Rape, enslavement, child prostitution go unpunished for years. The victims’ complaints are dismissed by social services. The accusations are not seriously investigated by the police. With a few honourable exceptions the politicians and the media won’t even discuss the issue.
No one disputes that the crimes themselves are the responsibility of the criminals, but who is to blame for the conspiracy of silence?
Why, the first man to break it, of course!
In the comments to my earlier post, Jaded Voluntaryist pointed out an article by Sean Thomas in the Telegraph “…which blamed Nick Griffin for the events in Oxford, since by talking about this issue no-one wants to talk about way back in 2004, he made it impossible for anyone else to talk about it seriously. Yes, I’m sure if he had kept schtum it would have all been sorted out years ago…”
Here is said article: Oxford gang rape: did people ignore this sort of scandal because racist Nick Griffin was the first to mention them?
Mr Thomas has wisely opted not to allow comments. They would be radioactive.
As long ago as 2001, Nick Griffin, the leader of the BNP, was making claims about Asian grooming gangs. In 2004 he repeated these allegations in a speech clandestinely recorded by the BBC for a TV documentary, Secret Agent. He was arrested and charged with inciting racial hatred.
Which is exactly what he was doing, of course. He was making his allegations to stir up ethnic strife. Right-thinking people, aware of the BNP’s record as liars, presumed that these stories were just racist demagoguery. No doubt Griffin feels vindicated today: for telling the truth before anyone else. And yet it was thanks in part to his thuggish intervention that society felt able to ignore the scandal. And thus the abuse continued.
[UPDATE 17 MAY 09.45: As those viewing Samizdata on the morning of 17 May will have seen, I tried to edit a minor error in the post and somehow deleted the text from this point onwards. A kind person has emailed me the lost text, which now follows. I will gradually reinsert the links. Apologies for this interruption - NS]
Some background on “the events in Oxford” here.
…a jury at the Old Bailey convicted seven men responsible for running an underworld child sex abuse ring in the Cowley area of Oxford of 43 charges of rape, child prostitution, trafficking and procuring a backstreet abortion. Six victims gave harrowing evidence during the three-and-a-half month trial, but police believe the number of girls recruited by the gang and abused numbers more than 50.
The gang – who were of Asian and north African descent – targeted extremely vulnerable white girls as young as 11 on the streets of Cowley and sold them for £600 a time to be raped and violently abused over an eight-year period. Two other men were cleared by the jury.
A litany of failings by police and social services had allowed the men between 2004 and 2012 to groom young, vulnerable girls they met on the streets, outside schools and in cafes, entice them with the promise of alcohol and trinkets, and subject them over years to sexual atrocities and torture.
“Asian” generally means Pakistani background, although two of the perpetrators here were Eritrean. All the abusers were Muslim. None of their victims were. This was not coincidence. The men generally targeted girls from children’s homes and disrupted family backgrounds. The abusers saw their victims as promiscuous white trash, in an utterly different category from their own wives and daughters. This is the latest of a string of such cases, all following the same pattern, such that a report produced by the police-staffed Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre “found that more than a quarter (26 per cent) of suspects reported to Ceop were of Asian origin, and the majority of groups identified were Asian”. There have been other trials of similar “Asian” (specifically British Pakistani) grooming gangs in Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby, Telford and Keighley.
Keighley, as it happened, was where Nick Griffin made one of the speeches that got him prosecuted. In that speech, Griffin said,
“These 18, 19, and 25-year-old Asian Muslims who are seducing and raping white girls in this town right now are not particularly good Muslims, they drink and all the rest of it, but still part of what they are doing comes from what they are taught is acceptable.”
It will be a cold day in hell before I vote for the Holocaust denier Nick Griffin’s literally fascist party, but I rather think that if Griffin feels vindicated that is because he has been vindicated.
Thug he may be, but his “thuggish intervention” in this case consisted of stating the truth when almost nobody else would – and being prosecuted for it. The charges covered many things said by Griffin, but the opening speech by the prosecuting counsel specifically featured his claims of “paedophile drug rape” in Keighley. (The prosecution was unsuccessful. Two juries acquitted Griffin and another defendant in two separate trials.)
