Does Anybody Out There Still Believe in Liberty? 43

There is no doubt that New Labour gives not a fig for individual liberty, so the banning by the money-grabbing Jacqui Smith of Geert Wilders is run-of-the-mill – but it is still both wrong and dangerous, and has whipped up precisely the kind of frenzy about his Melanie Phillips like gibberings which Smith claimed to be trying to avoid.

It was equally wrong to ban Yusuf al-Qaradawi. I just heard the BBC World Service conduct some unusually good interviews with political figures, where those who opposed the banning of Wilders (eg Baroness Cox) supported the banning of al-Qaradwi, while those who opposed the banning of al-Qaradwi (eg Ken Livingstone) supported the banning of Wilders. Both sides argue, equally unconvincingly, that the man they dislike may incite to violence.

The BBC appeared unable to find any supporter of the principle of freedon of expression.

There was no reason to suppose that either Wilders or al-Qaradwi planned any unlawful activity in the UK, and had they done so they might properly have been arrested. But the gut instincts of New Labour are viciously authoritarian. Those of all views who value liberty should unite to resist them. The problem is, the number of people who really do believe in liberty for those with whom they disagree, appears to have grown exceedingly small.

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43 thoughts on “Does Anybody Out There Still Believe in Liberty?

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  • eddie

    I agree that free speech should come first but I seem to recall that the left once had a “no platform” policy for fascists and people like David Irving. On balance I think this is wrong and people with disgusting views should be challenged in debate as banning them gives them the “oxygen of publcity”. But both of these men are vile. The Wilders video is horrible, from what I have heard and Qaradawi is certainly not the cuddly figure portrayed by Livingstone as this video shows. It appeared on Al Jazeera and the translation has not been challenged.

  • MJ

    “The problem is, the number of people who really do believe in liberty for those with whom they disagree, appears to have grown exceedingly small”

    Yes. It’s almost as though we have developed a taste for intolerance and authoritarianism.

  • Tom Welsh

    “The BBC appeared unable to find any supporter of the principle of freedom of expression”.

    Perhaps because it doesn’t know of any, and doesn’t want to. After all, why would it cultivate people who hold a view so contrary to everything the BBC itself holds dear?

  • Ed

    I see it less as a freedom of expression issue, and more in terms of the even more pernicious concept of “preventative justice”.

    The Government is effectively claiming to know that person X will commit a crime in Great Britain. So in order to prevent this crime, person X is stopped at the border.

    It is not difficult to work out how dangerous this line of reasoning is.

  • Anas Taunton

    I would rather be obedient to a just ruler who was obedient to the commands and limits set by God, than have total freedom of speech under a government and system that never listens to anybody. Only after they have brought on themselves and on us yet another catastrophe by not listening to all this freedom of speech, do the ministers responsible repeat, ( as they said about Mad cow disease which cost this country billions ) : ” Nobody could have predicted this turn of ‘ events ‘. ” Nobody except a five year old child that is.

    Why did Mrs T. think paying the greedy bankers very large fortunes in order to look after our finances would ever work to our benefit? When I criticised this idiocy at the time , 25 years ago, I was told it wasn’t my job, I didn’t know anything about it, why didn’t I get on with my own work and leave others to theirs.

    A sound understanding of the ten commandments, Thou shalt not steal, for example, would seem now to be a better qualification or touchstone for good governance than reliance on ‘ The Market ‘ as a god. Do we still believe in The Market in modern financial circles ?

    Nu labour recently drafted a wonderful piece of criminal law legislation stating that: ‘ An act of adultery is not in itself an extraordinary event.’

    I presume that the word ‘ event ‘ is used here in the banking executive sense of total unpredictability in spite of the ensuing divorces and break-up of young families, teenager mental breakdowns, educational failure and heavy reliance on alcohol and drugs.

  • writeon

    I’ve always ended up being attacked from both the ‘left’ and the ‘right’ I suppose it was because I was deemed a libertarian anarchist. I wanted a ‘revolution’ to usher in an age of freedom, not totalitarian tyranny, and even more control than one had before. But this was probably a utopian attitude on my part.

