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

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Left, Right, Wrong

The traditional political division into 'left' and 'right' must be used with caution. For much of Europe 'right-wing' refers to nationalist authoritarians seeking to impose traditional values on society at large. I would be uncomfortable in such company. No right-winger on the Continent and few in America would share my stance on what they would call 'social issues' and I would call 'none of your damned business.'

The 'good guys' of Continental Europe are usually called Liberals. The bad guys of American politics have made that glorious name unusable in English. In their constant gee whizz quest for euphemism, our American cousins have made a cuss-word out of a formerly-useful term. They do that a lot. How little of a life would you have to have to keep up with American fashion on what to call a black man or a red indian, for example? 

These labels matter more than they should. Serious political debate is of interest only to a minority. Most voting decisions are made on impressions rapidly formed by the free use of labels as either praise or abuse. How many voters analysed what Tony Blair meant by 'New Labour' for example? They simply thought of themselves as left, hated the mess Old Labour had made and welcomed a new brand they weren't embarrassed to be associated with.

For my part, I hate the Labour Party as I hate the very devil. Indeed I suspect Old Nick would make better company than any socialist and might actually have better intentions. Yet I hate the fact that saying so makes most Brits label me as what I am emphatically not; a Tory. I am, in truth, a Liberal. I happen to know from personal experience that there are gallant members of the Liberal Democratic Party in Britain still clinging to the true meaning of the L word, but they are out-numbered by leftists too snobbish (and who can blame them) to be in the same party as John Prescott. So the label I use in my head is no use in the wider world.

The conversations in my primary school playground were conducted in a higher register and exchanged far more complex information than most political 'debates' that make a difference to voting intentions. In the Labour heartlands where I grew up, calling someone a "Tory [Anglo-Saxon expletive of choice]" was all it needed to win an argument. I have never lived in a Conservative constituency until recently, and judging by the copies of the Guardian in evidence around here, I doubt it will remain one long. Perhaps there are Tory Shires where one could similarly raise the tribal flag to end all discussion? I don't know.

It's pointless to be a purist about this and dismiss the use of 'left' and 'right' altogether. They carry an emotional weight that cannot be denied. Just as every Brit knows which side he would have been on in the Civil War, he knows if he is left or right, often with an unjustified prefix of 'Centre-" to make himself feel moderate. It would be great to have more accurate labels, but we don't.

The easy route to explain my position to my fellow citizens is to say that I am socially-liberal and fiscally-conservative, but that doesn't tell the truth either. 'Social liberals' in Britain are highly illiberal. They are more like authoritarian Continental Christian Democrats in seeking to impose moral orthodoxy. Why, for example, was I expected to pay tribute to a dead foreign Communist before Fulham FC's game against Aston Villa yesterday? No similar tribute was offered when Margaret Thatcher died and rightly so. But a darling of the 'social-liberals' must apparently be lauded, however disgusting his political views.

For another current example, it's not enough that you don't give a damn who shags Tom Daley. They expect you to 'be supportive;' to 'ooh' and 'aah' sympathetically and tell him how 'brave' he is. If someone in my immediate circle is gay and wants to introduce me to his or her partner, I will buy them both a drink. If I liked him or her before the news, I will after (and will try to like the partner too). It's my business because I am a relative or friend and I need to know their situation so as to welcome their new partner into our family or group of friends. The sexual preferences of people outside my circle, however, are properly a matter of indifference.

Genuine liberals don't give a public damn what you consider to be right or wrong as long as you don't impose it on others. We only want laws to limit physical or economic aggression. As to the rest, go to it with a will and take all the consequences yourself. We afford you the tolerance we expect of you, but we don't demand or offer approval of private choices. The clue is in the adjective, 'private.' So don't be so needy. Shut up and get on with it. We will think what we please, to the extent that we become aware, and will factor it in in deciding whom to drink with or give the time of day to. Feel free to do likewise.

The right-wing and left-wing in Britain share a disgusting desire to shape thoughts and private preferences by law. They seek to pull in different directions. It's the pull I mostly resent. If they are of the Right seeking to reinforce traditional Christian views of marriage, they insult their God by thinking He needs the feeble help of Earthly powers to enforce His Divine will. If they are of the Left seeking to suppress the expression of 'inappropriate' opinion on Twitter, then they should have more trust in the ability of 'the people' to deal with such matters informally. Both expose the feebleness of their views by doubting their eventual triumph without misuse of law. Law is a blunt, violent instrument. It is not a teaching aid.

If you have a need for approval from strangers, I suggest you get professional help. You may think that's harsh but on the other hand, if you leave me to make my own life choices, I will happily take no interest in yours. Furthermore, I am remarkably unlikely to preach to you. Most likely, I will offer you no opinions on any subject not affecting my family's interests unless you are my friend and you ask me.

Does that make me right-wing or left-wing? You choose.


Our Rubicon

Cameron warned against crossing the Rubicon of state control of the press. His Government is now preparing to cross it. | Conservative Home.
We are approaching a decisive moment. David Cameron nervously described Leveson's proposals to 'regulate' the British press as 'crossing the Rubicon' but as Paul Goodman says in the linked article his government is about to do it anyway. If people accept that government has a role in controlling commercial media (and 'regulate' is merely a statist euphemism for 'control'), then we are a blink away from wider controls. Already the daily fake 'scandals' about 'Twittter trolls' and 'Facebook bullies' are setting the scene.