Society did not just “feel able to ignore the scandal”, society – in the form of police chiefs, social workers, and the media – actively, cravenly dodged saying anything about it. Why? Because they were all afraid of being branded racist. As one of the few exceptions to the media silence, the documentary-maker Anna Hall, wrote, “…a senior children’s services manager said: “The men are Asian, Anna, but you’ll never get anyone on the record to say that.”” Or as Tim Loughton, the former Children’s Minister admitted, “There are clear cultural sensitivities around these cases that too often meant the relevant agencies were reluctant to intervene properly”. Or as retired police Superintendent Mick Gradwell said, “There is a problem with some members of the Pakistani community targeting young women in this way [...] In the past there have been major fears of being seen as racist, especially after the Stephen Lawrence inquiry at the Met police said the force was institutionally racist.” (H/T: Laban Tall at UK Commentators, who has followed this story for years.) Note how Gradwell described the former Home Secretary Jack Straw as “brave” for speaking out as late as 2011. He was, too, even though his fellow Labour MP Ann Cryer had been much braver in speaking out back in 2004 when she was MP for Keighley. Bravery was required to speak out because bad things were likely to happen to the careers of those who did, particularly if they did not have Cryer’s or Straw’s Parliamentary privilege.
And thus the abuse continued, Mr Thomas.
Incidentally, the police “requested” that Anna Hall’s documentary “Edge of the City” be postponed until the 2004 local elections were over, for fear it would send votes to the BNP. I thought the police were meant to be politically impartial.
There is a grain of truth in what Sean Thomas has written. When I first saw reports that the BNP claimed that Asian gangs were grooming white girls, my eyes skated over them because claims that “their” men are seducing, corrupting and raping “our” girls have been a staple of racist propaganda through the ages. Thus far, Mr Thomas was right. But to attempt to shift the blame for even a fraction of years of sustained, repeated evasion of their duties on the part of every organ of the establishment onto Nick Griffin is… inventive. Were the social services departments of multiple British towns really listening that hard to Nick Griffin? Did the chief constables of several different police authorities check that the chairman of the British National Party hadn’t spoilt the atmosphere before giving the go-ahead to investigate? Should we assume that the fact that in the last couple of years the Crown Prosecution Service has finally started to actively prosecute these gangs (following the initiative taken by Chief Crown Prosecutor for North West England Nazir Afzal, himself of Pakistani heritage, please note) is because the CPS lawyers have finally got over their sulk at Griffin making them look bad?
A question for the mainstream media: aren’t you ashamed that the British National Party reported what you dared not?
A question for the politicians, the police and the Crown Prosecution Service: do you now regret the prosecution of Nick Griffin and Mark Collett on charges of using words or behaviour likely to stir up racial hatred, specifically including his claims about Keighley? Do you acknowledge that your action in attempting to curtail and punish his free speech, in part for saying this type of crime was happening at a time and a place when it was, will certainly have deterred others from speaking out?
Within hours of the July 7 2005 bombings in London, the BBC stealth-edited its reports so that any references to “terrorists” that had initially appeared were changed to “bombers” or a similar purely descriptive, non-judgmental term. This was done in response to a memo from Helen Boaden, then Head of News. She did not want to offend World Service listeners. Given this reluctance to use the word “terrorist”, suspended for a few hours when terrorism came to its front door and then reimposed, I often wondered what it would take for the BBC to rediscover the ability to use words that imply a moral judgment.
One answer was obvious. It was fine to describe bombing as a “war crime” if it was carried out by the Israeli air force.
But in general as the years have gone by the BBC stuck to what it knew best: obfuscation. For instance, this article from last December, describing how fifteen Christians had their throats slit in Nigeria described the perpetrators as the “Islamist militants Boko Haram”. In venturing to describe the murders as a massacre, that article went further than most; the bombings of churches in Nigeria by Boko Haram are routinely described in terms of “unrest”, or as “conflict” – as if there were two sides killing each other at a roughly equal rate.
