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The burden of proof has been reversed

In an earlier piece here today, Perry de Havilland referred to the great fuss that Britain’s broadcasters are now making about the rather small successes of the BNP in the Euro elections, and their relative silence concerning the much bigger success achieved by UKIP. True. UKIP is indeed being ignored, and the BNP is indeed being talked up. But I don’t think it’s right to dismiss the talking up of the BNP entirely as tactics. I think that genuine fear is being expressed by our former gatekeepers of correct thought. The rise of Adolph Hitler has been obsessively taught in British schools for the last generation or so, as the very definition of that which Must Not Happen, yet now, something not wholly unlike it appears to be happening, here in Britain! Calamity!

I say “former” gatekeepers of correct thought because that is surely the other thing now happening that scares these people. The internet, as we enthusiasts for it have been saying ever since it got started as a mass phenomenon a decade ago or more, entitles people to say whatever they like. They no longer need the permission of anybody more important to reach a quite large audience with an opinion that quite large numbers of people agree with but which the Gatekeepers disapprove of and want suppressed. Very suddenly, in a matter of a year or two, servile and carefully crafted letters to the newspapers, that conceded almost everything but cunningly managed to slip a tiny few incorrect thoughts past the Guardians, could be forgotten about. A blog can now be cranked up, and the blogger can tell it exactly how he reckons it is. Potential supporters can be directed with a link to the manifesto of whatever crank party the blogger happens to approve of or find interesting. If a Gatekeeper now wants to quote a “crank” out of context, Google ensures that the rest of us can read the opinions of said crank, in context, whether the Gatekeeper himself deigns to include an actual link or not.

My eldest brother is a UKIP activist, and I sense in him none of the frustration that he and his UKIP brethren used to feel, about being ignored by the masses, because then ignored by “the” (there then being only one great lump of them) media. When he now knocks on a door, the householder knows just what Elder Brother stands for. Conversation can immediately proceed to the matter of what a splendid front garden or front door the householder is presenting to the world, thus establishing that although firm in their opinions, UKIPers are still humans, able to see the world through eyes other than their own. Seemed like a nice enough bloke. Yeah, maybe I’ll vote for him, if I don’t fancy any of the others. That the big media are still trying to ignore Elder Brother now no longer worries him. The Gatekeepers now have to convince him, and all the other people who think as he does, that he and they are wrong. Good luck with that.

As a radical libertarian activist, I built the entire early first half of my career (if you can call it that) contriving to navigate, with cunningly photocopied pamphlets, around Gatekeeper assumptions that such opinions just could not be sincerely held, by anyone who mattered. I helped to contrive a local internet, you might say, for London libertarians, and I helped to feed libertarian memes into low-grade BBC local talk shows. Ever since the real internet came along, I have had a great deal to say for myself, but have nevertheless been feeling somewhat at a loose end.

All of which means, as the title of this posting proclaims, that the burden of proof has now been reversed. It used to be that someone who favoured radical tax cuts, or bringing immigration to a halt, or expunging the EU from British life, or that Jesus Christ is Our Saviour and gayness is evil, or that Islam is not welcome in these islands, or any other such challenge to Gatekeeper orthodoxy, had to prove to the Gatekeepers that his opinion was worth being heard and had some flicker of merit, perhaps because (see John Stuart Mill) it ensured that the Gatekeepers were at least prodded from time to time into keeping their orthodoxies in full working order. Now, the Gatekeepers, their gates electronically melted, have to explain why such notions do not have any merit, and why people should not vote for them. Since the Gatekeepers have spent all their lives loftily refusing to participate in any such arguments, instead only contriving verbal formulae to demonise all such notions as “extreme”, “selfish”, “old fashioned”, “racist”, “far right”, and so on, they are, not surprisingly, very frightened at suddenly having to overturn the habits of a lifetime. What, they wonder, if they make even greater fools of themselves than the internet, by telling voters directly about all these wickednesses, has made of them already? What if they join in these arguments, but then lose? Well, indeed.

