This is now several weeks’ old and I fear that coverage of this issue could fade in the usual 24/7 news cycle, but it deserves to be kept in public view, hopefully continuing to raise a stink. I am talking about a recent European Court of Justice ruling regarding whether a person/institution can demand that an online outfit such as Google can be made to remove material about said person/institution that is damaging, sensitive or highly personal. People are talking about the “right to be forgotten”. Note that the information doesn’t need to be libellous. Even if it is embarrassing but clearly true, a website can be required to remove it. This means that certain organisations and people – and you can think of the sort I mean – have an open opportunity to remove items about themselves that they dislike. It is a monstrous interference with freedom of speech and demonstrates just how badly Europe misses any sort of First Amendment protection of free speech (although as I pointed out the other day, even the US these days has defaulted).
There doesn’t appear to be a lot of anger about this from the media as a whole – there hasn’t been the kind of reaction that attended the Leveson Report, for example. It is easy for some faux civil libertarians to say, perhaps, that the ruling affects nasty, big – usually American – firms such as Google, but that supposition is foolish. Anyone with a website carrying information that someone might object to might face this problem. As for journalists trying to track down information about people and using online channels, this is a very damaging step. It stinks.
There are lots of reasons for objecting to how Europe is currently run and I want out of the EU, although unlike some of those who want to quit, want to do so for pro-freedom reasons, not due to nationalism or terror about immigrants. I have no illusions, of course, about national courts and parliaments in that they can be just as moronic in trying to oppress freedom of speech as a supranational one. We tend to forget that point. But national stupidity can be easier to circumvent than transnational stupidity. Anyone who takes civil liberties and freedom of speech issues seriously ought, in my judgement, to want to see the entire European superstate edifice crumble into dust. It won’t end assaults on freedom, but it will make such assaults less difficult to escape.
I thought Nigel Farage trounced Nick Clegg in the second of the two televised debates about Europe a few weeks ago. When he sticks to that subject, he’s an excellent proponent of the argument. But when he brings Romanians into it, when he smears an entire nation to make the case against immigration, he’s clearly doing the cause more harm than good. You can sense more moderate voters recoiling every time he strays into this territory. It’s as if the Ukip leader is confirming the caricature of Euroscepticism that the BBC, the FT, the Independent and the Guardian have been trying to paint for the past 30 years – the Eurosceptic as swivel-eyed loon, as Little Englander, as closet racist. People like me have always claimed that’s a straw man. But Nigel Farage is that straw man.
– Toby Young
There are other examples I can think of where a good argument – such as leaving a bureaucratic superstate – can be spoiled if those who argue for it seem to be, well, just not very pleasant people. Yes I know, one should not be distracted by that sort of shallow thing, etc, etc. The last few weeks I have heard a lot of stuff from UKIP fans about how, no matter how bloody ghastly many UKIP people are, and how crummy some of its views are, that it is still a force for good, pushing debate, etc. The trouble is that I think it does matter, a lot, if people form associations in their minds about a group and if that group helps to reinforce that association. In my view, Farage’s focus on what he claims are the negative effects of immigration, and his invocation of the idea that foreigners are taking “our” jobs etc (the lump of labour fallacy) has done damage. He should have been far more optimistic and positive about why leaving the EU is a good thing, rather than confirm the biases of those who all too easily dismiss the anti-EU case as being narrow and stupid. A shame.
“A candidate in the European elections was arrested on suspicion of racial harrassment after quoting a passage about Islam, written by Winston Churchill, during a campaign speech,” reports the Daily Mail. “Paul Weston, chairman of the party Liberty GB, made the address on the steps of Winchester Guildhall, in Hampshire on Saturday. A member of the public took offence at the quote, taken from Churchill’s The River War and called police.”
Here is a link to the Mail‘s story: Arrested for quoting Winston Churchill: European election candidate accused of religious and racial harassment after he repeats wartime prime minister’s words on Islam during campaign speech.
