We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Samizdata quote of the day

To a great extent, the threat to free speech posed by iPlod will depend upon how its employees exercise their discretion and whether they’re politically neutral. Unfortunately, it will be staffed by the same sort of quangocrats that run the Advertising Standards Authority, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission and Public Health England, and we know from experience that these busybodies will use whatever powers they have to extend the reach of the nanny state. That nearly always involves enforcing left-wing orthodoxy, whether consciously or not.

Toby Young

16 comments to Samizdata quote of the day

  • Itellyounothing

    A lot of non left wing folk just wouldn’t choose to take that kind of job so a bad idea agency is never ameliorated by good values people.

  • bob sykes

    Britain became a police state long ago. When a elderly black (!!!) pastor is arrested for reading aloud in public from the King James Bible, you have reached the bottom of the Pit of Hell.

  • Schrodinger's Dog

    A few observations.

    First of all, Itellyounothing has hit the nail on the head.

    Meanwhile, assuming this goes ahead in some form, are there any technical work rounds? VPNs? The dark web?

    Finally, I’m appalled at how little protest these proposals have generated. Compare and contrast with the outrage that results from even the merest hint of a cut in state benefits (i.e., other people’s money). Or is that the future the majority want? A society where government provides most of people’s needs, while micromanaging their lives?

  • Nullius in Verba

    “When a elderly black (!!!) pastor is arrested for reading aloud in public from the King James Bible, you have reached the bottom of the Pit of Hell.”

    Reading Deuteronomy chapter 13 is an excellent choice for making the point about Free Speech!

    You’re absolutely right that the potential for arrest for public speaking has been around in Britain for a long time. Here’s Wikipedia on the law of blasphemy:

    “The offence of blasphemy was originally part of canon law. In 1378, at the command of Pope Gregory XI, persecution of John Wycliffe and the Lollards was undertaken. However, the only punishment available to the bishops at the time was excommunication. The clergy, dissatisfied with this, forged an Act of parliament, without the assent of the Lords or Commons, enabling the arrest and imprisonment of heretics. In the following year an attempt was made by Parliament to repeal the Act, which prompted a series of prosecutions, and the repeal failed. Not satisfied with their new powers, further were sought and granted under King Henry IV in 1400. These new powers allowed the bishops to arrest and imprison all preachers of heresy, all schoolmasters infected with heresy, and all owners and writers of heretical books. On refusal to abjure (solemnly renounce) or relapse after abjuration, the heretic could be handed over to civil officers, to be taken to a high place before the people and there be burnt, so that their punishment might strike fear in the hearts and minds of others.”

    Blasphemy laws were only finally repealed in the UK in 2008.

    Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.

  • Flubber

    “Blasphemy laws were only finally repealed in the UK in 2008.”

    Really? Any criticism of Islam seems to lead to a police investigation for inciting racial hatred…

  • Nullius in Verba

    “Really? Any criticism of Islam seems to lead to a police investigation for inciting racial hatred…”

    Some. Not all.

    It’s true that laws against certain sorts of speech have not gone away. It’s not true that this is in any way a new phenomenon. All that’s happened is that the target of the repression has changed.

  • the other rob

    While in London, last year, a cab driver asked me “You’ve lived in America for a long time, haven’t you?”

    “A while”, I replied, “why do you ask?”

    “You’ve obviously got used to freedom of speech.” he explained. “We don’t have that here, you can get locked up for talking like that.”

  • Blasphemy laws were only finally repealed in the UK in 2008.

    While this is true in an extremely technical and petty sense, the reality is of a huge change. In my youth, the main problem of the ‘artist’ who got publicity with “piss Christ” was that he had to keep explaining to people that it was not a picture of Christ in amber (visually, one could not tell). An equivalent for the religion of peace today would present a degree of legal and actual danger unknown back then.

  • neonsnake

    Whilst I agree with most of what Toby Young wrote, I think he has made one critical error, when he says that the Daily Mail comments section would be affected, but not Mumsnet.

    The stuff that those mums say to each other on there constitutes every definition of “online harm” that I can possibly think of…

  • Nullius in Verba

    “An equivalent for the religion of peace today would present a degree of legal and actual danger unknown back then.”