Last night, for instance, I watched a lady cabinet minister carefully refusing to reply to what the man from the BNP was actually saying, and instead insisting that the BNP is “really”, “essentially”, racist. By all means throw that last point in incidentally, but ad hominem attack and nothing else no longer works as an argumentative technique, because the argument is now raging anyway and Milady Cabinet Minister can only decide whether or not she joins in. The BNP can decide what it will now say, and say it. It does not need permission from Her Ladyship, or from her friends in the BBC or in the big national newspapers, to say whatever it wants to say, to anyone who wants to listen. The man from the BNP oozed confidence. The Lady Cabinet Minister looked uncomfortable.

As it happens, I share quite a few Gatekeeper objections to some of these “extreme” ideas, even as I am enthusiastic about others of them. I quite like immigration, especially from Eastern Europe. Jesus Christ is not my saviour, and gayness is fine by me. I fear that if Britain leaves EUrope, economic freedom (let alone any other kind) may not erupt, but rather something far nastier and stupider and more xenophobic and more economically wrong-headed. And so on. But, I do favour radical libertarianism. And I do not like Islam at all, and believe that the only defence of its unchallenged presence in our midst that makes any sense is based on believing that what it actually says will be almost unanimously ignored by its supposed supporters in favour of far kinder and far gentler mis-readings of it.

But then, I am not saying which opinions I think should be allowed and which not allowed. I say: allow them all. In fact, the nastier and more belligerent they are, the better it is for us all to be able to acquaint ourselves with them. Where I agree I will say so, and where I disagree I will say so. I just did.

And when it comes to voting, vote for one of the little parties, that actually believes in stuff. Don’t waste your vote on the Conservatives, LibDems or Labour. What will voting for them accomplish? How will voting for those people tell anyone what you actually think and actually want?

20 comments to The burden of proof has been reversed

  • Chris H

    I have always been very big on the principle of free speech. I think that a good example is the way that so called Holocaust Denial is being dealt with in some places. If someone wants to believe that the Holocaust never happened or was nowhere near as bad as it has been claimed to be, let him make his case and let it be examined openly. If he is wrong then the case for him being wrong can only be made by examining his position and putting forward the evidence against it. The case for the truth of the Holocaust is hardly supported by throwing deniers in jail to shut them up.

  • figurewizard

    I would not disagree that descriptive terms for the BNP such as , racist, unpleasant and downright evil are reasonably accurate but when politicians have nothing else to say about them in the context of their recent successes in the Euro election, they are breaking a golden rule that the business world learnt long ago. It is that you ‘never rubbish the competition.’

    To do so is always regarded as sending a message that says; ‘Don’t buy their rubbish – Buy our rubbish instead.’ Unfortunately in the case of the government we are currently saddled with, this statement is only too true.

  • Oli

    While I must put the generic disclaimer up first that I don’t agree with anything the BNP have in their manifesto, I was exceptionally happy to see that real democracy is still alive and well in the UK. I’m sure we will see some more election border changes soon to try and stop it happening, but for me, it was an essentially a good results.

    The fact that there are so many naive idiots with racist tenancies living in the North is another issue – but at least their voice was heard!

    Now if only my local area stopped voting for every monkey with a red rosette, I might feel even better about democracy, but that’s another rant!

  • Pat

    except that it may benecesary to vote for a major party in order to exclude ( or attempt to) a worse one. As far as I can see most voters vote to deny the major party they least like, rather than for one they do like. Roll on STV, then voters can do both. and roll on a directly elected government, so that you can vote for the MP you want to represent you as well as your preferred government, without the need to vote for a donkey with the right rosette.
    I’m not convinced yet that the internet will permanently reintroduce freedom of speech- someone in government may yet find a way of buggering it up but it sure has helped and may well succeed. Especially given government’s longstanding talent to bugger up even the act of buggerring things up.

