You May No Longer Think Wrong Thoughts, Citizen
Shortly after the election victory that probably surprised no-one more than himself, David Cameron launched into explaining to the hoi-polloi what further transmogrification of the State is in store now that he’s got a free hand. He inter alia elated the audience with the following zinger:
“For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach.”
In other words, dear citizen, mafia uncle State will no longer leave you alone if you merely “obey the law”. Your “narratives of grievance” henceforth won’t be tolerated anymore!
As one reader remarked, all that’s missing now is Frau Bluecher making her entrance …
Cartoon by Steve Bell
As the Guardian reports, this means that now that the Lib Dems will no longer be able to veto Cameron’s more outlandish ideas, he intends to keep us all safe by fighting terrorism by means of an Orwellian thought police.
“A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalize young people is to be included in the Queen’s speech, David Cameron will tell the national security council on Wednesday.
The orders, the product of an extremism task force set up by the prime minister, were proposed during the last parliament in March, but were largely vetoed by the Liberal Democrats on the grounds of free speech. They were subsequently revived in the Conservative manifesto.
The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.
The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.
They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organizations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.”
It is actually hard to see what this bill could possibly “fall short of”. Given that any ideas that might be considered to “threaten the functioning of democracy” will require a special police permit to be uttered, we have to wonder if e.g. Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s book Democracy, the God that Failed will be banned in the UK. The definition of “harmful” provided above is quite striking. In order to be deemed too harmful to be tolerated by the thought police one only needs to create a “risk of causing alarm or distress”.
In light of this, we want to take this opportunity to apply for a broadcasting ban on David Cameron. The man is definitely causing us great alarm and distress now that he’s been handed the pants of power.
David Cameron, wearer of the pants of power
Cartoon by Steve Bell
Of course we can fully rely on the UK police force to be able to clearly differentiate “good and tolerable hate” from the “bad and distressing” kind when the time comes to make that determination. It’s really easy. Just consider how easy it has e.g. been to differentiate the good guys from the bad guys on the battlefields of Syria and Iraq.
Clear as day!
Cartoon by Brian Gable
Can We Still Call him a Fascist Twat in a Onesie?
As Glenn Greenwald remarks at the Intercept, UK home secretary Theresa May has been doing her best to explain why certain purveyors of thought crimes must henceforth be persecuted by the State in order to ensure our continued safety. You see, it’s all about being “One Nation”. Well, that’s OK then, right? Sieg Heil!
“In essence, advocating any ideas or working for any political outcomes regarded by British politicians as “extremist” will not only be a crime, but can be physically banned in advance.
It’s not enough for British subjects merely to “obey the law”; they must refrain from believing in or expressing ideas which Her Majesty’s Government dislikes.
If all that sounds menacing, tyrannical and even fascist to you — and really, how could it not? “extremism disruption orders” — you should really watch this video of Tory Home Secretary Theresa May trying to justify the bill in an interview on BBC this morning. When pressed on what “extremism” means — specifically, when something crosses the line from legitimate disagreement into criminal “extremism” — she evades the question completely, repeatedly invoking creepy slogans about the need to stop those who seek to “undermine Our British Values” and, instead, ensure “we are together as one society, One Nation” (I personally believe this was all more lyrical in its original German). Click here to watch the video and see the face of Western authoritarianism, advocating powers in the name of Freedom that are its very antithesis.”
It seems that many Western political leaders no longer know what freedom of speech actually means. Freedom of speech includes the possibility that people might utter opinions that cover the full range from “totally idiotic” to “potentially undermining someone else’s values” and more. Yes, it is a slightly risky concept, since some people may indeed be convinced by the rhetoric of very bad people. We’re quite sure it happens every day.
If we not only agree with Steve Bell that David Cameron is a “colossal twat in a onesie”, but augment that by calling him a “colossal fascist twat in a onesie”, are we engaging in hate speech? What about advocating anarchy, i.e., the possibility of doing away with ruling elites and the State altogether? Would that be regarded as criminally “undermining democracy”? Clearly, those who advocate a stateless society have to be considered “anti-democratic”, since there wouldn’t be a government or elections in such a society. How do we know anarchists won’t be prosecuted under the cover of this proposed legislation? Theresa May certainly hasn’t provided much reassurance on such fine points.
