Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The end of freedom in Britain

Having won a tenuous mandate of 37% of the vote (which, after turnout, is less than 25% of the electorate), British Prime Minister David Cameron isn't mucking about, promising a crackdown on "extremists":

A counter-terrorism bill including plans for extremism disruption orders designed to restrict those trying to radicalise 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”.


Cameron will tell the NSC: “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...

So, in Cameron's Britain, merely obeying the law will no longer be enough - you've got to be the right kind of subject: quiet, obedient, and of course non-Muslim. Because of course while he never says it explicitly, that's who this will be targeted at: Muslims who aren't quiet about it (though this being Britain, these powers will naturally be used against environmentalists, lefties, and peace campaigners as well). And those who the government doesn't like will suddenly face a ban on public speaking and pre-emptive censorship of any "web publication" (effectively silencing them or turning them into habitual criminals, because who wants to wait months for the plods to approve every forum post or tweet?) Which will then allow people to be deported or jailed for the "crime" of posting unapproved cat gifs to Facesuck. Calling it an attack on freedom of speech is an understatement - it would effectively end freedom of speech in the UK (because "freedom" to only agree with the government is no freedom at all).

I doubt this will survive HRA or ECHR scrutiny. And in the interim it will have exactly the opposite effect from that intended, creating more extremism, not less. You have only to look at history to see that. Back in the C16th, England swung between Catholic and Protestant monarchs, each viciously persecuting the followers of the wrong creed. But rather than stamping out Catholics or Protestants, all this persecution did was make it crystal clear that the state was their enemy, and even if all they wanted was just to be left alone to practice their faith in peace, they had to overthrow it. Which led to plots, which led to more persecution, for the next two hundred years.

I don't have an answer to extremism, but I know this isn't it. Instead, it will drive it, just as the British government's immoral foreign policy has. In a modern state, supposedly committed to democracy and freedom of speech, you can't just demand that those who object to the government's actions stay silent about it, and threaten to jail them if they don't. And if you do, you cease to be a modern, liberal state, and instead become the sort of state which deserves to be overthrown.