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

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Of happiness and hope

I am in the middle of what seems to be a month long celebration of my 60th birthday. I am jollier than I would have expected, having eyed this approaching milestone with dread. Of course I SHOULD be jolly. I am a privileged Westerner, living a life he never dreamed with a loving family and affectionate friends. But I have political reasons too.

The fall of the Berlin Wall was the key political event of my life. Like most of us, I had never dared to hope Communism would fail in such a clear and comprehensive fashion. I moved to Eastern Europe in 1992 and, as a specialist lawyer, helped my real estate clients build on its ruins. The transformation we helped the people of the region achieve was spectacular. If we compare living standards in Poland when I moved there in 1992 with today only a fool or knave could deny the powerful virtues of capitalism. The transformation is greater than even an enthusiastic free marketeer like me would have predicted. 

I lived in that optimistic environment for twenty years - never really understanding how naive Fukyama's analysis of "the end of history" had been. Back in the West, however, our Marxist academics regrouped. They began to focus even more on "cultural Marxism"; on fomenting other social conflicts to create a perceived need for a controlling elite at the helm of a powerful state. I firmly believe that such a state has always been their one true goal. It enables them to live high on the hog in the parasitical, hypocritical idleness that Marx himself achieved as he sponged off his naive bourgeois friend Engels, rogered his servant girl and bilked his creditors. All else has always been bullshit.

Screen Shot 2017-03-30 at 08.59.32

I gradually realised that the true outcome of the Cold War might be as this cartoon cleverly presents it. Out of that dark realisation this blog was born. Essentially a solution-oriented, problem-solving, optimistic person, I told myself it was better to light a candle than curse the darkness and spent a serious chunk of my life arguing whenever I could against our fifth columnists in academia. In the last year, the academic Berlin Wall has begun to crumble too. I wish I could claim that we had won the political argument but I think something far more fundamental is going on. There is a shift as profound as when the Labour Party replaced the Liberal Party in mainstream British politics and King Edward VII told his mother that "we are all socialists now". 

I suspect the Left's first real strategic error was its bizarre embrace of Islam. You don't need a degree in politics to notice that Muslims are socially-conservative, anti-feminist to the point of misogyny and - in the cultural Marxist jargon - "homophobic". Leftists in academia, contemptuously ignorant of religion, seemed to view them as just more poor immigrants to vote reliably for the continual expansion of the state. They arrogantly bent their own logic to welcome a clearly anti-progressive force into their ranks. The error might not have been obvious in their ivory towers, but it was pretty clear on the streets of Luton and Bradford. The credibility of leftist academics began to crumble. 

Other errors too numerous to mention followed as the academic bubble drifted further from reality. Most decent, practical people could not be bothered (who has the time if you have actual work to do?) to contest their ideas, but the perception grew that - however many black friends you had - you were going to be called racist. That however much you loved your mum and treated your lady friends with respect, you were sexist. That however little you gave a damn about what your homosexual friends and colleagues got up to in private that you were homophobic. And that pointing out the threat Muslim immigrants presented to Western values made you islamophobic. It became clear that the names you were called were just part of an academic game. They had nothing to do with truth.

As the fifth column's influence intruded even into popular culture, people who lived in the real Coronation Streets and Albert Squares noticed that their on-screen equivalents were becoming preachy purveyors of condescending agitprop. I had long stopped watching the BBC's news and current affairs output because I could not stand the primary school teacher tone it adopted. The same tone was now to be found from Emmerdale to Gallifrey. 

Just when I thought we were all going to drown in cultural Marxist condescension however, the dam broke. Despite being told precisely what to think by an united elite singing the same, well-rehearsed tune and utterly confident of success, the British people found their voice. On the day of the Brexit referendum they raised their traditional battle cry of "bollocks to the lot of you!" Even better than that moment has been the torrent of condescension that has followed, laying bare the contempt in which our would-be masters hold us. Cheated of the cushy "jobs" and lavish funding for policy-based evidence making "research" the EU had provided, they could not conceal their impotent rage. It has been delicious.

