We want freedom, not freebies

UK political parties want to give us 'free' stuff while undermining our fundamental rights.

Inaya Folarin Iman

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The main UK political parties are competing with one another on how many ‘free’ (taxpayer-funded) things they will provide to the public if they win a majority in next month’s General Election. Free broadband, free university tuition, free childcare, and, no doubt, free cheese, too. Whether any of these ‘promises’ will actually be delivered remains to be seen. However, what is striking is the main parties’ deafening silence regarding freedom itself.

Over the past couple of decades, we’ve seen a significant erosion of our fundamental rights, including freedom of speech, freedom of conscience and freedom of expression. Yet few political parties seem to consider this erosion of freedom a problem. This is not surprising, as both main parties have long sought to drastically expand the scope and power of the state at the expense of individual liberty. In my opinion, a society that promises ‘freebies’ without defending our fundamental rights is one that has lost its way.

In recent years, it has become unfashionable to discuss civil liberties in the public domain. When the issue is raised, it is quickly met with concerns about terrorism and the threat of the far right. Yet there is no evidence to show that the curtailment of civil liberties, in and of itself, counters terrorism or militates against the rise of far-right extremism.

In fact, all the curtailment of our civil liberties achieves is the further erosion of the freedom of everyone. It does very little to tackle the root causes of threats and problems. In the case of neo-Nazis and Islamist extremists, for example, online censorship actually makes the problems worse. It pushes prejudiced views underground, where they persist and develop, unchallenged, in echo chambers. Censorship is the equivalent of a doctor attempting to treat the symptoms while leaving the underlying health condition unaddressed. Far-right and Islamist extremism are complex problems that require equally multifaceted solutions. Censorship has not meaningfully tackled either.

Take the police’s new crusade against hate crime. Never mind that ‘hate’ is a poorly defined and entirely subjective concept. What is more disturbing is how this crusade has been pursued. A whole host of people have been accused of committing a ‘hate crime’, such as the Christian preacher arrested for calling Islam an ‘aberration’, or the man investigated for retweeting a transgender limerick. These cases may be extreme, but they are also the logical result of giving the state the power to arrest people on the grounds that they have expressed hatred. Indeed, the Metropolitan Police’s £2million Online Hate Crime Hub has investigated 1,612 cases (and facilitated six convictions) in just two years.

We used to be told that ‘sticks and stones can break your bones, but words will never hurt you’. Now it seems words do hurt you. We are increasingly being told that disagreeable speech is akin to violence. This contention is absurd and dangerous. Offence is taken, not given. Freedom of speech is our most powerful tool for advocating for change and raising awareness of wrongdoing. We must end this baseless moral panic over hate speech and encourage resilience, passionate debate and the free exchange of ideas.

Both the Tories and Labour disagree with this, it seems. The Tory government’s Online Harms White Paper was published for consultation earlier this year. It wants to tackle ‘online content… that harms individual users…or threatens our way of life in the UK’. The definition of ‘harm’ is so vague and ambiguous that one can only imagine the chilling effect it would have if it actually becomes law. I consider state regulation of the online world to be a bigger threat to ‘our way of life’ than, er, Pornhub.

The government has made little secret of its intention to expand state powers. The Investigatory Powers Act (aka the Snoopers’ Charter) increased drastically the powers of the intelligence services. According to Liberty, ‘The Snoopers’ Charter allows the state to hack computers, phones and tablets on an industrial scale, and collect the content of people’s digital communications. It also allows the creation and linking of huge “bulk personal datasets”.’ Liberty added: ‘The government failed to provide evidence that this was “necessary to prevent or detect crime”.’ Article 19, a freedom-of-expression campaign group, concluded that the Snoopers’ Charter ‘offers a template for authoritarian regimes and seriously [undermines] the rights of its citizens to privacy and freedom of expression’. The Chinese Communist Party even pointed to the Snoopers’ Charter as a defence of its own surveillance tactics.

Labour is no better. Its proposal to introduce a ‘free’, state-controlled internet service will only bolster our existing Big Brother-style surveillance state. Labour has even announced that it plans to make misogyny a hate crime.