However, on Sunday I observed something I had not seen before. An atrocity carried out by Muslims against Christians was described as an “atrocity”. It happened in 1480, but still.
The BBC report says,
Pope Francis has proclaimed the first saints of his pontificate in a ceremony at the Vatican – a list which includes 800 victims of an atrocity carried out by Ottoman soldiers in 1480.
They were beheaded in the southern Italian town of Otranto after refusing to convert to Islam.
A reminder that “martyr” used to mean someone who died for his faith rather than killed for it. A reminder also of a centuries-long struggle against invading Islam that has been edited out of our history. You can bet the Seige of Vienna, which proved to be the high water mark of the Ottoman tide, does not feature in any GCSE syllabus. Nor does the rematch one and a half centuries later. The epic Seige of Malta was once celebrated in song and story, but don’t expect to see a BBC mini-series about it any time soon. Damian Thompson recently said a lot of what I had been thinking when he wrote about the the mass canonisation of the martyrs of Otranto in the Telegraph (subscription may be required):
Martyred for Christ: 800 victims of Islamic violence who will become saints this month
The cathedral of Otranto in southern Italy is decorated with the skulls of 800 Christian townsfolk beheaded by Ottoman soldiers in 1480. A week tomorrow, on Sunday May 12, they will become the skulls of saints, as Pope Francis canonises all of them. In doing so, he will instantly break the record for the pope who has created the most saints.
I wonder how he feels about that. Benedict XVI announced the planned canonisations just minutes before dropping the bombshell of his own resignation. You could view it as a parting gift to his successor. Or a booby trap.
The 800 men of Otranto – whose names are lost, except for that of Antonio Primaldo, an old tailor – were rounded up and killed because they refused to convert to Islam. In 2007, Pope Benedict recognised them as martyrs “killed out of hatred for the faith”. That is no exaggeration. Earlier, the Archbishop of Otranto had been cut to pieces with a scimitar.
There are, however, good secular reasons for welcoming this canonisation. Our history is distorted by a nagging emphasis on Christian atrocities during the Crusades combined with airbrushing of Muslim Andalusia, whose massacre of Jews in 1066 and exodus of Christians in 1126 are rarely mentioned. Otranto reminds us that Islam had its equivalent of crusaders – mighty forces who nearly captured Rome and Vienna.
The Muslim Brotherhood is still committed to a restored Caliphate; this week its supporters prophesied the return of a Muslim paradise to Andalusia. These are pipe dreams, it goes without saying. But they matter because they inspire freelance Islamists whose fascination with southern Europe has nothing to do with welfare payments. They think of it as theirs because they know bits of history that we’ve forgotten.
Our amnesia comes in handy in dialogue with Muslims: we grovel a few apologies for the Crusades, sing the praises of the Alhambra, and that’s it. But what does this self-laceration achieve? Arguably it’s counterproductive, because it shows Muslims that we’re ashamed of our heroes as well as our villains. Which is why the mass canonisation of 800 anonymous men is so welcome: it ensures that, even though the West has forgotten their names, it won’t be allowed to forget their deaths.
This Comment is Free article, The Dark Side of Home Schooling by Katherine Stewart, claims that:
Several decades ago, political activists on the religious right began to put together an “ideology machine”. Home schooling was a big part of the plan. The idea was to breed and “train up” an army of culture warriors. We now are faced with the consequences of their actions, some of which are quite disturbing.
According to the Department of Education, the home schooling student population doubled in between 1999 and 2007, to 1.5 million students, and there is reason to think the growth has continued. Though families opt to home school for many different reasons, a large part of the growth has come from Christian fundamentalist sects. Children in that first wave are now old enough to talk about their experiences. In many cases, what they have to say is quite alarming.
The article mainly consists of quotes from people who have posted at a website aimed at those who are unhappy with their home schooling. We hear that some of them have suffered from “depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality.” It concludes that “Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.” In other words it is a run-of-the-mill article that uses the spectre of every Guardian reader’s favourite villains to protect the class interest of teachers at US state schools.