As has the aftermath of the election of President Trump in the USA where similar forces are at play. I have concerns about the current POTUS's grasp of economics and wouldn't like him hanging around my daughters (but ditto JFK and Bill Clinton and we all survived them). Trump is no libertarian and is politically as far from me as Clinton. However he seems strong on the defence of the West and - even better - has made noises about defunding academia. If he achieves the latter he may, for all his vulgarity, prove to be the King Jan III Sobieski of our day. 

Even more encouragingly, just as when I was at university in the Seventies, the key voices in public discourse are not now from the Left. Rather they are such delightful people as the dangerous faggot, Milo Yiannopoulos, the factual feminist Christina Hoff Sommers and my current favourite, the softly spoken Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson. The ever more authoritarian attempts to suppress dissent in academia have put feminist icon Germaine Greer on the "no platform" list and made apparent to even a casual observer how dangerously far political correctness has gone and just how sneeringly arrogant and condescendingly  authoritarian its proponents are.

So I am politically happy not because anyone I approve of holds political office anywhere, but because I have hope for the future. The ideologues who failed in their overt parasitism in Eastern Europe and China are failing in their covert version in the West and for the same reason. Their ideas conflict with reality.

The chess game in the cartoon is not over yet. I shall be following the next moves with gleeful anticipation.


A language of lies

In my last post I made a rash promise to address the abuse of language by the Left; the way in which they weaponise it to undermine opposition to their ideas. Most friends of Liberty are naggingly aware that it's going on and routinely irritated by it but when I started to research it, I realised it was a big, difficult subject to sum up in a blog post. If there were enough liberty-minded academics to fill a faculty, it could be that faculty's sole field of research. 

Orwell exposed it beautifully in his book 1984 where the English Socialist Party (IngSoc) was introducing a new form of the English language; "Newspeak". He explained that: 
...the purpose ... was not only to provide a medium of expression for the world-view and mental habits proper to the devotees of IngSoc, but to make all other modes of thought impossible. Its vocabulary was so constructed as to give exact and often very subtle expression to every meaning that a Party member could properly wish to express, while excluding all other meaning and also the possibility of arriving at them by indirect methods. This was done partly by the invention of new words, but chiefly by eliminating undesirable words and stripping such words as remained of unorthodox meanings, and so far as possible of all secondary meaning whatever...
For example an IngSoc member could use the word "free" to speak of a garden free of weeds, but not to speak of free expression. That outdated, bourgeois concept would constitute crimethink and therefore did not need a word. 
 
Isn't this is precisely what the post Soviet cultural Marxist Left is now doing world wide? In Newspeak it's now called "political correctness". Why is that term Newspeak? Because to oppose it is to identify yourself as "incorrect". Your wrongness is built into the term itself.
 
Orwell's fictional language was being introduced by law but the Left realised that there was no need for that. The English language itself was formed, not by Parliament, but by men of letters and everyday folk in daily use. If a word or expression was useful, it caught on. So cultural Marxist academics just used their positions to introduce "useful" concepts (to them at least) into the language. Their eager students, innocent or otherwise, then took them into the wider world and most dangerously into the field of public policy. Political correctness is a pollution entering the stream of English thought from the Academy.
 
Orwell's Newspeak included simple things like the sinister interior ministry being named the Ministry of Love or MiniLuv, just as in real life Britain the Ministry of War became the Ministry of Defence. That's not a specifically leftist trick. Wasn't George W. Bush using the same technique when introducing one of the greatest modern assaults on Liberty; the USA Patriot Act? It's a useful tool of persuasion. We don't call a law "the imprisonment without trial act" because who would vote for that? We call it the "Prevention of Terrorism Act" even though it most likely won't do the latter, but will definitely do the former. 
 