Defenders of proposals to increase the surveillance and regulation of our everyday lives will often say that if you have nothing to hide, then you have nothing to fear. But many good people do have something to hide, such as whistleblowers or people trying to discover what powerful institutions do not want them to know. More importantly, the UK government, especially under its Prevent counter-terrorism strategy, has wrongfully investigated numerous individuals on the basis of what they were reading online. People, that is, with nothing to hide but plenty to fear.

I am sympathetic to plans for the state to provide its citizens with basic necessities. But without promising to protect our fundamental rights, such ‘freebies’ threaten to be part and parcel of the broader assault on liberty.

Inaya Folarin Iman is the Brexit Party parliamentary candidate for Leeds North East.

Picture by: Getty.

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Comments

Coram Deo

19th November 2019 at 10:53 pm

“Wretched, indeed, is that country where low, sneaking informers are encouraged; – where the terrors of the law are directed more against holiness, and Scriptural religion, and freedom of thought than against vice and immorality; and where the seat of justice is used for the advancement of political purposes, or the gratification of petty ecclesiastical spite!” J C Ryle

Ven Oods

19th November 2019 at 1:39 pm

The author sounds far too sensible to be a politician, and has even disturbed Amelia from under his/her/its rock.

Eric Praline

19th November 2019 at 10:54 am

Not sure many people care about very much about civil liberties in the UK. They might do if it comes back to bite them.

In any case, no political party appears to be making a positive stand for liberty.

Amelia Cantor

19th November 2019 at 9:46 am

Your “freedom” to spew hate and attack the vulnerable is rapidly disappearing. Good.

Yes, read and weep, rightards!

California’s changing demographics will further doom Republicans

Democrats dominate politics in California and Republicans are doomed for one simple, overriding reason: shifting demographics.

https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2019-11-18/skelton-california-changing-demographics-republicans-democrats-elections

You’re doomed, rightards! And the Bullingdon Buffoon’s proposed amnesty for “illegal” immigrants (no human being is illegal, doh) would accelerate the same process here. So one has to wonder whether the BuBu is as rightard as he looks. There are more of us Woke folk around than you realize, rightards!

Ed Turnbull

19th November 2019 at 10:25 am

Oh dear Amelia, what’s happened? You’re nowhere near as funny as you used to be. For a fair old while you weren’t a bad parody account; not quite in the same league as Titania, but you had your moments.

But now the quality of your material’s taken a real nose dive (it’s been many moons since you’ve referred to ‘communities of colour’ or my personal fave ‘wombyn’): you’ve strayed beyond the vaguely plausible style that the *real* woke would demonstrate, and now you offer naught but unfunny screeching. In fact your comments put me in mind of one ‘Daniel Factor’ who used to haunt these hallowed halls a while back. And, given that’s the direction in which your material seems to be heading, I can’t help but wonder how long it’ll be before you start calling people ‘c*unts’.

Chin chin

Amelia Cantor

19th November 2019 at 10:47 am

Oh dear Amelia, what’s happened? You’re nowhere near as funny as you used to be.

I never try to be “funny”, Edbanger. I merely point out the truth. You rightards can’t face the truth, so have to pretend to yourselves that I’m a parody account.

For a fair old while you weren’t a bad parody account; not quite in the same league as Titania, but you had your moments.

Where’s the parody? I’ve pointed out the truth again. California was a solid Rightard state once. Now it has a permament progressive majority, thanks to the immigration that the Bullingdon Buffoon and this website are such fans of. So I say again:

You’re doomed, rightards!

Jerry Owen

19th November 2019 at 11:06 am

Ed Turnbull
‘Daniel Factor’ now there’s a blast from the past !

Ed Turnbull

20th November 2019 at 2:14 pm

Amelia, admit it: you’ve lost your edge. You’ve run out of good material (your use of ‘wombyn’ was utter genius and I use it all the time; my sincere thanks for that one), and this new angry act isn’t convincing anyone. And it’s just not funny. If you’d like some help developing new material I’m happy to lend a hand. Or you could just call it a day and leave the field to Titania. After all, she has the benefit of Andrew Doyle writing her script.