Alea iacta est for freedom of thought in Britain. It seems the police are already more interested in what we say than what we do. Barely a day goes by without some schmuck on Twitter being interrogated by the police and it's already a worse crime to beat up or kill someone if thinking certain thoughts at the time.

The Left have been making 'social' excuses for non thought-crime for generations. Our judges, educated in our solidly left-wing universities, now routinely spout sociological clap-trap while handing out derisory sentences. The notion of personal responsibility is dead. In a telling moment for me an academic at a conference last year (he claimed not to be a Marxist, but admitted most of his colleagues were) told me that my personal achievements were 'pure luck' and that I was not morally entitled to the proceeds.

It's the flip side of the same coin. The evil that criminals do is 'society's fault' and the state must address not their conduct, but the 'social problems' that 'cause' it. The success of honest citizens however is to the state's credit and it is entitled to the proceeds. Socialism, despite the abject failure of the greatest political experiment in history, with more than half of humanity ruled by Socialists in the last century, is back. Watch out, because this time the Leftists have learned guile.

The leader of HM Opposition feels it aids his electoral cause to use 'the S word' openly and to dog-whistle even worse by defending the reputation of his proudly-Marxist father. Ironically, given the Left's fixation on 'hate speech' and 'hate crime' Socialism is a doctrine based on hatred; class-hatred and envy-driven hatred of success. It should provoke exactly the same revulsion as its cousin; race-hate-based National Socialism. That it doesn't is because the Left has infiltrated our education system and our state broadcaster (tell me again why a free society needs one of those) so successfully. Now it's coming for the rest of us.

The consequence will be just as it was in the Soviet Union. The more talented or industrious will either contribute less for lack of incentive, or will become the criminals these idiots already think they are. This phenomenon was illustrated by two Communist-era proverbs I learned in my years in Poland;
"Standing up or lying down, it's a zloty an hour" and "You are stealing from your family if you're not stealing from the State." 
Though I am sure the Labour Party will get most of the extra votes when we finally obey the ECHR order to restore the ballot to prisoners, that's not what the Left is up to. Nor are they claiming the credit for business-peoples' work just to damage our self-esteem. They are establishing as a 'given' in all political thought and policy-making the Marxist notion that individuals are mere flotsam on the tides of historical inevitability. They can only treat us as eggs to be callously cracked in their great steaming omelette of statism if they can convince themselves that we are trivial; that what we think, say and do and the choices we make don't matter. In short, that we are nothing in their great scheme of things.

To achieve the kind of sociopathic vileness that led their hero Hobsbawm (close family friend of the Millibands) to believe that twenty million deaths under Soviet rule would have been justified had the proposed communist utopia been created, or that it was sensible to drop a nuclear bomb on Israel (there's no anti-semite to rival a Marxist Jew) you need to reduce humans to ciphers. And to convince men and women that this is acceptable; that they really are mere pawns in a game that matters far more than the sacrifices made of them, you need to control their thoughts. It is no coincidence that the Left cannot abide the expression of non-Left views. It is not for nothing that they actively seek to make people fearful of non-Left thoughts. It is a Marxist necessity.

If our free will is irrelevant, our achievements mere luck and our wickedness attributable to our circumstances, then they are fully justified in using the immense power of the state to shape 'social forces', regardless of the human cost.

It is a short step from 'hate speech' to 'thought crime' and it's about to be taken. 'Regulation' of the press is just another brick in the wall.

Emerging from behind the skirting boards...

Greenwald: If you choose to make enemies, what do you expect? | Trending Central.
Get your thinking gear around this horrific tosh (emphasis added);
As the elected representatives of the people, a government has far more moral legitimacy and indeed necessity than a newspaper like the Guardian, its hacks, or their self-aggrandising source networks. If people like Assange, Snowden and Greenwald were truly democrats, they would realise this. But the liberal intelligentsia’s worst kept secret is that they would far prefer governments run by themselves, for themselves, and without challenge.
This is all not to say that whistle-blowing as an activity should instantly be derided, or that governments should routinely target ‘journalists’, but in effect, the answer to this all is quite simple: if you choose to make an enemy of people (because governments are compromised (sic) of nothing less) then it is incomprehensible how you could expect no backlash.
Institutions have rights to defend themselves too, and while a nine hour detention of Greenwald’s partner may well be childish and crude, it is relatively easy to see how such a move is simply a ‘tit-for-tat’ gesture. If Greenwald and his army of outraged cyber-warriors expect ‘better’ from governments, then they forget what governments really are. People, elected by people, who behave and act like people.
Usually when you make an enemy of someone, there are proportionate consequences. Get over it.
Even the editor of the Guardian - usually one of liberty's most pernicious enemies - has a better grasp of ethics than this. 