However, the picture the Guardian chose to illustrate the piece was out of the ordinary.
Commenter JohnCan45 says,
The accompanying photo of a shuttered home in Cleveland… reason?
Perhaps the editor just mixed up a picture from this week’s big story, but maybe they didn’t. And that would be pretty cheap.
Seriously, that is the picture chosen to illustrate this article about home schooling. Go look at it now – it may change later. It shows a picture of a white clapboard house with the windows boarded up. And in case you didn’t get what that meant, the caption says, “A house in Cleveland, Ohio. Photograph: Timothy A Clary/AFP”.
It does not appear to depict the white clapboard house in Cleveland, Ohio with the windows boarded up in which three women were imprisoned, raped and brutalised for a decade and in which a child was born as a result of one of these rapes and lived her life in captivity. Oh, but, wait! The little girl was “home schooled”. In other words, she received whatever scraps of knowledge about the outside world that her mother and the other enslaved women could give her in the same prison “home” in which she lived her whole life. That’s your connection, there.
What estimate the Guardian makes of its readers can be judged by its evident belief that a smear by association of such crudity would work on them. The degree to which this estimate is correct can be judged by the readers’ comments.
UPDATE: Commenter WDO has pointed out that, as predicted, the picture of “A house in Cleveland” has gone down the memory hole to be replaced by a picture of “a 1950s family at home.”
A year ago today, Polly Toynbee wrote this in the Guardian: Hollande and Europe are turning the tide. Where will it leave Cameron?
Labour gains from the triumph of the French Socialist leader with his intellectually cogent rallying cry for a new direction for Europe. Look how he won with a promise to tax the super-rich at a heart-attack rate of 75%, yet the French stock market actually rose slightly. Can he now turn the great liner of the EU’s disastrous economic policy?
Looking at the comments to the above article “newest first”, one AndyZama said,
Yes Polly. Time will tell.
Maybe in time you will again have to squirm with embarrassment like when you wrote articles like this.
Which link, in turn, takes us to an article by Ms Toynbee from 2006 that said,
Twice a year Gordon Brown fills his party’s sails with pride. His tornado of facts and figures magics up images of untold national wealth and success. Sixty per cent more personal wealth! Most chancellors sound as if chunks of their speech are penned by officials, not quite convincing in their grasp of macro or micro details. But here is the man who studies everything, consuming documents with the speed of a shredder. Standing at the dispatch box, the towering superiority of his brain makes intellectual pygmies of his opponents. George Osborne’s feeble joke about Granita and the green chancellor (green with envy) died on his lips: lacking authority, unlike Cameron, he also lacks the likeability to compensate. Like Old Mr Brown and Squirrel Nutkin, the big Scots brain seems not to register Osborne’s presence until he bites off his tail.
However, British politics is unaccustomed to intellect: the intellectual in politics has often been doomed to failure. A brainy chancellor running the economy from the engine rooms of the Treasury is one thing – but a great prime minister needs political genius. So far we don’t know if Brown has it. Within a few months he may prove, as his enemies suggest, to be a character too inflexible, too inward and just too serious for the top job. Or we could possibly have the most formidable leader in many years. As David Cameron reaches the end of a shrewd first year, he has done the best he can, but now his fate depends entirely on the untried strength of Gordon Brown as prime minister.
Nothing new could be gleaned from his pre-budget report this week, with no new direction hinted at. His aces will stay firmly up his sleeve until he moves next door. But the more opaque he seems, the greater the surprises he must spring in his first 100 days in No 10. With some nervousness, those around him try in vain to lower expectations, but his party already yearns for the near-impossible. It wants the stability he brings from the Treasury, the iron chancellor who broke the boom-and-bust cycle with his bare hands.
I do sympathise, a little. The internet holds many more failed prophecies and assessments that turned out to be spectacularly wrong than just these two. There are even some of mine in there. But Polly Toynbee is so gloriously reliable. If wrong guesses were sold like music, she’d have a row of gold discs on her wall.
This one, for Gordon’s gin.