Will this symbol fall under the UK government’s definition of “harmful”? If an anarchy were to be established, both David Cameron and Theresa May would have to get real jobs, so our tentative guess at this point would be that the answer must be “yes”.
Many people might be tempted to think that since the superficially obvious goal is to curb the speech of Islamist fundamentalist hate preachers – of whom there is apparently no shortage in the UK – it is all fine and dandy. However, as soon as governments restrict free speech by means of new laws, it is an apodictic certainty that they will abuse this newly acquired power. It is in fact already happening. Glenn Greenwald provides a number of examples and includes links for fact-checking purposes:
“Threats to free speech can come from lots of places. But right now, the greatest threat by far in the West to ideals of free expression is coming not from radical Muslims, but from the very Western governments claiming to fight them. The increasingly unhinged, Cheney-sounding governments of the U.K., Australia, France, New Zealand and Canada — joining the U.S. — have a seemingly insatiable desire to curb freedoms in the name of protecting them: prosecuting people for Facebook postings critical of Western militarism or selling “radical” cable channels , imprisoning people for “radical” tweets, banning websites containing ideas they dislike, seeking (and obtaining ) new powers of surveillance and detention for those people (usually though not exclusively Muslim citizens) who hold and espouse views deemed by these governments to be “radical.”
Anticipating Prime Minister Cameron’s new “anti-extremist” bill (to be unveiled in the “Queen’s Speech”), University of Bath Professor Bill Durodié said that “the window for free speech has now been firmly shut just a few months after so many political leaders walked in supposed solidarity for murdered cartoonists in France.” Actually, there has long been a broad, sustained assault in the West on core political liberties — specifically due process, free speech and free assembly — perpetrated not by “radical Muslims,” but by those who endlessly claim to fight them.
What happened to “je suis Charlie”? As we recall, the rally in Paris in the wake of the attack was attended by all sorts of politicians from countries with a less than exemplary record of tolerating free speech, which should perhaps have been a tip-off that defending free speech wasn’t really what it was all about.
Meanwhile, David Cameron has no problem with the UK selling arms to assorted Arab theocratic and authoritarian rulers, as well as calling for arming “moderately mad mullahs” that might be induced to do the West’s bidding in various benighted Muslim lands. Much of this is likely to eventually boomerang in the form of “blow-back”, at which point we will be told that even more liberties will need to be curbed if we are to remain “safe”.
David Cameron and the Arab arms trade – arming moderately mad mullahs is apparently not regarded as a problem.
Cartoon by Steve Bell
We certainly don’t like what one might term “extremist hate preachers” and the ideas they are propagating. We are just as repulsed by people glorifying fascism, communism or Islamist fundamentalism as almost all civilized people presumably are. We too find it extremely unfortunate that a number of impressionable young people have been taken in by the slick propaganda published by outfits like the Islamic State. However, once government becomes the arbiter of what speech is and isn’t legitimate, the door is inevitably thrown wide open to the suppression of all political dissent.
It must be repeated here that even though terrorism certainly needs to be fought, the dangers emanating from terrorists are in reality exceedingly small. The average Western citizen is many thousands of times more likely to die from simply falling off a piece of furniture (e.g. a chair with an innately evil disposition) than to be killed by a terrorist. The act of taking a bath is almost a million times more risky than all the terrorism in the world, since accidentally drowning in the bathtub is statistically speaking a fairly common way of shuffling off the mortal coil. Life as such is inherently risky, given the fact that it invariably ends with death. And yet, no-one has proposed that it would be sensible to introduce State surveillance of all bath-tubs or furniture as of yet.
We therefore have absolutely nothing to gain in terms of enhanced security by restricting essential civil liberties. This is simply a government propaganda-induced illusion. We do however have a lot to lose. Once people feel they have to watch what they can say or write, an essential pillar of civilization and progress is severely undermined.
In order to make a small contribution to forestalling this sad trend for a little while longer, we will take the opportunity to repeat that David Cameron is a colossal fascist twat in a onesie.