I note that the Daily Mail had the guts to quote the Churchill passage in full but not to enable comments, whereas (opposing candidate) Daniel Hannan in the Telegraph has the guts to enable comments but not to quote the passage.
Comments to my post are enabled and the passage is below:
‘How dreadful are the curses which Mohammedanism lays on its votaries,’ wrote Churchill.
‘Besides the fanatical frenzy, which is as dangerous in a man as hydrophobia in a dog, there is this fearful fatalistic apathy.
‘The effects are apparent in many countries. Improvident habits, slovenly systems of agriculture, sluggish methods of commerce, and insecurity of property exist wherever the followers of the Prophet rule or live.
‘A degraded sensualism deprives this life of its grace and refinement; the next of its dignity and sanctity.
‘The fact that in Mohammedan law every woman must belong to some man as his absolute property – either as a child, a wife, or a concubine – must delay the final extinction of slavery until the faith of Islam has ceased to be a great power among men.
‘Thousands become the brave and loyal soldiers of the faith: all know how to die but the influence of the religion paralyses the social development of those who follow it.
‘No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.’
I wish I could claim that by both quoting the passage and enabling comments I have demonstrated political courage. I haven’t. Might I too not be arrested? I won’t be. At the moment that is not the way the process works. Mr Weston has been arrested but I doubt very much that he will ever brought to trial. Trials can so easily go wrong. In fact I suspect that he will – eventually – be in receipt of an apology and compensation for wrongful imprisonment, as was the Christian street preacher John Craven after his arrest under the Public Order Act 1986.
Mr Craven got £13,000 compensation. According to the Huffington Post article about him linked to above, “The total cost for Greater Manchester Police, including both parties’ legal bills, will be over £50,000.”. It is not clear to me whether the latter sum includes the former, but we can safely say that the total cost of arresting a man in violation of his right to free speech seems to be around £50k – £65k.
That’s peanuts for a government – and yet, the whip broke skin. The point was made. All saw, this is what happens. Cheap at the price.
Here is part of slide number one of Christopher Snowdon’s talk at LLFF14 yesterday afternoon, entitled “How the state finances the opponents of freedom in civil society”:
That is from The Virginia Act for Establishing Religious Freedom, first penned, it would seem, in 1779, and actually passed in 1786.
Christopher Snowdon is described here as the “Director of Lifestyle Economics at the IEA”, which means he is their chief complainer about sin taxes.
His talk yesterday was based on the work he did writing two IEA publications, Sock Puppets: How the government lobbies itself and why and Euro Puppets: The European Commission’s remaking of civil society. Both those publications can be downloaded in .pdf form, free of charge.
Snowdon walked around a lot when talking, so although I took a lot of photos of him, only this one was any good:
Behind Snowdon is a long list of NGO’s which receive substantial funding from the EU. For legible versions, see Euro Puppets.
In the short run, all this money paying for leftist apparatchiks to lobby for more money for more leftist apparatchiks is good for leftism, but I wonder if in the longer run it won’t be a disaster for them. Another quote, about how all causes eventually degenerate into rackets, springs to mind. This is the kind of behaviour that even disgusts many natural supporters of leftism. As Snowden recounted, few people outside this incestuous world have any idea of the scale of this kind of government funding for “charities”, never mind knowing the extra bit about how the money is mostly used to yell and lobby for more money, and for more government spending and government control of whatever it is. In particular, Snowden recounted that when John Humphrys interviewed Snowden on the Today Programme, he (Humphrys) did not grill him (Snowden), he (Humphrys) mostly just expressed utter amazement at the sheer scale of government funding for “charities”, for anything.
What this means is that if and when a non-leftist politician gets around to just defunding the lot of them, just like that, he gets a win-win. He cuts public spending, even if only a bit. And he slings a bunch of parasites out into the street where they belong, who are then simply unable to argue to the public that they were doing anything of the slightest value to that public. Insofar as they do argue that they shouldn’t have been sacked, they do not further their own cause; they merely discredit it further and further prove that the decision to sack them was the right one.