  • Pat. The internet is out of the box now and there is nothing any gov’t can do to silence it entirely. The moment they try they will find themselves so hacked, cracked, virused and the like that their feet won’t touch the floor. Just look al China; everyone harps on about their ‘Great Firewall’ but there are ways around it, and as is the nature of the internet if one person knows a way to do something, sooner or later everyone knows. Freedom of publication and speech (on the internet at least) is here to stay, all we need to do is convince those who believe that the internet is just for shopping and porn of this fact and the world will change forever (maybe it already has).

  • permanentexpat

    “Freedom of publication & speech is here to stay” you state with alarming certainty. I would like to think and pray that your optimism isn’t misplaced.
    Those very quoted words state unequivocably that the Internet is the mortal enemy of any country’s political establishment…yes, our own too.
    To cite The Great Chinese Firewall as an avoidable obstacle to the computer-literate completely misses the point…and loopholes are closed as fast as they’re opened…and the penalties for hacking around it are draconian to say the least.
    Should one be naïve enough to think that similar could not happen in the Anglosphere, then think again.

  • permanentexpat

    Small addendum:

    Australia?……….you couldn’t make it up, could you?

    Yes, you most assuredly bloody well could!

  • Nuke Gray!

    I think they ignore UKIP because it is a single-issue party, whilst the BNP has a whole range of disagreeable policies and issues. (That’s how it seems in Australia, at any rate.)

  • lucklucky

    I disagree. None of that is sustainable if you don’t have Think Thank that do some study, Newspapers and TV stations. UKIP from what i can see from distance doesn’t have any of that. The only luck for them is that the whole edifice is rotten and the pile of debt will take years to clean. Without a way to circunvent the current Media they will not get much.

  • Paul Marks

    First of all the British National Party is a racist party – this has to be clearly stated as they deny it.

    It is not true that they get smeared as racist – as I was when I simply wrote out, for background information after the death of Ian Smith (without any approval) the old constitutional set up of Rhodesia – and my source was the “Guinness Book of Answers” of 1978 which happened to have been bought for me as a Christmas present in 1978 and which I still own.

    The BNP is racist because article two of their book of rules forbids non white people being members or candidates, and because of their long history of hostility to people on the basis of the colour of their skin.

    It is also clear that the constant talking about the BNP by the mainstream media (led by the BBC) and the mainstream political parties (especially the Labout party) gives them more attention and support.

    Brian is also correct when he points out that this coverage is not justified as the B.N.P. only won two seats in the E.U. “Parliament” whereas UKIP won 13 seats (in spite of their being other anti E.U. political groups, such as the interestingly named “United Kingdom First” party, which confused some voters).

    Nor is it true that UKIP is a single issue party – as a glance at the documents (paper and computer pages) shows.

    The only explination that fits the facts is that the establishment is trying to talk up the BNP in order to avoid talking about UKIP.

    However, I would also stress that those people who voted for the Conservative party in the E.U. elections also want radically less power for the E.U. (indeed many, perhaps most, of Conservative voters want to get out of the E.U. totally).

    I am not talking about Mr Cameron – I am talking about Conservative party voters.

    People (contrary to the media) did not vote for Conservative candidates (whether they wasted their votes or not – and Brian may well be correct that they did) because of the expenses stuff.

    The duck island and the “clean my moat” (and so on) were CONSERVATIVE M.P.s – and the media said so (the “Tory toff” stuff was played up).

    And if someone really thought that the Labour party was to blame for the expenses stuff – then why did not the Liberal Democrats win the election? Why did they come fourth place?

    The bottom line is as follows:

    7 out of 10 voters (70% in case anyone has a problem with mathematics) voted for political groups holding that the European Union has too much power over the lives of British people – they voted to roll back this layer of government.

    No amount of spin from the media can change this basic fact.