The link may not work for everyone, so let me summarise the story. The scene is a garden party. A willowy wine connoisseur is holding forth with wine-connoisseur talk to a small group of guests. There is no evidence that his spiel is unwelcome to his hearers; one of them can be heard responding in kind. Then the camera moves to where a woman is talking to a man a few feet away. Both are drinking Gordon’s. The man, played by Philip Glenister who played Gene Hunt in Life on Mars, is more manly and less posh than the wine connoisseur. The woman overhears the wine man and praises Gordon’s gin to her companion in terms that are presumably meant to echo the connoisseur’s while being less pretentious, i.e. such as to actually make the audience want to drink Gordon’s gin. Meanwhile gin-drinking man has also been eavesdropping on wine-drinking man and starts to get visibly enraged. DCI Hunt usually had the excuse that a crime had been committed but this character simply doesn’t like anyone talking lah-di-dah in his hearing. Unprovoked, he loudly insults the wine connoisseur and finishes up with a disingenuous pretence that he does not know why everyone is looking at him.
The message is meant to be that drinking Gordon’s shows you to be plain-spoken and heterosexual. The message it sent me was that drinking Gordon’s makes you an obnoxious jerk.
The above was only the second most annoying advert of all time. There was a commercial many years ago, also for booze, that would have caused me to boycott whatever it was for forever if I could ever remember whatever it was. It might have been lager, bitter, or a mixture of water, urea, uric acid, creatinine and various organic and inorganic compounds. The advertisement was set in a gym. A young woman sprains her leg. A young man steps forward authoritatively, saying “let me look at that”, examines her leg and squeezes it here and there in a professional manner. She thanks him and says how fortunate it was that he was a doctor. “I’m not a doctor,” he replies with a leer and all his mates laugh at how he had managed to get himself a grope of someone in pain. Drink our Alcohol Product and you too will be emboldened to try this!
As I said, no moral. I just want whoever scripted these adverts (the “Bartle Bogle Hegarty Creative Team” for the gin one, apparently), and even more whoever paid for them, to read this one day and suffer torments. Well, maybe not actual torments. Not even one little torment, like an infestation of microscopic nanoyeast monsters making their ears smell of hangover. But definitely significant embarrassment.
What are some of the most common misconceptions you encounter from non-gun owners? Do you identify, politically, with other gun owners? Do you feel misrepresented by the media? Tell us and we’ll feature your responses on the Guardian.
The UK version of the Huffington Post reports that Ukip’s ‘NRA-Esque’ Gun Control Comments Described As ‘Inaccurate Upsetting Drivel’. Furthermore, advises the author of the piece, Felicity A Morse,
Farage’s support for relaxed gun control is particularly controversial given there is a cross-party consensus that restricting firearms helps reduce gun crime and protects communities.
Emphasis added. Consider yourselves warned.
Say it ain’t so! Accountancy firms ‘use knowledge of Treasury to help rich avoid tax’ – MPs
Margaret Hodge, the PAC’s chair, said the actions of the accountancy firms were tantamount to a scam and represented a “ridiculous conflict of interest” which must be stopped. “The large accountancy firms are in a powerful position in the tax world and have an unhealthily cosy relationship with government,” she said, calling for the Treasury to stop accepting their staff to draw up new tax laws.
In other news, Margaret Hodge called for tighter regulation of the consumer credit industry… civil service procurement… welfare to work schemes… academies… and tax avoidance… and Guardian commenters demanded tighter regulation of the press.
Remember citizens, Get real – get regulated.
Crisis for that last amorphous blight of nethermost confusion which blasphemes and bubbles at the centre of all infinity as trust hits record low, the Guardian reports.
Public confidence in the boundless daemon-sultan Azathoth, whose name no lips dare speak aloud, and who gnaws hungrily in inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond time amidst the muffled, maddening beating of vile drums and the thin, monotonous whine of accursed flutes; to which detestable pounding and piping dance slowly, awkwardly, and absurdly the gigantic ultimate gods, the blind, voiceless, tenebrous, mindless Other Gods whose soul and messenger is the crawling chaos Nyarlathotep has fallen to historically low levels in the six biggest EU countries, raising fundamental questions about its democratic legitimacy more than three years into the primordial idiot god’s worst ever crisis, new data shows.