    I believe freedom of speech is a central freedom which arguably is the basis of most of our other freedoms. I think people should be allowed to say pretty much what they like. A society which bans Wilders, radical Muslims, or Irving, or Nazis; isn’t a strong and healthy society, sure of it’s values and strong in its democratic freedoms, on the contrary, it’s a weak society, that’s afraid of shadows, and the pathetic ramblings of nutters.

    We are living in a society were traditional ‘bourgeoise’ democratic freedoms are being systematically undermined. Why is this?

    Put crudely, I think these freedoms were frosting, or a luxury, based on great wealth and economic success. Today we are moving out of one era; the era of complacent, lavish, consumer capitalism; into the era of the post-consumer society, where scarcity will once again rear it’s ugly head, and along with it even more economic inequality, social stratification, and polarisation. In a society like this, ideas, criticism, dissent, can no longer be tolerated and ignored. After the age of the ‘carrot’ we enter the age of the ‘stick.’

    So, as our economic, social, and political, space, becomes steadily narrower, the social space where we are allowed to express dissent will also be enclosed by the powerful.

    In a way, what’s happening, reminds me of the enclosure movement, when the commons were taken over and fenced in, today it’s our freedoms, and intellectual ‘commons’, that are being enclosed.

  • JimmyGiro

    From the results of the social experiments by Solomon Asch and Stanley Milgram, indicating the human propensity to conform and obey, I might ask the reciprocal question: How did liberty ever manage to evolve in the first place?

    I believe it was the innate cussedness of alpha-males that won these ‘rights’ against a history of totalitarian orthodoxies like the Roman empire and its bastard child the Catholic church.

    And before anybody mentions the Suffragettes, I would say they were fighting to get into the orthodoxy and not out of it. Indeed, the feminist element of Nu-Labour is responsible for the disasters in education and the family, because they are not able or willing to accept criticism of performance.

    Liberty is when you accept the right of the other guy to criticize you.

    Fascism is when the other guy must believe what your gang believes.

  • researcher

    “The freedom of speech argument is just plain wrong. By preventing this person from entering the UK we are not infringing any freedom of speech “right” – they are free to say what they like, but we don’t have to provide a platform for them to say it.”

    When i asked a question you did not like, you implicitly warned me i would get censored/banned if i asked it here again, Craig.

    “The problem is, the number of people who really do believe in liberty for those with whom they disagree, appears to have grown exceedingly small.”

  • George Dutton

    “But the gut instincts of New Labour are viciously authoritarian”

    Strange thing is that it is all being set up for the next government…A tory government,me thinks.Like so many things there is more to this then meets the eye.

  • anticant

    “Does anybody out there still believe in liberty?” Certainly not Chris Huhne of the Liberal Democrats, whose TV and radio performances today on the Wilders issue have been a disgrace from someone purporting to uphold liberal principles.

  • craig


    really? sorry, I genuinely have no idea what you are alluding too – could be impending senility on my part. Anyway, you plainly are not banned because here you are – and have been for ages, and are very welcome.

  • Strategist

    “the number of people who really do believe in liberty for those with whom they disagree, appears to have grown exceedingly small.”

    I have just watched the normally dire BBC Dimbleby Question Time and I thought Salma Yaqoob of the Respect Party did a really excellent job of reminding the panel and the audience of the old maxim – it was almost a cliche, till it went out of fashion – “I disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Happy to stand corrected but from what I saw with half an eye on the programme, was that Salma defended the principle of free speech (including the right of Muslims to demonstrate peacefully against those that attack them) against a panel consensus of shutting him out comprising the Labour Minister, a Tory MP and the loathsome Kelvin McKenzie.

  • john

    George & Dicky

    “MP’s are becoming just an expensive group of twats.”

    98% off MP’s have always been an expensive group of self-serving twats.”

    Please get your quantifiers right, it is a “bunch of twats” not a “group”.