I have no idea who is behind "Trending Central" but there could scarcely be a better example of the craven submissiveness longed for by authoritarian governments. Our liberty is in danger not just because of the evil of those attracted to "power" but because of the craven submissiveness of people like the author of this nonsense. He seems to believe that everything a government does, however morally despicable, is justifiable because it stands for "the people".

Only Godwin's Law forbids me from mentioning the best example of an elected government from whom "better" might reasonably have been expected. The British Government did not act for me in putting the frighteners on this Fleet Street Irregular. It did not, and rarely ever does, act in my name.

Leery about Leveson

It's too soon to react properly to the Leveson Report, as has been graphically illustrated by the meanderings of people trying to do so on TV in the past hour. Two thousand pages of judicial prose are hard to digest. He has played a canny political game. By declaring he will take no further part in the debate to come he has cleverly ensured his reputation for posterity. Any bad things that happen in his wake will be the fault of others. As he said, the ball is back in the politicians' court.

As he was only asked to review the dying, if not yet quite dead, duck of the mainstream media, the main effect of his efforts will be to widen the already hilarious gap between what newspapers publish and what is available on the internet. That will weaken the credibility of the print media, and its demise will be accelerated in consequence. That worries me. The idea that the only professional news-gatherers in the world of journalism will be those in the broadcast media is a dire prospect. Newsnight, anyone?

The BBC is already the most influential news medium in Britain. If its undue influence is further bolstered, then let's at least drop the myth of its impartiality. Let it be set free to be openly the Pravda of British broadcasting and let Murdoch launch Fox News UK. Let a hundred schools of thought contend and let the public be the judge.

The idea that a press Code should be enforced by a regulator independent of both the industry and the state sounds great, but OfCom - the body Leveson suggests should "validate" the regulatory regime is a state agency staffed by well-paid and self-interested bureaucrats. People will angle for such jobs and obtaining the favour of politicians will be far more relevant to them than that of editors. Corruption will creep in, as it must in all bodies funded by force. The "great and the good" will dominate. If OfCom has any scope to "de-validate" the regulator or veto individual appointments to its review panel, directly or indirectly, then it will pretty soon be pulling strings behind the scenes. In a very British way, of course - with a nod and a wink over a G&T.

My only immediate criticism of the specifics of Leveson's report is that I am alarmed by his idea of what might be a meaningful incentive to newspaper owners to sign up for "voluntary" regulation. The only suggestion I have heard from him in this respect is for aggravated or punitive damages in libel cases where the relevant publication had not submitted to the Code. That's a frighteningly subtle suggestion. After all, most of us will be outside the Code. I heard someone from the Huffington Post (I think) on Sky News express total confidence that blogging is safe from all this, because internet publication is, or can be, extra-territorial (like this blog, hosted in the US and protected by the First Amendment). But our defamation law has extra-territorial reach, as witness those men of power who visit our courts specifically to use it to silence their critics. Guido Fawkes' blog is offshore but Paul Staines can be sued for libel in England so long as it can be read here. Foreign courts (including those in the US) will enforce any judgements against him under international treaties, without question.

If aggravated damages for libel by "outlaw" publications become the norm, can anyone seriously imagine that the social media will long remain aloof? Guido's readership, after all, is already far greater than that of all the political journals in Britain combined. It's likely to grow far more as the chilling effect of the new code takes effect. Indeed, I suspect he will be the only real winner from Leveson as fear of big fines further emblandens the mainstream press and as politicians obliged to disclose their every contact with journalists turn to him (as some already do) to publish the leaks and smears that are the tools of their revolting trade.

How politicians act on Leveson's recommendations, given that he has trodden such a delicate political line, is now far more important than the detail of his report. We must be alert to their games. Leveson hasn't killed free speech in Britain, but that's not to say they won't use his magnum opus as cover to do so.


Can any Canadian reader please help?

 

Another video by Ezra Levant did the round of the blogs a while back. You know it; the one in which he was filmed taking an Alberta Human Rights Commission functionary apart. Now there's a new one in which he takes the Canadian Broadcast Standards Council to task for running a kangaroo court. Looking at the decision on the Council's website, and reading there how the Council is constituted, his basic points seem to be true.

Yet it's hard to believe that Canada censors private media companies while exempting the state broadcaster. It's hard to believe Canada's government is so hypocritical as to describe the Council as "voluntary" while making membership a pre-condition for a broadcasting licence. And it is extremely hard to believe that the rules of natural justice can be flouted in a Common Law jurisdiction like Canada in the way that Levant describes. Can it really be true that he can be judged without being heard? That he can be judged by his competitors and political opponents?

I don't know enough about Canada to be sure whether I can take this guy at face value. His tone is pompous, hectoring and bombastic and he sounds like - to put it mildly - a blowhard. I am not sure I like him, but he seems to be making important points. If they are true, I probably have to refine my personal stereotype of Canada as a relaxed, open, amiable free society. Can any reader help me understand please?

While I await enlightenment, I have to say - in fairness to a country that only Americans seem able to dislike - that at least Canada seems to have political diversity in its media. Nothing like Levant's Sun News segment is possible on Britain's airwaves. And nothing like his broadcast "**** your mother" to his censors is remotely imaginable. Which is - in a way - precisely why I blog.