Sunday, June 07, 2015

More Dispatches From The Trenches Of The Free Speech War

Is it necessary to once again address our Nick and his many manias?  Well, probably not, but I suppose that that's never stopped me before.

This week, the purported topic is Tony Blair's desire to criminalise Holocaust-denial, with swipes at David Cameron's policies on anti-extremism, although as ever it's largely about how much Nick doesn't like students, unnamed liberals and anonymous leftists. Thus, do we end up with the bizarre assertion that Tony's desire to drop the legal banhammer on motherfuckers means that he has now become similar to "the average British or American university".  

Now, we might note that students don't often imprison people that they disagree with; that there's a non-trivial difference between jailing people and just disinviting them from your organised chinwag, and that there's something of a power-and-influence gap between said students, and Tony and his pals.  I myself am somewhat more concerned about David Cameron's thoughts on free speech, than I am about what a nebulous shower of non-specific citizens think about it, since the former has the ability to act upon his threats, and the latter don't.

Sharp-eyed observers will also note that Tony's ASBO-pumping, banning-and-jailing behaviour peaked in roughly 2006 while he was Prime Minister of the nation, which suggests that even if we assume that there's a similarity, it'd be the students who are becoming more like Tony, rather than the other way around*.

And perhaps it's only me, but I also get the feeling that Nick's trying to say that Tony's behaviour is new and in some way unexpected, much like it was back when Nick was previously astounded to discover that Tony is willing to turn a blind eye to tyranny, if it's in his interest to do so.  It's unfortunate because, if Nick hadn't found Tony's behaviour so surprising, he might have noticed that this is hardly the first time that Blair has taken a position at a supposedly progressive organisation, and then used it to push for dafter and more authoritarian policies**.

Anyway, Nick is correct on the broad strokes, and hilariously off-target in the fine detail, as is so often the case.  I suppose that I could go into greater detail on stuff like this:

(Governments) will not let you defend the values of Charlie Hebdo and the shoppers at the Hypercacher at the same time and for the same reasons. You must betray one or the other.

...By noting that Nick has not actually been hauled off to the Gulag for defending anyone's values, and neither have any of his pals.  Until the day dawns when there's a reasonable prospect of Nick being clapped in irons for saying that he doesn't much like the Islamists, we could probably dial down the hyperbole a tad. 

And it's worth noting that while Nick is busy portraying himself as a kind of blobby Cassandra, Scotland is literally jailing idiots for singing offensive songs, seemingly without Nick or his pals noticing.  Were I to do as Nick does, I'd use this as an excuse to claim that Nick and his middle-class, metropolitan liberal pals do not defend free speech in their own country because they are obsessed with attacking convenient targets that do not challenge their smug certainties, and so on.  Since I try not to be a prick unnecessarily however, I won't make a big song and dance about it.

So let's just note once more that Nick's Free-Speech-Hooray!  Drastic-Clampdowns-Boo! stance is correct, and ask yet again - exactly how helpful is it that our most prominent free speech campaigners can't say bluntly that we shouldn't criminalise hateful rhetoric, without also stuffing their statements with irrelevant burble aimed at all of the unnamed badthinkers whom they've always hated anyway?

If Nick's keen to attract support for a key democratic principle that's under attack, maybe it'd be more effective to focus on the people leading the assault, rather than muddying the issue up by bleating about how much you dislike some people who are very much like you, but a bit less pissy about everything.


*Another example of these hilariously arse-over-tit priorities from the World of Decency this week - a Martian who knew nothing at all of human ways and read this HP Sauce post, would have to conclude that Tariq Aziz, Saddam's former deputy prime minister, was primarily a terrible person because he was mates with George Galloway. 

**I suspect that this framing is necessary due to Nick's former endorsement of Tony's idiotic wars, which he addresses in his piece with only the following statement: 

Blair’s recommendation that Holocaust-denial become a crime duly produced the expected mixture of “how dare he even speak after Iraq” reactions.

...Which is certainly an odd way of putting it, implying as it does that an instinctive dislike of people who bomb, invade and occupy other countries is some kind of frightful prejudice. Yes, it truly is terrible that a man can't even make war on other nations for no sane reason, without people holding it against him. 

5 comments:

organic cheeseboard said...

as you say, the most annoying this about this - I'm guessing it's even more annoying for his subs - is the typical Cohen technique of refusing to ever write about one issue, but instead throwing all his usual bogeymen in there. The point about Universities is not only untrue but also has more or less no relation to the rest.

also probably worth noting that a lot of European countries already have laws in place limiting free speech tied to antisemitism, e.g. the French law against Holocaust denial, German law against incitement to hatred, etc. The thing Blair is heading up seems to be a pretty extreme response though, including an attempt to outlaw xenophobia - good luck with that one.