The blind idiot god encircled by his flopping horde of mindless and amorphous dancers, and lulled by the thin monotonous piping of a demonic flute held in nameless paws “could do much better if its institutions coordinated better”, according to a press release issued today.
Imagine you are mountain climbing or hill walking with a friend. Disaster strikes, and your friend is badly injured. Weather conditions are such that if you leave him overnight, he will certainly die. With great difficulty you are able to half carry, half drag him most of the way down the mountain. At last you see the road in the distance. Making your friend comfortable as best you can, you leave him, stagger to the road, and wait a long time for a car to pass this lonely spot. Eventually one does – you stop it by practically throwing yourself in front of it – and tell the driver that there is a seriously injured man some way up the hill who badly needs help.
“I’m not getting blood all over the seats of my car,” says the driver and speeds off.
By the time another car comes it is too late.
Something a little like this happened to a man called Charles Handley climbing in Scotland in the 1950s or 60s. In 1985 the BBC made a gripping dramatised reconstruction starring Gareth Thomas (Blake from Blake’s 7) called Duel with An Teallach. In fact Handley’s experience was even worse: despite his incredible efforts at rescue, An Teallach claimed two of his friends that day. I could watch the play again online and clarify my nearly thirty year-old memories of it, but I won’t because it was one of the grimmest things I have ever seen.
Have you guessed where this post is going? Tweak the story a little. Now Charles Handley has a gun. You have a gun. You can damn well make that driver help you get your friend to safety. And if that means he has to carry your friend on his back to the car so that you can keep the gun trained on him, too bad.
Do you do it?
Stealing his car, even without the intention “permanently to deprive” him of it, as the Theft Act puts it, is a violation of his property rights. Temporarily enslaving him to help you carry your friend down to the car is even worse. I think I would do it, even so. Afterwards I would admit the crime, pay compensation and submit to punishment.
As anyone who has read Perry de Havilland’s post from yesterday will have guessed by now, what I have tried to do above is make a similar thought experiment to the one used by Sam Bowman of the Adam Smith Institute, the one pretty much everybody but me had no sympathy for. I tried to present a scenario that would appeal rather more to the Samizdata audience than Bowman’s somewhat contrived one. I have tried to inveigle you into sympathising with the bad guy – the government – in Jaded Voluntaryist’s excellent re-casting of Bowman’s analogy:
As an aside, this is not even close to describing welfarism. The people holding the gun aren’t disabled. And the baby isn’t drowning. And it isn’t a baby. And you’re not able bodied (at least not compared to the gun wielder). In fact, in his metaphor he has the relative power relationship completely backwards.
The able bodied arsehole is waving the gun at a disabled man, ordering him to carry some random stranger on his back. A stranger who may be disabled, or may be stupid, or may be lazy, or may just be unlucky. The stranger’s complicity aside, none of that is the disabled victim’s fault. And yet carry him he must because he’s not the one with the gun.
Will I be joining the vast majority of citizens in the countries of the developed world in supporting the welfare state, then? No. There is one crucial element of Bowman’s analogy that I have kept in my scenario, but which, as Jaded Voluntaryist implied when he said the baby was not drowning, does not apply to welfarism. That element is that my story depicted desperate circumstances, which is another way of saying it was a one-off. Welfarism is a system of indefinitely repeated thefts and partial enslavements. They say that it is a continuous crisis, that as there are always babies drowning somewhere you must always be rescuing them, but the insincerity of this claim is demonstrated by the fact that “somewhere” only includes the territory of your nation, state or other tax-gathering unit. Babies outside that arbitrary circle – glug, glug, goodbye. And how can it be justified for you to be forced to spend, say, 55% of your time baby-rescuing but not 56%, or every waking hour?
Overlapping this, welfarism is legitimized repeated thefts and partial enslavements. The man with the gun does not acknowledge or make reparation for his crime. It is he who decides what constitutes crime.