The Soviet era Left sneered at "bourgeois" freedoms by questioning the value of freedom or a vote  to a hungry man. The post-Soviet Left has gone further. It has usurped the term "human rights" to frightening effect; proposing "rights" than can only be delivered by the use of force on others to fund them. There can only be a "right" to work, to education or to housing if there is a force powerful enough to compel others to provide them. The true test of a human right is whether a man or woman can enjoy it without compelling another – not merely to abstain from interfering with it – but to pay for it. Regular readers know my view that anything funded by force will tend to corruption.
 
Newspeak is alive and well in the text of a letter written by fifty academics opposing the right of Milo Yiannopolous to give a talk at his old school in Kent; a talk that was cancelled under pressure from the Ministry of Education. How much more elegant to censor by pressuring a humble headmaster than by invoking the majesty of the law. Matthew Baxter, the head of Milo's old school, said:
This decision was taken following contact from the Department For Education’s counter extremism unit, the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and our overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community.
 
We note that within 24 hours of advertising the event, more than 220 Langton sixth formers had, with parental consent, signed up for the event and that objection to our hosting Mr Yiannopoulus came almost entirely from people with no direct connection to the Langton.
What a wonderful confluence of career-threatening bureaucratic pressure, agitation, threats of criminal damage and academic pomposity. Who needs a law when a clear-thinking, respectable head-teacher can be so easily cowed? Just as, long ago, a thoughtful head teacher in Manchester was first demonised and then "persuaded to take early retirement" after he made politically-incorrect (but highly prescient) observations in a conservative publication. 
 
Which brings us to the most freedom-chilling concept of political correctness; hate speech. We are free to say what we want now, as long as it does not incite hatred (as defined by the Left) against protected groups (as defined by the Left). And any crime we commit motivated by ideas that would be hate speech if expressed is a "hate crime" to be more severely punished. Fictional policeman Gene Hunt ridiculed the suggestion that a murder might be a "hate crime" by asking
What as opposed to one of those I-really-really-like-you sort of murders?
The nonsensical thinking is as easily exposed by the hateful remarks of its proponents. It's wicked to worry so much about illegal immigrants that you vote for Donald Trump, for example, but it's fine to suggest that
"... if you're voting for Trump, it's time for the urn"
Hating on haters is ok, you see. I agree. I just don't accept the Left's right to define "hate" and "hater" or to protect particular groups or ideas from being hated. Neither, dear reader, if you value your liberty, must you.
 
I was let off the hook I made for myself in my last post by this wonderfully detailed article from the C2C Journal in Canada concerning the cause celebre (or at least it should be celebre) of a a contemporary hero of the cause of Liberty; Canadian academic, Dr Jordan Peterson. He is currently in what is almost certainly his last month of employment at the University of Toronto because he has publicly stated that he will not use "non-binary pronouns" such as "zhe" if requested to do so. That is in breach of a proposed new law and his university's HR policy and his employer is steadily delivering the HR warnings in preparation for his dismissal. 

 
Dear, lovable Canada, the country that no-one can be bothered to hate, has actually been breaking ground for a while on suppressing free speech. It has form on using the law to do so. Ezra Levant's epic battle with the Newspeak-named Ontario Human Rights Commission is an old story now. His astute insistence that his hearings with the grey bureaucratic minion claiming the power to censor him be videoed exposed her idiocy to the disinfectant of sunlight. That led to the specific law he fell foul of being repealed. Now the Canadian Thought Crime legislators are at it again with their obnoxious Bill C16.
 
in the above-referenced interview with Dr Jordan he says; 
Bill C-16 writes social constructionism into the fabric of the law. Social constructionism is the doctrine that all human roles are socially constructed. They’re detached from the underlying biology and from the underlying objective world. So Bill C-16 contains an assault on biology and an implicit assault on the idea of objective reality. It’s also blatant in the Ontario Human Rights Commission policies and the Ontario Human Rights Act. It says identity is nothing but subjective. So a person can be male one day and female the next, or male one hour and female the next.
I will defend to the death the rights of Leftist academics and other rascals or morons to promote such a stupid idea as social constructionism. Quite frankly, I am amused by it. To quote my only Labour Party hero, George Orwell, once more;
Some ideas are so stupid than only intellectuals believe them
Which is precisely why Michael Gove could safely observe that the people are tired of "experts". Dr Jordan goes on to say;