    It depends how far back you want to go. If you go back to 1400, the legal and actual danger would probably have been greater. In the 1650s people could still be hanged for it. By the mid 1800s it seems to have dropped to imprisonment. The last imprisonment was in the 1920s. The Whitehouse-Lemon case in the 1970s only imposed a fine. And public attitudes since then had pretty much dropped it completely decades before the formal abolition of the law. It’s got so that even the ‘modern artists’ don’t bother any more, because everyone says ‘So what?’

    But we shouldn’t make the mistake of thinking that we were always like this, or that social norms restricting speech are anything new. The old norms died out in our own culture within living memory. The Muslims are about 50-100 years behind us, but mostly moving in the same direction. However, the system itself lives on, and people still feel the urge to ban and drive out speech they find ‘offensive’ or ‘dangerous’. They just find a different set of ideas and beliefs to be targets.

    Until people can recognise and condemn the censorious principle in the abstract, restrictions on free speech will continue. Authoritarians are always in favour of free speech for their own opinions, but they always start off: “But ‘free speech’ doesn’t include…” and then list all the opinions and beliefs they themselves want to ban and exclude. They can never seem to see that when others try to ban their opinions and beliefs, which they are totally outraged about, that it is the other side of the same coin. Everyone’s views are ‘offensive’ and ‘dangerous’ to somebody else. Once you accept the principle that any group’s beliefs can be suppressed, you are automatically implying that so can yours.

    So long as we only fight on the specifics and not the principle, so long as we only fight for the freedom to express our opinions and not opinions generally, this will continue to happen.

    So yes, it’s probably the case that the ‘iPlod’ will nowadays enforce what we consider to be left-wing orthodoxy, but they’re often enforcing it on opinions that simply want to do the same sort of thing to enforce right-wing orthodoxy. The example cited, of a preacher wanting to preach the KJV, was preaching the bits of the Bible that called for an exactly similar sort of suppression and persecution. The Old Testament does not express a libertarian creed! And until we can recognise this, and and articulate the underlying libertarian principle, those not of the same opinion will not perceive the merits of the case for free speech, but see only hypocrisy.

    Freedom of belief gives you the right to preach Deuteronomy 13, but Deuteronomy 13 is not a good argument for freedom of belief! And neither is reminding everyone of what the Church used to do to sodomites and blasphemers. I think when citing such examples as libertarians (rather than as conservatives), we should be clear about which bit of it we are supporting.

  • neonsnake

    “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    I believe that you’re saying the same thing, but I think both sides of that sentence are equally important.

  • Runcie Balspune

    The main complaint from the police against the recent protests in London is that it “diverts too much manpower”, this seems to be the common theme rather than actually upholding the law. Typically, if Party A is violent when criticized, and Party B intends to criticize Party A, then the police seem more concerned with avoiding the violence by shutting down Party B rather than addressing the threat of violence exhibited by Party A, therefore it now pays dividends to cause as much trouble as possible to get your way, hence the recent protests.

    Eventually the only way way is to form an opposite and equally violent group, so in the long run the police are not actually doing themselves any favors.

  • Fred Z

    quangocrats? quangaroos, surely.

    Bouncing bush rats that need exterminating.

    Perhaps they taste good. Broiled civil servant, mmmm. For a change it would be quangaroo grease running down a taxpayer’s jaw.

    Cannibalism you complain? Indeed you are right, the civil service bastards are eating us. Alive.

  • Flubber

    (Nope. Comment removed)

  • Rantingkraut

    Flubber: NiV’s posts are long. You may find them boring. I don’t think they’re crap and if you think so, what stops you from just skipping them? Given their length and author, they’re easy to identify without much reading.

  • Paul Marks

    Mr Toby Young makes a basic error – he (at least in this quote) concedes the principle of regulation and is just concerned by the sort of people likely to be in charge of the censorship (for that is what such internet regulation is – CENSORSHIP).

    The state has no right to take these powers – even if it then gives these censorship powers to good people. Indeed a good person would REFUSE these powers.

    Last point – Mrs Theresa May is behind this censorship scheme. Mrs May – a person whose entire political life and beliefs can be summed up in one word.