Furthermore there are all the factors that Jaded Voluntaryist implied in his re-casting of Bowman’s analogy. It is not just babies you have to keep rescuing, but adults, and once your presence is a predictable part of the system, those adults start acting like babies on the assumption that you will always be there. That is not likely to end well for you or them.
I will refrain from re-stating further objections to the system of welfare. I am sure most of you have thought of them already, but all these thoughts did lead me to another topic upon which the opinions of Samizdata readers and writers are much harder to predict.
Having to carry a stranger because otherwise the stranger will die is approximately the position of a pregnant woman expecting an unwanted child.
A key part of the pro-abortion argument is opposition to forcing a woman to give up part of her body and her time to carry the child. Foetus. Whatever. For instance, this comment from yesterday’s Guardian by commenter ZappBrannigan says,
Don’t let them win the battle of symbols. Don’t use their terminology. They are not “pro-life”. I propose “mandatory-gestation” instead.
Or here is commenter Thaizinred from the same comment thread:
No already born person has a right to directly use another person’s body to stay alive. People aren’t forced to donate their bodies, or body parts, even if someone else will die without them, even if the person who will die is their child.
The latter’s argument overstates the case. The pregant woman does not have to permanently give up her body or her body parts, but the general point is starkly made, and in a way that will resonate with many libertarians.
I am anti-abortion with reservations and get-out clauses. So I mock the Guardian readers and other “liberals” (in the degraded modern sense) who one minute angrily make the arguments above; who denounce anyone who opposes welfare or jibs at high taxes as a callous, selfish sociopath; who would abort themselves with a rusty coathanger rather than admit that Ayn Rand ever said a good word – and who next minute channel Rand , becoming the purest of pure no-forced-assistance libertarians when the topic is abortion. Such people end up saying that you must give half your time to helping strangers in no particular danger but have no obligation to bear temporary inconvenience to save the life of a being you caused to exist.
So much for them. What about you? To some, I would guess, it is very simple. You are not inconsistent. You are pure libertarians, perhaps indeed Objectivists and proud of it, and you make your stand on the property right of the woman to permanent, uninterrupted, unconstrained use of her own body. You might, perhaps, also think that the foetus is not human until birth but your argument does not rest on that, as Thaizinred’s comment did not.
To use another analogy, your view is that if the captain of a ship at sea sees survivors of a shipwreck clinging to wreckage, the captain can and, for some of you, ought to rescue them, but he does not have to and must not be compelled to.
A minority of libertarians – including me – have views more like these guys: that the foetus becomes human before birth (I shall leave aside the question of exactly when, or if “when” can be exact) and his, her, or its parents (I am trying not to beg the question of whether the foetus is human by choice of pronouns) owe him, her or it protection whatever the inconvenience just as they owe protection to their one day old or one year old child.
And suddenly I’ve run out of steam. This always happens when I talk about abortion and the related question of obligations to small children. There are so many sides to the question. What about rape? What about unintended conception? What about the difference between actively killing and merely withdrawing sustenance? Can I come up with a reason to forbid the Spartans to expose their babies on the mountainside that does not open the door to welfarism and all its ruinous consequences? What about this, that and t’other?
Abortion is a sharp issue. Not many of us have carried out a life or death rescue, with or without force being used. Quite a lot of people have had abortions or been closely affected by them. I hope discussion won’t be too acrimonious, but I think almost anything is better discussed than not.
I was struck by a particular contrast between two opinion columns that appeared in today’s Guardian. Both made reference to crimes in which many children were killed.
The first column I would like to look at, written by Zoe Williams, refers to the crime described here. Mick Philpott had lived in a ménage à trois with his wife, Mairead, his mistress Lisa Willis and the eleven children the two women had bore him. When Lisa Willis walked out on this arrangement, taking her five children – and their welfare benefits – with her, the Philpotts and another man set a fire at the Philpott house with the aim of framing Ms Willis for it, which would help him regain custody of their children and the income stream that came with them, and also so that Philpott could be seen to rescue the other six children who still lived in that house. It would also aid him in his custody battle to be hailed a hero. As it turned out, he could not rescue them. All six died in the fire. The three conspirators have been jailed for multiple manslaughter, with Mick Philpott receiving the longest sentence as the dominant figure in the group.