So with the hate speech issue – say someone’s a Holocaust denier, because that’s the standard routine – we want those people out there in the public so you can tell them why they’re historically ignorant, and why their views are unfounded and dangerous. If you drive them underground, it’s not like they stop talking to each other, they just don’t talk to anyone who disagrees with them. That’s a really bad idea and that’s what’s happening in the United States right now. Half of the country doesn’t talk to the other half. Do you know what you call people you don’t talk to? Enemies. If you stop talking to people, you either submit to them, or you go to war with them. Those are your options and those aren’t good options. It’s better to have a talk.

If you read the rest of the interview with Dr Jordan, you will know everything I would have wished to say on the subject of the left's abuse of language. He says that "we are teaching university students lies" but he understates the point. We are teaching them in lies. The social sciences faculties of the West's universities are the Spanish Inquisition of the post-Soviet Left. They are quite simply, hostile to the truth. They are the most dangerous enemies of freedom. The most saddening fact in my life is that so much of it was spent earning money to be taken from me by state violence to fund that enmity.
 

Don't blame the millennials, blame their teachers

Trigger warning: This post is full of generational generalisations. 

I don't share the general pessimism of my age group about the millennial generation. The Misses Paine are millenials. They are serious intellectuals, hard-working women who want to make a contribution to the world they live in and generally fine human beings. So are all their friends that I have had the pleasure to meet. I would go so far as to say that the millennials I know (admittedly a sample limited by my daughters' excellent taste and my former profession) are more sober, hard-working and serious than I was at their age.

In the wake of 2008, many millennials are having a much tougher time than the late Mrs Paine and I did at the beginning of our working lives. We walked, debt-free, out of university straight into employment. We earned enough to leave our parents' homes and pay our frugal way. We were able to marry at 23, rent a crappy flat for a couple of years and buy our first modest home. Neither of us were unemployed until we chose to be. We worked hard, took things seriously and struggled at times, but our lives look golden in retrospect compared to the struggles of the average millennial.

Nor do I join the Daily Mail and today The Times on reviewing this report (actually about post-millennials currently at university but I suspect reflecting similar beliefs), in fearing for them ideologically. They are not a political bloc any more than our generation was. They are socially liberal but they are also sceptical of politicians' promises to fix their economic problems. Some go so far as to criticise previous generations for having voted themselves unfunded benefits, incurring massive government debts now dumped on them. They are right. They have been screwed.

To the extent that they have scarily illiberal ideas, I think the interesting question is why? Based on my daughters' experiences at British universities, I blame lecturers of my generation. We may have won the debate in 1970s student politics about "No platform for fascists and racists" on a pure free speech argument. But then most of us on the winning side went into productive work and many of the "no platform" losers went into academia. They have indoctrinated subsequent students to the point where only 27% of them (and only 22% of women) believe that "Universities should never limit free speech".

Screenshot 2016-05-23 09.38.01

Some of this is simple confusion about the difference between good laws and good manners. Laws should only prohibit real harms, which do not include hurt feelings. I might ban from my circle of friends someone who went off on a racist or anti-Semitic rant, but I would not call the police. Universities can make their own rules, just like me at my dinner table. But the consequences are very different because they are rather more important fora for intellectual debate.

If students are not prepared to confront the ideas they dislike in the comfort and relative safety of a university lecture hall, how are they going to deal with them in the real world? And what, whisper it softly, if some of the ideas they hate turn out to be right?

Leftists have divided society into a hierarchy of victim groups entitled to dismiss the views of their supposed oppressors. But in the tradition mocked in "Life of Brian" when the Judean Peoples Front fought the Peoples Front of Judea, they have also allowed their zealotry to divide them in frankly hilarious ways.

Feminists like Germaine Greer are now banned from campuses because of remarks like her infamous "transphobic" observation that;

Just because you lop off your penis and then wear a dress doesn't make you a ******* woman. I’ve asked my doctor to give me long ears and liver spots and I’m going to wear a brown coat but that won’t turn me into a ******* cocker spaniel.

