Sunday, March 30, 2014
Mr Bean on free speech
Liberal UK signs its own death warrant
So now we know the names of more than 200 ‘leading UK cultural figures’, from luvvies and lords to authors and academics, who have signed Hacked Off’s declaration demanding that the UK press signs up to the politicians’ Royal Charter on press regulation. It makes remarkable and revealing reading.
No, not the Hacked Off statement itself, which is just the latest familiar attempt by the elitist little lobby group fronted by Hugh Grant to tame the popular press. What is revealing is the collection of eminent writers, filmmakers, professors, actors, human-rights campaigners and others from the intelligentsia and creative industries – even including top liberal journalists such as John Pilger and Nick Davies - who have proved willing to put their names to such an illiberal demand.
Looking down the long list of names (reprinted in full below, from Press Gazette) I was immediately reminded of George Orwell’s prescient words from his 1946 essay, The Prevention of Literature. Orwell observed ‘that in England the immediate enemies of truthfulness, and hence of freedom of thought, are the press lords, the film magnates, and the bureaucrats, but that on a long view the weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves is the most serious symptom of all’.
Just such a ‘weakening of the desire for liberty among the intellectuals themselves’ has been the hallmark of the debate about press freedom in Britain ever since the phone-hacking scandal broke. While celebrities and victims of hacking fronted the campaign for tighter regulation of the press, it has been the liberal and left-wing intelligentsia and media that have driven the crusade to curb the popular press. It was they who formed Hacked Off, used the hacking scandal to demand and get the Leveson Inquiry into the entire ‘culture, practice and ethics’ of the UK media, and wrote the report’s demands for statutory-backed regulation.
Now more than 200 prominent members of what are sometimes called the chattering classes have publicly signed up to the demand for the press to bend the knee to the Royal Charter. It would be difficult to overestimate the abandonment of liberty that represents. The Royal Charter deal, stitched up by all the main political parties in an infamous late-night meeting with Hacked Off, seeks to impose a regulator using the ancient anti-democratic instruments of the Crown, the royal prerogative and the Her Majesty’s Privy Council. As I noted on spiked at the time when the Royal Charter was first proposed in February 2013: ‘Anybody with a passing knowledge of the history of the struggle for press freedom in Britain should recoil from the merest suggestion of the Crown and the Privy Council becoming once more involved in press regulation, however formal their role. It evokes grim shadows of the old system of Crown licensing of the press, started by Henry VIII in 1529 and expanded under successive monarchs, under which nothing could be published without official permission.’ Those who defied the Crown licensers could expect to be sent to the Tower or the gallows.
There are no immediate plans to reintroduce such harsh punishments for errant journalists and publishers (much as some might like to). But the Royal Charter is backed by a new law which threatens those who do not sign up to the politicians’ system with the prospect of suffering ‘exemplary damages’ in court. Despite this, most major newspaper and magazine publishers have understandably rejected the politicians’ system and are setting up their own Independent Press Standards Organisation.
Now we are faced with the shameful spectacle of those who claim to be liberal-minded intellectuals openly demanding that the press accept a system of state-backed regulation via the Royal Charter. If these people had even a ‘passing knowledge of the history of the struggle for press freedom’ in Britain, they might know that it was those who wanted freedom of thought and social change that fought for the right to write, publish and read what they chose.
By contrast, the dominant view among today’s illiberal liberals is ‘I believe in press freedom, BUT…’. It is a consensus captured by the author Ian McEwan, who said in support of the Hacked Off declaration for regulation by Royal Charter that ‘The right to freedom of expression is the bedrock of our liberty. Without it, none of our other cherished rights could have been talked or written into existence. But no freedom is absolute and all rights carry responsibilities.’ They want freedom of expression and of the press of course, but only for those considered ‘responsible’ – such as themselves.
The truth is, however, that freedom of speech and of the press are indivisible liberties, and unless we defend them for all we will be able to do so for none at all. Nor should anybody’s right to freedom of expression be deemed dependent on the fulfilment of responsibilities or duties imposed from without. There might be plenty of problems with the UK press. But contrary to the myth at the heart of the debate about regulation today, it is not and never has been ‘too free’.