In the event that Scotland disregards my feelings and votes for independence, what currency would you recommend it use?
Opinions on this matter do not split neatly between Left and Right. Here are two of today’s articles on the subject; one from the Adam Smith Institute and one from the Guardian. A few days ago the pro-independence, pro-market campaign group “Wealthy Nation” republished this article from the Institute of Economic Affairs, recommending that Sterling be kept for the time being. It looks a serious piece, but it was written before the recent interventions by George Osborne and Manuel Barroso.
Commenters wishing to use words like “seignorage” are requested to give me warning first so that I can hide behind the sofa.
In all the years I have been reading old editions of the The Times I have never come across anyone advocating a European Union. Until the other day, that is.
The Times 31 January 1914 p6
Annoyingly they are not entirely wrong:
If armaments could be greatly reduced, the savings effected would provide an abundance of liquid money to the great advantage of the people. Funds for industrial and commercial purposes would become plentiful.
Unless you piss it up the wall on a welfare state, that is. And on some things they are really on the money:
The nations of Europe and European civilisation itself threaten to break down under the military burdens. The people are groaning and muttering. Dissatisfaction is spreading apace. The tension is rapidly approaching breaking point.
The solution is a familiar one:
It is obvious that, if we wish to abolish war and the ruinously expensive preparations for war, we must deal with the fundamental cause of war. We must, therefore, above all, endeavour to abolish the disunion existing among the Great Powers and replace it by harmony and by a firm and lasting union.
I couldn’t help notice that then as today they seem to be extremely well-funded. I wonder how much a page in the The Times of 1914 compares with four pages in The Independent of today?
From the genuinely scary opening sequence of Muppet Treasure Island…
Shiver my timbers, shiver my soul
Yo ho, heave-ho
There are men whose hearts are as black as coal
Yo ho, heave-ho
And they sailed their ship across the ocean blue
A bloodthirsty captain and a cutthroat crew.
It’s as dark a tale as was ever told
Of the lust for treasure and the love of gold…
Shiver my timbers, shiver my sides
Yo ho, heave-ho
There are hungers as strong as the wind and tides
Yo ho, heave-ho
In other news, Tim Yeo has got the old heave-ho. Deselected as a Conservative MP by his constituency party.
For those unfamiliar with “Green Trougher” Yeo, this old post by James Delingpole explains why we mustn’t laugh. There are indeed hungers as strong as the wind and tides.
Jim Carver is a libertarian UKIP umbrella-maker from the West Midlands who aims to be elected to the European Parliament in 2014 and then to make himself redundant as soon as possible. ‘If you take liberties with a market trader, you can expect a fight,’ he says, ‘And these buggers aim to take all the liberties we’ve got.’
Nasty things are just nasty. You know where you are with a tetchy shark. It’s the nice ones which give me the heebie-jeebies. Dolls, wide-eyed children, psychopathic blondes and slavering kittens are far scarier than more obviously menacing monsters.
Let me introduce you to a tooth-achingly nice but totally terrifying new document entitled A European Framework National Statute for the Promotion of Tolerance.
It is intended to be enacted as law in every member state of the European Union. It will probably be enshrined in British law. Shudder at the thought. It is such a sweet document. Its purpose is to ‘Promote tolerance within society… condemn all manifestations of intolerance based on bias, bigotry and prejudice…’
So far, so missionary tract, but these are missionaries with power. They will ‘take concrete action to combat intolerance, in particular with a view to eliminating racism, colour bias, ethnic discrimination, religious intolerance, totalitarian ideologies, xenophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-feminism and homophobia.’
There is no attempt to define these enemies.
Feminism, just to take one example, can be the radical Dworkinesque wing, which considers sex-workers and the sexually active to be traitors (and victims), and all sexual allure to be demeaning. It can also be ‘riot grrrl’ or ‘lipstick’ feminism which reclaims traditional gender symbols and sexuality and respects the rights of women to win autonomy by these means.