    Who invited this Dutch person, or did he come of his own accord ? Some poltical activists deliberately invite provocative people in order to deplete the financial resources of the institutions which provide security. This really does raise the issue of “What price freedom of speech?”. All well and good, but the tax payer foots the bill.

    So if they said providing security for the person was too expensive would the argument be different ?

    By the way, I think anyone has the right to speak their mind, like a fart it is better out than in.

  • Neil Hoskins

    Freedom of religion has to include freedom to criticise religion in general or any one religion in particular. But when adherents to a particular religion believe they should kill you if you criticise them or their deity, things are going to get ugly.

    Nu Labour has repeatedly demonstrated its determination to grant certain privileges to those who believe in God. In the case of Wilders, this privilege took the form of ensuring Muslims’ feelings weren’t hurt. The fact that they freely admitted that the action was taken because Muslims might start burning stuff and blowing things up is a dangerous precedent: next time the Pope has a visit planned, I’m going to threaten to start burning stuff because of my hurt feelings, and then maybe I can get him banned.

  • Vronksy

    >>Please get your quantifiers right, it is a “bunch of twats” not a “group”.

    Can’t comment with any expertise on twats (sadly) but ‘group’ could be correct for MPs, just looking at the mathematical axioms for a bunch of things to be considered a group:

    There must be an identity element;

    The conjuction of any two elements of the group yields another member of the group (party politics runs in families);

    There is an inverse element (one party claims to be the antithesis of the other); and

    There is associativity (politicians associate almost exclusively with other politicians).

    Therefore they constitute a group, QED.

    Best collective prononoun is ‘wunch’ for bankers, surely?

  • Neil Hoskins

    BTW I’ve got a link to Fitna on my own blog. It’s actually worth watching, but disturbing. In case anybody hasn’t watched it and doesn’t want to, you should be aware that it consists entirely of verses from the koran, juxtaposed with newsreel footage of islamist violence. The controversy is (or should be) whether that juxtaposition is justified. Personally, I believe you could do a similar exercise with the Old Testament, but then again I can’t remember when believers in the Old Testament last flew airliners into tower blocks.

  • John K

    Anas Taunton said

    “I would rather be obedient to a just ruler who was obedient to the commands and limits set by God”

    We shouldn’t be “ruled” by ANYONE. But if any ruler claimed to be “obedient to the commands and limits set by God” he or she would be unfit to rule. Even if God existed, how would anyone know what his commands and limits were? It’s powerful religions (and politicians who subscribe to them) which claim to know what “God” wants that cause most of the problems in the world, today and thoughout history.

  • George Dutton

    “”We cannot have the police making decisions about what constitutes legitimate politics in this country.”

    Private ACPO running secret police unit.

    No democratic oversight. Not even for the appearence.

    Freemasons tentatively mentioned. In effect running UK police, serving hidden masters.”


    “Freemasons tentatively mentioned”

    Does anyone know…is Rupert Murdoch a freemason?.

  • Mr Ecks


    You have it the wrong way round, freedom is not made possible by mass wealth: mass wealth is made possible only by freedom. If freedom goes, mass poverty will shepherd its departure.

  • Anas Taunton

    Thank you Craig for agreeing 100% with the Qur’an in your thread Some good news… , that Jesus, peace be upon him, was not and could not in any way be God.

    As for Geert Wilders, Alexander Pope, 18C poet and blogger, wrote about his opponent: “Shadwell never deviates into sense.”

    F. King does not offend me by his disbelief in God because it appears to be an honest opinion. By contrast, I have the feeling from the things that have been going on in Holland recently that what Mr Wilders really means is that he doesn’t like the foreigners in his country and that does offend me.

    I don’t know if Salma Yaqub as well as being a Muslim agrees with the Marxism of the Respect website. That’s even more out of date than Capitalism which is right now lying in state in Westminster Abbey.

    Lying is the only thing that really makes me angry. I don’t know why. It’s so much easier to tell the truth.

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