I find it pretty funny that Nick in this piece literally identifies the 'caricature middle-class leftist, who wants to silence the politically incorrect'. Presumably a different caricature from the real-life PC lefties he's spent the best part of ten years viciously berating, not least because they are apparently incredibly powerful, etc.

The following is a two-paragraph quotation but I think it's important to have it all there:

This ambition makes Blair and his allies seem no different from the average British or American university, which bans speakers and declares whole swaths of thought heretical without even bothering to pretend that they provoke violence. But the similarities are superficial. Many on the left cannot bear to admit that antisemitism remains the force for evil it has always been.

Blair does not make the same mistake. His friends do not exempt favoured groups or minorities either. For all their appeal to universal values, their draft statutes are a response to the radical Islam so many liberals and leftists have ignored or indulged. Tolerate others or we’ll lock you up, they say to European citizens. Respect the “co-existence of diverse groups”, they say to migrants or we may “oblige” you to leave.


nick is right that the thing Blair is heading up is unambiguously focused on Islam. But is it only me who really can't follow the logic at all here (possibly as a result of that)? So Blair SEEMS no different from universities who ban speakers even if they're non-violent (of course, Decency is all for some people, usually Muslim, being banned from speaking at Universities on the basis of e.g. homophobia - it's when Universities get huffy about e.g. Douglas Murray that they GO BEZERK!). But Blair ACTUALLY is different because he's motivated by hating Islamists. And this hatred of Islamism is a good thing, but Blair is bad because he wants to have anyone who preaches hatred locked up. As of course does Martin Amis, but then Nick seems happier with that because he's a Serious Novelist.

I don't get it. on the one hand, Cohen's previously praised Tory legislation requiring Universities to ban speakers from their campuses, because their innate postmodernism saw them unwilling to police themselves, so they need a law to make them do it, or something. Yet now he's against Universities banning anyone non-violent. (his and Decents' ideas of non-violence are of course slippery - people who've previously e.g. spoken in praise of homophobic violence are bad and should be banned, but people who praise the EDL, or advocate the blanket bombing of Gaza, or tell transgender people to 'cut your dick off', etc, are good and should be allowed to speak).

OC again said...

Also I do think it's worth spending longer on this:

Blair’s recommendation that Holocaust-denial become a crime duly produced the expected mixture of “how dare he even speak after Iraq” reactions.

For one thing, this is hopelessly confused writing - Nick at once claims the responses were a 'mixture' but goes on to sum them all up anyway. But surely it's not just 'how dare he speak after Iraq' - it's also how dare he speak after his absolutely dreadful performance as ME peace envoy, after sucking up to a succession of dictators in exchange for cash, etc etc. Iraq isn't the only reason people are disinclined to trust him.

ejh said...

For twenty quid up front I'll click on the HP link. For another fifteen I'll read it.

flyingrodent said...

...worth noting that a lot of European countries already have laws in place limiting free speech tied to antisemitism, e.g. the French law against Holocaust denial, German law against incitement to hatred, etc.

And you can see why they would, really. I think the problem is less that the proposition is unreasonable, than that OMG Let's ban stuff is the ruling class's first response when presented with a problem, rather than its last resort.

TBF that seems to be Nick's complaint too, although it's difficult to tell when he keeps confusing his criticism of the actual government and notable people who wield a bit of power and influence, with terrifying modern Gorgons that are "some students" and "Like, some people who think stuff and shit".

Decency is all for some people, usually Muslim, being banned from speaking at Universities on the basis of e.g. homophobia - it's when Universities get huffy about e.g. Douglas Murray that they GO BEZERK!).

Yup - as ever, it's "For me but not for thee". A fundamental principle remains incontestible, until it's convenient for it not to be, at which point it'll go unaddressed at very best. See also, recent cancellations of university events concerning events in the Middle East that somehow failed to raise the ire of Nick and his pals.

Iraq isn't the only reason people are disinclined to trust him.

You'd think that Nick would know this, since he himself has written extensively about Tony's intense relaxation around rich despots. Perhaps he's conveniently forgotten about that again?

For twenty quid up front I'll click on the HP link. For another fifteen I'll read it.

This is well below your usual rate, I think. Still, you probably wouldn't consider it a fair trade-off.

Witchsmeller Pursuivant said...

I miss the days of Aaronovitch Watch, I really do.