Some 80 years ago, George Dangerfield wrote his famous history, The Strange Death of Liberal England. Today, it seems we are witnessing the strange suicide of liberal Britain, as those who like to think of themselves as free-thinking radicals and champions of human rights publicly declare their ‘weakening of the desire for liberty’. They have effectively signed a death warrant for liberal Britain by tossing away the most fundamental liberty of all, freedom of expression and of the press.
Remember their names, and the next time any of these illiberal liberals tries to claim that they are radicals, rebels or freedom fighters, let us remind the world that they are fully signed-up supporters of an unfree press by order of the Crown.
Shocker: FBI dumps Southern Poverty Law Center as “hate crime” watchdog partner
This is indeed a shocker, as it goes against the consistent policy line of Obama’s FBI and Justice Department. But it is a most welcome development. The SPLC is one of the Left’s foremost propaganda organs, tarring any group that dissents from its extreme political agenda (such as our American Freedom Defense Initiative, and this website) as a “hate group.” Significantly, although it lists hundreds of groups as “hate groups,” it includes hardly any Islamic jihad groups on this list. And its “hate group” designation against the Family Research Council led one of its followers to storm the FRC offices with a gun, determined to murder the chief of the FRC. This shows that these kinds of charges shouldn’t be thrown around frivolously, as tools to demonize and marginalize those whose politics the SPLC dislikes. But that is exactly what they do. Its hard-Left leanings are well known and well documented. This Weekly Standard article sums up much of what is wrong with the SPLC.
“Shocker: FBI dumps Southern Poverty Law Center as ‘hate crime’ watchdog partner,” by Paul Bedard for the Washington Examiner, March 26:
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which has labeled several Washington, D.C.-based family organizations as “hate groups” for favoring traditional marriage, has been dumped as a “resource” on the FBI‘s Hate Crime Web page, a significant rejection of the influential legal group.
The Web page scrubbing, which also included eliminating the Anti-Defamation League, was not announced and came in the last month after 15 family groups pressed Attorney General Eric Holder and FBI Director James Comey to stop endorsing a group — SPLC — that inspired a recent case of domestic terrorism at the Family Research Council.
“We commend the FBI for removing website links to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an organization that not only dispenses erroneous data but has been linked to domestic terrorism in federal court. We hope this means the FBI leadership will avoid any kind of partnership with the SPLC,” Tony Perkins, FRC President, told Secrets.
“The Southern Poverty Law Center’s mission to push anti-Christian propaganda is inconsistent with the mission of both the military and the FBI, which is to defend and uphold the Constitution of the United States,” he added.
The FBI had no comment and offered no explanation for its decision to end their website’s relationship with the two groups, leaving just four federal links as hate crime “resources.” Neither eliminated group had an immediate comment.
SPLC has been a leading voice against hate crimes, and has singled out evangelical and traditional family groups as advocates of hate against gays. It has even gone after a local official, Loudoun County Supervisor Eugene Delgaudio, who also heads a group that promotes traditional, opposite sex marriage.
In August 2012, a Washington area man guided by the SPLC’s “hate map” that cited FRC, entered the group’s headquarters and shot a security guard. The guard survived and the shooter, a volunteer with a gay group, pleaded guilty to domestic terrorism.
In their letter, the 15 conservative groups argued that the FBI website’s inclusion of SPLC as a resource “played a significant part in bringing about an act of domestic terrorism.” It added, “It is completely inappropriate for the Department of Justice to recommend public reliance on the SPLC hate group lists and data. The links to the SPLC as a FBI ‘Resource’ must be taken down immediately, leaving only official, trustworthy sources listed on the agency’s webpage.”
Explaining the Causes of Poverty Is Racist
Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan has long been the go-to guy for GOP budget strategy. As such, he earns opposition from all sides – including many conservatives for not going far enough. Recently, Ryan waded into a discussion on the endemic nature of poverty and how it relates to government spending, leaving politically correct leftists fit to be tied.