An interesting phenomenon in this context is the emergence of the "licensed dissident." The only people who can easily challenge illiberal views are those from the Left's pantheon of the oppressed who as Milo Yiannopoulos puts it, "go off the ideological reservation". Hence the importance of his "Dangerous Faggot Tour" of American campuses in which he systematically "triggers" the "spoilt brat rich kid social justice warriors" and exposes their idiocy by posting videos of their screaming on YouTube.

 

My favourite of his videos is this one of a panel at UMass with Steven Crowder and Christina Hoff Sommers. I particularly enjoyed her summary of "gender studies"

It's ideology pretending to be scholarship. It's propaganda pretending to be fact.

Milo is even more amusingly forthright on that topic and more seriously says in the course of the discussion;

The violence is coming not from the right but from the left and it is informed and justified in the minds of activists by this zealotry.

Yes, I see millennials behaving as absurdly as my leftist contemporaries but I also see them arguing against such absurdities with great verve and skill. I also hope that soon the effects of 2008 will be behind them so they can start to earn properly and pay more taxes. Nothing produces economic liberals faster than excessive tax. So, once again, and perhaps to my own surprise I am on the side of optimism.


Of Cowardice in the face of unreason

Our cowardice helped to allow this attack | The Times.

Jesuischarlie
I am coming out of retirement as a political blogger for one day to say, firstly, that je suis Charlie
 
I want to add my small voice to the condemnation of the murders in Paris yesterday. I want to express my disgust with the apologists at the BBC and elsewhere implying that the victims brought it on themselves. I want to express my contempt for British publications that have consistently refused to publish the kind of "provocative" material for which these French heroes of freedom were killed. I want to pay my respects to the publisher of Charlie Hebdo, Stephane Charbonnier, who - asked about his publication's provocative approach - said that;
I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees.
RIP Charb. RIP your colleagues who died with you in the cause of free speech. RIP the French policemen who died protecting freedom, rather than - like many of their British colleagues - seeking to suppress "offensive" speech.
 
Britain is on the wrong path in this respect. Three years ago, asked after twenty years away what had most changed in Britain while I was gone, I replied that the police now seem more interested in what you say than what you do. I stand by that contemptuous assessment. The French have their political correctness too, but have so far been truer to Voltaire's dictum that
I disapprove of your views but would fight to the death for your right to express them
They are now paying the price for that and I salute them.
 
Only the libertarian blogosphere in Britain has consistently maintained that freedom of speech is indivisible; that there is no right not to be offended and that "hate speech" is a noxious concept. In the wake of the Charlie Hebdo massacre, there is some hope that we can form a broader front around those ideas.
 
This morning in The Times, David Aaronovitch (a Marxist leader of the National Union of Students in my days as a student politician, but now a mainstream Labourite) expressed my view perfectly. In fairness to the man he has long been sound on freedom of speech if nothing else. He wrote, as no right-wing politician would have dared write in recent years (emphasis mine);

The problem is, you may think, that even though the vast majority of Muslims would no more kill a cartoonist than a Methodist would, they still don’t quite get our commitment to freedom of speech. When they complain about insults and say they’re angry about this or that being published and want it banned, then they create the permissive fluid in which the violent zealot swims. 

So we need to be clear, for everyone’s sake, and at the moment we are anything but. This is the deal for living together. The same tolerance that allows Muslims or Methodists freedom to practise and espouse their religion is the same tolerance that allows their religion or any aspect of it to be depicted, criticised or even ridiculed. Take away one part of the deal and the other part falls too. You live here, that’s what you agree to. You don’t like it, go somewhere else.

To tell immigrants to go home if they can't or won't live to the standards of our civilisation would, until yesterday, have been denounced as "racist"; as unacceptable "hate speech" in the context of our multicultural society. That is nonsense on stilts and always was. There is nothing racist in holding new arrivals to the standards of the nation they are choosing to join.