The Daily Mail published an article headed “Vile product of Welfare UK: Man who bred 17 babies by five women to milk benefits system is guilty of killing six of them.”
Zoe Williams of the Guardian was deeply angered by this. Her Guardian column has the title “Don’t get mad about the Mail’s use of the Philpotts to tarnish the poor – get even.” Ms Williams writes,
It is vitriolic, illogical depersonalisation to ascribe the grotesqueness of one wild, unique crime to tens of thousands of people on benefits. When any section of society is demonised on irrational grounds we have to take that seriously, so I will complain to the Press Complaints Commission, and I hope you will too.
The readers’ comments share Ms Goodman’s outrage, as does a similar comment piece about the same crime by Graeme Cooke which says,
There’s nothing wrong with moral principles in welfare policy but making political capital from an appalling crime is offensive.
The second, contrasting Guardian column, by Amy Goodman, referred to the gun massacre of twenty children and six adults carried out by Adam Lanza at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012. That crime and its legal and moral implications were discussed at length in this blog at the time it occurred.
Amy Goodman’s column has the title “It’s time for the majority to move on gun control” and includes the words:
The moment to pass gun control was when the national attention was riveted on the massacre at Sandy Hook, the brutal slaying of 20 children and six adults. Before the broken bodies of those victims fade from memory, our broken body politic must be mended. What is needed is a vigorous grassroots movement, to provide the leadership so lacking in Washington DC.
I do not wish to simply jeer at the inconsistency of the reaction of the Guardian’s writers and readers. They could quite fairly throw the same jibe back at us – I assume that most readers of this blog oppose gun control and objected to the demonisation of American gun owners because of one grotesque crime on much the same grounds as Ms Williams objects to the demonisation of British welfare claimants for one grotesque crime. I post this to ask, not answer, the question, when is it offensive and when is it a moral necessity to make political capital over the bodies of dead children?
The film maker and Labour nobleman, David Puttnam, has written this article: Press regulation: the royal charter deal is a move towards a better democracy. He says,
I believe there is a need to totally re-evaluate the way we look at the relationship between the media and democracy. Over the past decade or so, a great deal of thinking has developed around the notion of “a duty of care” – as it relates to a number of aspects of civil society. This has principally focused on obvious areas, such as our empathetic response to the elderly and infirm, to children and young people, to our service personnel. It has seldom, if ever, extended to equally important arguments around the fragility of democracy itself: to the notion that honesty, accuracy and impartiality are fundamental to the process of building and embedding informed, participatory societies. I believe our developing concept of a duty of care should be extended to “a care” for our shared but fragile democratic values.
If “duty of care” really were nothing but a “notion”, this would still be mildly sinister. But “duty of care” is not just a notion, it is a legal notion. He wants to make it possible to sue a writer for threatening democratic values. Specifically, he wants to make it a tort.
Do you think that I exaggerate; that this proposed “duty” was no more than Puttnam advocating a moral course of action and perhaps using the legal phrase as a metaphor? Then read the next paragraph. In it, he makes it clear he is indeed thinking of legal penalties for failing to fulfil this “duty”:
After all, the absence of a duty of care within many professions can amount to accusations of negligence, and that being the case, are we really comfortable with the thought that we are being, in effect, negligent in regard to the long-term health of our own democracies, and the values that underpin them?
Baron David Puttnam is very comfortable with the thought that he and those like him will be able to suppress views that promote values he does not like.
UPDATE: A just comment from Laird:
It strikes me that Puttnam should be the first to be sued under his proposed law. After all, the ability to offer and discuss unpopular and controversial ideas is the epitome of “democratic values”. His proposal is clearly negligent, even threatening, toward those values, and is itself grossly negligent toward the long-term health of the democracy he purports to champion. That way lies fascism.