“[W]e have got this tailspin of culture and her inner cities in particular of men not working and just generations of men not even thinking about working or learning the value in the culture of work,” Ryan said in a radio interview. “And so there is a real culture problem here that has to be dealt with.” He was advocating a broader approach to fighting poverty than just throwing government money at it. “If you're driving from the suburb to the sports arena downtown by these blighted neighborhoods,” he added, “you can't just say: 'I'm paying my taxes, government's going to fix that.' You need to get involved.”
Predictably, Ryan's comments set off leftist accusations of – wait for it – racism. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) angrily lectured, “My colleague Congressman Ryan's comments about inner-city poverty are a thinly veiled racial attack and cannot be tolerated. Let's be clear: When Mr. Ryan says 'inner city'; when he says, 'culture,' these are simply code words for what he really means: 'black.'” The fact is, this is about culture and not color, but the “colorblind” Left makes everything about color.
Washington Post columnist Eugene Robinson wrote a rejoinder absurdly titled Paul Ryan's culture attack is an excuse to do nothing about poverty. He explained, “My problem is that when you identify something so amorphous as culture as the fundamental issue, you excuse yourself for not proposing concrete solutions.”
Well, our problem is the federal government has been waging its “War on Poverty” for more than half a century with little to show for it beyond exploding debt. Indeed, Ryan has done extensive work reviewing the results of government intervention, and found that the benefits are underwhelming. But if anyone dares to suggest such a thing, or that cultural problems are interwoven with poverty, retribution is swift. Real solutions, on the other hand, are left on the altar of political correctness.
Ryan conceded that his comments were “inarticulate,” but his point stands. And as columnist George Will more eloquently writes, “To say that poverty can be self-perpetuating is not to say, and Ryan did not say, that poverty is caused by irremediable attributes that are finally the fault of the poor. It is, however, to define the challenge, which is to acculturate those unacquainted with the culture of work to the disciplines and satisfactions of this culture.”
The real gay marriage bigots are its intolerant supporters
By Amanda Platell
A wedding day is always a special occasion and especially so, of course, for the first homosexual couples marrying today.
I wish them every happiness for the future. But that does not alter the fact that I still disagree with the concept of gay marriage.
No doubt I’ll receive a barrage of abuse for even admitting as much. For surely the saddest legacy of the whole gay marriage debate is how it has brought about the most appalling bigotry — not against homosexuals, but against those who oppose the new law.
For evidence of that, you only had to watch BBC Question Time on Thursday. One audience member, Marilyn Barmer, was booed and hissed for even having the temerity to ask: ‘Why do we need to change the definition of marriage that has existed for thousands of years, when equality already exists?’
A perfectly reasonable question, you might think. Yet from the outraged response of the audience, it was as if she’d been proposing the execution of every first-born. Others who echoed her views were similarly subjected to jeers, sneers and contempt.
I can’t help wondering if that’s the reaction the BBC — our self-appointed Ministry for Political Correctness — sought to provoke by hosting the show in Brighton, the gay capital of Britain.
But then this was just a microcosm of the way the gay marriage legislation has been forced through by our political masters. Anyone brave enough to voice unease has been branded a bigot whose views were so beneath contempt they didn’t even deserve to be heard.
In modern Britain, the chattering-class thought-police have decreed that their liberal value system is morally superior to the traditional beliefs of millions of ordinary Britons.
A poll that went out at midnight after Question Time said two-thirds of people support gay marriage, but a third still do not. That doesn’t make them homophobes. Indeed, I suspect the vast majority welcomed the introduction of civil partnerships, yet simply feel that gay marriage is a step too far.
Do they not have a right to a voice? The gay community has fought all along for tolerance, and rightly so. But surely it should extend both ways.
Ironically, many of the most vicious attacks have not come from the gay community — many of whom remain ambivalent about gay marriage — but from politicians cynically trying to parade their touchy-feely credentials.
And never mind that this meant trampling over the beliefs of many Christians, Muslims, Sikhs and others opposed to gay marriage.
That’s not social progress, it’s a form of intolerance every bit as ugly as homophobia.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.