We are a tolerant and welcoming people. Anyone of any colour, ethnicity or religious faith, can live among us as a free man. We will defend his right to express any view he pleases, including the view that such freedom should not exist. After all we have long done so for revolutionaries advocating the same view for other reasons. But until his revolution succeeds or his views prevail in Parliament, we expect him to live to our standards. If he finds that offensive, tough luck. The exit is open and there are lots of countries subject to Sharia law, so bon voyage.

Aaronovitch even calls for a European version of the "glacial clarity" of the First Amendment to the US Constitution; 

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I could not agree more and Aaronovitch is clever enough to understand that all the stupid laws around "hate speech" must fall in consequence. He openly condemns British publications, like his own, that have submitted to Muslim intolerance and refused to publish with Charlie Hebdo's daring;

...that logic leaves the likes of Charlie Hebdo, who are more reckless or more committed to freedom of expression, looking like eccentric and isolated stand-outs in a sea of slightly shamed discretion. We who don’t publish what may offend Muslims but would offend no one else, act in in effect to abnormalise what should be normal — we help to make peculiar that which should be banal.

We have operated a Muslim double standard and in so doing we have gently connived in turning Charlie Hebdo and others like them into targets. Paris says we must stop.

He is absolutely right. We need to unblock the arteries of free speech in Britain before our body politic dies.


The limits of law

Many things wrong with society can be explained by misunderstandings of the nature and purpose of law. Many see it as nothing more than rules handed down from above and think all that matters is the quality and intent of the ruler. In debates about democracy, such thinking is revealed in the common assumption that laws are or will be good if the rulers are elected. Nothing in history seems to support this view. Hitler's election did not validate the Final Solution. An elected Congress did not validate the Jim Crow laws. A majority view in favour of eugenics, promoted vigorously by the Left at the time, did not justify the bad laws made on the subject in various countries.

I favour democracy as a way of choosing lawmakers, administrators of state assets and services and even of police chiefs and judges. In this I am keener on democracy than most Europeans, but I don't believe it is magical. A bad law cannot be made a good law by democracy any more than Victor Yanukovich, Vladimir Putin, Adolf Hitler or John Prescott were made good men by being elected. A crook is a crook, regardless of votes. And a crock is a crock.

In legal philosophy there is a concept of Natural Law. Regardless of the nature and intent of the lawmaker, it holds that a law is only good if it aligns with natural justice. Religious people traditionally looked at law this way on the basis that God determines what that is, but it's open to others too. The obvious problem, if you're not religious, is how to determine what natural justice is. It might surprise readers to know that I think equality is at the heart of it. A law that favours one man over another, without distinction based upon his own personal misconduct, is almost certainly wrong in nature. How would I define misconduct? The initiation of force or fraud.

The draftsmen of arguably the best, possibly the most effective and certainly the most influential legal document in modern history proceeded on the assumption that certain truths were self-evident and that laws were only "good" (both in the lawyer's sense of valid and in everyone else's sense of moral) if they were consistent with those truths. They sought to address the practical problem of aligning laws with natural justice by limiting the legislature's scope, fragmenting power to make it harder to make sweeping changes, setting up an independent court to rule on the validity of laws and allowing the population to arm themselves to the teeth so that - if all else failed - they could more readily water the tree of liberty with the blood of tyrants and patriots.

The cynic will object that all this is pie in the sky. Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun and, once gained, the power to make and impose rules follows. International law may say the Crimea is Ukrainian. The superior violence of one state over another says it is Russian and the same truths apply at national level. God or Nature may give our government no right to seize our earnings, confiscate our wealth on our death or tell us how much salt is used in making our salted snacks. But the state's monopoly of violence says otherwise and we should be grateful that, unlike in lesser lands, we can choose others (or offer ourselves) to wield the sword of that violence in ways that please us better.