  • Stronghold Barricades

    Very balanced comment

    By contriving to ignore the BNP, the electorate have forced the agenda

    If we continue to ignore or throw eggs at them and deny the BNP the platform to describe their own views then no one will enter into the debate to gainsay them

    We can not be seen to justify the BNP by discriminating against them

  • Paul Marks

    Brian is right about the self confidence going among the elite.

    They still talk of government spending as “investment” (and claim it is “good in a recession”) and pretend that the crises is caused by “deregulation” and “market mania” – but there is no conviction in their voices and fewer and fewer people believe them.

    And when they talk of increasing government spending as “brave” and vast borrowing as “making the tough choices” (rather than running away from the tough choices – which is what it is) they often get the response of laughter – which is more than B.B.C. Radio Four “comedy” shows get these days.

  • Donavon

    How much of the fear amongst the gatekeepers is the fact that it was Labour’s strongholds that went BNP?. I sense that those the write for many of you newspapers would expect this of the Tory supporters. I would almost expect a sense of paranoia to creep in about how much of Labour is really Labour rather than an acceptance that the BNP is actually a party of the left. Of course, how they could expect anything else after destroying education, pushing multiculturism over assimilation, feeding the union grievance machine while killing the business environment and handing British sovereignty over to an unelected council is beyond farce.

  • Very good indeed Brian. Thank you. I have excerpted it in Mickysmuses, and like you, hail the advent of the blogosphere, as would the late Adlai Stevenson, who said…

    “The first principle of a free society is an untrammeled flow of words in an open forum.”

  • David Nilsson

    I too want to know a lot more about the party that has just beaten the governing party and the Lib Dems in a national election.

    But I don’t get it from the so-called mainstream media. All I see is a lot of coordinated, repetitious spluttering about the BNP, which polled far below UKIP.

    How did UKIP originate? What was behind the splits that led to its founder denouncing it and Kilroy Silk joining and leaving within a year? Where does its money come from? How many active members? How does it spend its handouts dfrom the EU? Are its supporters mainly older eurosceptic Tories, or is it picking up old-Labour voters too like the BNP? What class(es) and sexes do they tend belong to? Where in the UK is UKIP strongest, and why? How hard do its MEPs work? If it is also picking up seats on local councils nowadays, what are its policies and how effective are its councillors? How does it fit, if at all, into the left-right spectrum?

    I am still in the dark about most of ths. I suppose it’s more fun for hacks to fume about imaginary bogeymen resurrected from the 1930s. They’ve seen too many war films.

  • James

    I rather like the BNP. There are a few portions of their rules that I might like to edit, but I still believe that they stand on solid ground. They just want England back, and they do understand what needs done to accomplish this goal. Cracking a few eggs to make that omlette, you know.

    I would suggest that the BNP puts off some folks in the manner that they do because the organization does not seek to act incrementally, as we expect so many governing bodies to do (and indeed, do). It’s La Raza for — gasp! — Anglos! Heaven forfend that BNP gets a modicum of the leniancy that othe racialist groups might enjoy.

  • Paul Marks

    Being a member of the (racist organization) La Raza does not disqalify a person from being nominated to the Supreme Court. Nor does boasting of befitting from racist quotas (affirmitive action), or making racist speeches (not once – many times) or even making racist moves (trying to prevent cases even being heard) as a judge.

    In fact all these things may be why the lady was nominated for the Supreme Court. It should tell people all they need to know about the “Community Organizer in Chief”.

  • Sunfish

    I rather like the BNP. There are a few portions of their rules that I might like to edit, but I still believe that they stand on solid ground.

    Which part would you edit? The “We’re racist jerkoffs” part or the “We’re socialist jerkoffs” part?

    Take those two things away from BNP and there’s nothing left.

  • I was also going to reply to James but after what Sunfish said, I cannot really add much.

  • Paul Marks

    I had hoped that James was being “ironic” with that bit of what he said about the BNP – but with my tin ear for irony, Sunfish and Perry may have it right.