The former – being nutters – are the more politically active. They consider the others to be ‘anti-feminist’. They abuse and deride them in a most intolerant manner, yet I warrant that it will be they who impose tolerance by force on their dissenting sisters once this statute has force of law.
Many nominalists doubt that homosexuality as a state of being rather than as an incidental preference actually exists. Many Britons oppose the open-door immigration policy forced upon them by Brussels. They are immediately therefore branded ‘xenophobes’. Will all such heretics find themselves debarred from expressing their views in the name of tolerance?
Here, however, comes good news: All groups will be guaranteed ‘freedom of expression, including freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas… to manifest… religion or belief in worship, observance, rituals, rites, practice and teaching…’
Does this mean, then, that devout Catholics who disapprove of homosexuality (and, more consistently, of all non-procreative sex) will be permitted to express their views?
Er, no. ‘There is no need to be tolerant to the intolerant. This is especially important as far as freedom of expression is concerned: that freedom must not be abused to defame other groups.’
→ Continue reading: Tolerance… or else!
Last night I attended a meeting of the End of the World Club, and by the end – of the meeting, not the world – the conversation had turned uncharacteristically optimistic. Oh, there were the usual prophecies of doom, and it is hoped that the next meeting will be someone talking about what it was like living through the Zimbabwe hyper-inflation. But the second of the two speakers last night was Rory Broomfield, speaking about the Better Off Out campaign, as in: Britain would be better off out of the European Union. That is an argument where at least some headway is now being made. How big the chances are that Britain might either leave or be kicked out of the European Union some time in the next few years, I do not know, but those chances have surely been improving. I can remember when the fantasy that “Europe” was going to cohere into one splendidly perfect union and lead the world was really quite plausible, if you were the sort already inclined to believe such things. EUrope, in those days, was a boat that Britain needed not to miss. Now, EUrope is more like a swamp into which Britain would be unwise to go on immersing itself, and should instead be concentrating on climbing or being spat out of.
Mention was made of shipping containers, i.e. of the story told in this fascinating book. Compared to the arrangements it replaced, containerisation has damn near abolished the cost of transporting stuff by sea, which means that the economic significance of mere geographical proximity has now been, if not abolished, at least radically diminished. Regional trading blocks like EUrope now look like relics from that bygone age when it would take a week to unload a ship, and when Scotch whiskey could not be profitably exported from Scotland because half of it would be stolen by dock labourers.
Containerisation also exaggerates how much business Britain does with Europe, because much of this supposed trade with EUrope is just containers being driven in lorries to and from Rotterdam, and shipped to and from the world. The huge new container port now nearing completion in the Thames Estuary is presumably about to put a demoralising (for a EUrophile) dent in these pseudo-EUropean trade numbers.
Mention was also made of a recently published map (scroll down to Number 29 of these maps). This map shows the economic centre of gravity of the world, at various times in history. A thousand years ago, this notional spot was somewhere near China. And the point strongly made by this map is that this centre of economic gravity is now moving, faster than it has moved ever before in history, from northern Europe (it was in the north Atlantic in 1950), right back to where it came from, leaving Europe behind.
Broomfield talked about how you convince people of such notions. For younger audiences, he said, just moaning on about how terrible EUrope is doesn’t do it. You have to be positive. But the trick, said Broomfield, is to be positive about the world. The important thing is that Britain, and you young guys, should not held back by EUrope from making your way in that big world.
The actual End of the World is not nigh any time soon, but the world is changing.
If you doubted that the €uropocalyse was at hand…
French President Francois Hollande has declared an end to the eurozone debt crisis, which has gripped the region for the past four years.
… well everything is going to be okay after all then! Thank goodness for that!
David Cameron’s position is that he is trying to persuade the Golf Club to play tennis, but that if they refuse, he will continue to play golf.
– Michael Forsyth, on Daily Politics today, describing the posture of the Prime Minister with regard to the European Union.