There's the rub. Natural justice does not enforce itself. Public international law is mostly nonsense because the only bailiffs are soldiers under the command of more or less wicked states and the outcomes of enforcement actions (aka wars) are determined by the quantity of weapons and troops and the military prowess of the commanders. For practical purposes it is a crock. At best it's a moral framework for when it's right to fight a war, international, civil or revolutionary. The national equivalent of that may simply be that natural law is a moral framework to determine when it's right to disobey. Nothing in it will protect you from the consequences of disobedience - especially if the makers of bad law have successfully disarmed you.


Free speech

Is this what our law has come to?

A Muslim extremist linked to Woolwich killer Michael Adebowale was jailed for five years and four months today (Weds) for glorifying the murder of Drummer Lee Rigby in a series of YouTube videos. Royal Barnes, 23, was filmed by his veiled wife Rebekah Dawson, 22, laughing hysterically as he drove past the scene of the attack. Dawson, who has caused nationwide controversy by refusing to remove her niqab in court, was jailed for one year and eight months. The couple ridiculed the memorial flowers left by friends, family and members of the public for Drummer Rigby and Barnes described the murder as 'absolutely brilliant'. Dawson also boasted in a text to a friend: 'Did you watch it? It was really inciting and almost glorifying lol.'

Two young idiots upload stupid films to YouTube. They express primitive, ignorant, violent opinions. Opinions rather like those expressed by revolutionary socialists every single day (but with far less chance of influencing anyone).

Did their childish, ignorant words represent a threat? If so, then we are a feeble society too decadent to deserve survival. This is using the sledgehammer of the criminal law to crack something that merited the toffee hammer of an Anglo-Saxon imprecation at best.

These idiots are pathetic, yes. But so are we for having nothing better to do with the hard-earned money taken by force from decent people than to pay policemen, lawyers, judges and prison officers to deal with them. And for not understanding that it's better to hear dangerous opinions and know where threats may come from than to drive them underground.


And still it gets worse

Gagging bill defeat: Britain's democracy just got worse - Index on Censorship | Index on Censorship.

What's the difference between lobbying and telling your elected (or would be elected) representatives what you want from them? Is it whether it's done well or badly? Or whether it costs money or not? It seems that politicians just don't want to be asked for pledges, so that those asking can't publicise their refusals, or - worse - their subsequent failures to honour their promises.
 
The political parties are losing members by the hour, but still they consider themselves the moral superiors of every other group in society. I certainly hold no brief for the politicised fake charities of Britain. I am all for holding the entire third sector to the original definition of charity in the Statute of Elizabeth and treating all who fail to meet that definition as the political parties in disguise that they are. Nor am I fond of 'single issue fanatic' groups, professional lobbyists or 'think tanks' that are fronts for political parties. 
 
But it is not for politicians to tell us how or when to talk to them. It is for them to shut up and listen. They are servants, not masters and are getting entirely too uppity. 
 
This is a bad law and another embarrassment to Britain in the world.

I am embarrassed to have the world see us this way

Can a Tweet Put You in Prison? It Certainly Will in the UK - The Daily Beast.

In the excellent book Bring Home the Revolution author Jonathan Freedland points out that the ideas embedded in the US Constitution originated in England. The USA has been a successful testbed for the ideas of our greatest thinkers (including, of course, the original and best Tom Paine).
 
The ideas were never implemented here for the reasons he explains in the book. We did have the benefit however of our most important (and now very little understood) legal inventions; the Rule of Law ('Be you never so high, the law is above you'), the presumption of innocence ('innocent until proven guilty'), habeas corpus ('the Great Writ' that ensured no-one could be imprisoned without due process of law) and freedom of thought and expression (an English yeoman's inalienable right to tell his neighours where to get off).
 
We lack an entrenched constitution and an independent supreme court to tell legislators and executives when they have overstepped its mark. We thought we did not need one because the British were famously difficult to govern. Even the Norman tyrants knew their limits as expressed in Margaret Thatcher's favourite lines from Kipling;

The Saxon is not like us Normans. His manners are not so polite.
But he never means anything serious till he talks about justice and right.
When he stands like an ox in the furrow – with his sullen set eyes on your own,
And grumbles, 'This isn't fair dealing,' my son, leave the Saxon alone.

