foemen not even worthy of our rusty steel.


Tom, You greatly underestimate your influence.
Through the dark Labour years the opposition was in philosophical disarray.
If it wasn't for the likes of Guido, Eugenides, Dizzy, Dale, DK, Worstall, Raedwald, Samizdata and yourself giving them both barrels on a daily basis things would be very different now.
The political standpoint we share is complex to explain so doesn't lend itself to soundbites and placards. You, better than anyone, was able to frame the arguments in watertight terms. You were more of an armourer than a scrapper but the narrative was certainly transformed with your help.
It is safe to say when JB Peterson is sharing venues with Iron Maiden and Britney Spears all is not lost, the baton has been passed to a scrapper of epic proportions.


Excellent interesting post. I'm a little ashamed to realise I put Atlas Shrugs in my political favourites list years ago and forgot about it.Probably because I go to Brigitte Gabriel on the ACT site. Another feisty lady who wrote two books that will knock your socks off.
I'm too old to become an activist of any sort--now a tainted discredited label anyway.
When at work I was once told that the sack awaited if I wore a red tie again. Such a rebel --I wore red socks and red underpants from then on. The latter even to this day. The stupid thing is that wearing a red tie was politically utterly insignificant--I've never had a single brain cell that leaned left.
Somehow I feel regretful that the UK seems to have no voices speaking on politics or society like these two women. Or Peterson, Shapiro, Molyneux, Harris, Derek Hunter, Alex Jones, Paul Watson, (who is British), Steyn and so on. Who do we have ? Piers Morgan? Has "Hate Speech" really chilled everyone or have we sunk so low intellectually that such voices are just not around in the UK any more.
And have you noticed how very sharp and smart are the women presenters and commenters on US TV compared with the ones on UK TV?
There may be a little hope---it seems the EU parliament has defeated the move to silence the internet with the copyright law they tried to enact. So I suppose now we sit and wait for the Commission to ignore all that nonsense and enact it anyway.
Thank you for your post.

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