You can horsewhip your Gascony archers, or torture your Picardy spears;
But don't try that game on the Saxon; you'll have the whole brood round your ears.
From the richest old Thane in the county to the poorest chained serf in the field,
They'll be at you and on you like hornets, and, if you are wise, you will yield.

For most of our history, the greatest threat to our liberty was the Crown and we looked to Parliament to defend us. It did so pretty robustly at times, defining the constitutionality of our monarchy by the practical method of killing a King who insisted on his Divine Right. The monarch having been firmly put in his box, we seem to have taken our eye off the ball. In the end our protector has oppressed us as even the Normans couldn't.

As a young man, I recall reading of a Conservative MP out canvassing being asked by an elector whether permission was needed to cut down a tree in his garden. The MP reacted angrily; "It's your bloody garden man! It's your bloody tree!! Why the hell are you asking me?!" Can you imagine a politician daring, in these days of invasive busybodies, to say such  thing now? Our land is built upon as the state directs. Our homes are heated, lighted and our sewage flushed, as the state directs. However competent we may be, we are not to do our own electrical work, by order of the state.

Even those of us who take a particular interest in these matters have lost count of how many state employees (and not just those with responsibility for law enforcement or fire-fighting) have the right come into our homes without our consent or that of a judge. I was not permitted to put security blinds (common in Continental Europe) on the windows of my former house in Chester because the state thought it would make our area look as though it had a high crime rate (it did). My late wife had to worry when druggie louts who had already tried to break in were about, because our political masters wanted to massage reality for electoral advantage. And of course she could not have a firearm to defend herself if they succeeded in breaking in the next time.

If (as I suggest is the case) the true owner of an asset is the person who has the legal right to direct how it is used, then the state owns my home. In a way it's worse than social housing, because I have had to put up the capital to buy it. I pay more in Council Tax to use it than my granny paid rent for her larger Council flat. When I die, my children will pay 45% of its value for the privilege of inheriting my obligations. In what real sense is it mine? If I fly an English flag from my balcony, how long will it be before a policeman or council busybody shows up to tell me to take it down. If I remark that Mohammed is a false prophet to my passing neighbours in hijab, how long before the police explain to me the limits of my rights?
 
I am embarrassed by the creeping communisation of Britain. I am embarrassed by the creeping tyranny that is destroying free speech. I am particularly embarrassed to read the linked article, which is an American perspective on our present situation. The author luxuriates in the benefits of 18th Century English thought, by virtue of his country's constitution. We, the people who came up with those wonderful ideas are increasingly lost to their merits.

I wish you a Merry Christmas and a liberty-laden New Year

BBC News - Tweets to feminist campaigner Criado-Perez: Two charged.

The Misses Paine and I are off to cruise the Norwegian fjords from tomorrow. Our access to the internet will be patchy. So let me take this - perhaps final - opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, free New Year.
 
If I am quiet for the rest of 2013 it's not because I am reconciled to authoritarian Britain. I remain bemused that I live in a country where the Crown Prosecution Service deliberates solemnly on whether some words are bad enough to merit prosecution. I am baffled by a prosecutor speaking of a
"high threshold for prosecution"
in the context of opinions expressed or even threats issued on Twitter; a medium with powerful tools to block unwanted messages.
 
Not everyone in North Korea was killed last week for disagreeing with Kim Jong-un. Many failed to pass his threshold of murderous fury. I am happy for them, but still feel it is wrong for anyone to have been killed; even a major league scumbag like the Supreme Leader's uncle.
 
Similarly it already seems like a low "threshold" to me that anyone can be prosecuted for expressing a view, however hateful. Even uttering threats should not be a crime. At worst, if threats are reasonably considered to be both serious and plausible (having regard to the fact than someone intending to rape or kill would be pretty damned stupid to announce it) the police should act to deter their authors from carrying them out.
 
No society in which using words is only lawful if they are approved by authority - even authority derived from a majority view - will long remain free.
 
Have a great time over the holidays. See you in 2014.