If I were you I’d give up trying to convince anyone round here that you’re real. Admittedly in the beginning a few did take the bait and react as if you were being serious, but everyone can now see ‘Amelia’ for the parody she is. Sorry, parody she *was* – you’re no longer funny. If you must persist in being ‘Amelia’ can I ask that you put more of the “vibrant muslims of colour” stuff in your posts. It, at least, is good for a titter.

Chin chin.

Draziwd Nim

19th November 2019 at 1:01 pm

And Amelia Cantor chooses as her beacon of left-wing triumph…the state of California?

A few sobering facts are perhaps in order.

California is now recognised as the ‘poverty capital’ of the country where one in five residents is poor (https://www.latimes.com/opinion/op-ed/la-oe-jackson-california-poverty-20180114-story.html).

California has the highest debt-to-income ratio of any state, some of the worst and fastest deteriorating roads in the country and, according to a study by U.S.News, the lowest rank in the entire United States for quality of life (https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasdelbeccaro/2018/04/19/the-top-four-reasons-california-is-unsustainable/#7f0dfb8f3a23)

And just for good measure, California also has the worst air pollution in the country (https://www.businessinsider.com/us-states-worst-air-pollution-california-2019-9?r=US&IR=T).

Way to go, Amelia! The one example you give of an emerging woke paradise just happens to be an eloquent illustration of what growing social, economic and environmental failure looks like.

Andrew Mawdsley

19th November 2019 at 4:14 pm

Yay, Titania’s back. Hello Amelia. Glad to hear that you haven’t been dragged to death under a horse drawn carriage. Still talking nonsense I see. What a relief to know that there are still people as useless / hilarious as you in society. Where would we be without your shrill hectoring nonsense? Presumably exactly where we are now but without the headache.

Lord Anubis

19th November 2019 at 5:17 pm

Well, at least you recognise that Demographic Ethnic Cleansing is a thing after all.

Where as most “Leftards” deny its existence, you actually celebrate it. 😉

As I said in a different article/thread. The US west of the Rockies is a very different place to the US to the east and I can certainly see a scenario where the two might well drift apart and become separate nations.

Whether or not the west coast states could survive on their own is a different matter however. Separated from the rest of the USA they might just eventually end up like Mexico (It could happen quite suddenly if the demographic changes actually trigger significant “White Flight” amongst the remaining white population ).

Jerry Owen

19th November 2019 at 8:51 am

I like the title of this article.
I remember a time before the internet, a time where we didn’t even have a tv or phone ( when we did it was shared ), this is the reason I still marvel at the internet, I still marvel at how i can do on my phone in a second that which as a child was impossible. In those days you either wrote to someone or you visited them.. not easy when you didn’t have a car either !
I appreciate what I have. Today’s generation have greatly amplified the word narcissism a once rarely used word, they ‘want it all’ and they ‘want it now’.
They would sell their soul for a newer phone or computer with an extra feature.
For me it’s about balance, i would not give up my privacy ( yes, I know a lot of it has gone ) or right to freedom of speech, for any bribe the state offered me, but many would. I would happily stick with my rather slow internet connection if it meant Corbyn couldn’t control the content of it ( and let’s be frank the tories would be no better ).
We are seeing a culture in decline, a spoilt culture , a culture that doesn’t understand personal freedom only the freedom to do and get everything here and now. I use YT a lot and i find myself chopping and changing what I watch as the choice and ease of changing from one topic to another is instant ( I try not to do so ). In a strange way we almost have too much stuff, to much choice, it breeds impatience for whatever can be had next. It breeds laziness, and laziness of thought.
Yes, we are being given stuff, so much stuff we’ll choke on it or rather we will be choked on it y the state. Its desired intention. Also of course relying on such technology leaves you powerless should the state decide ‘you are not compatible with current orthodoxy’.
Good luck in the election.
Personally as a huge supporter of Nigel, he should never have stood down candidates. He had a movement that challenged the big parties, one that scared them witless, now he has joined in with them. How do we break the old system if we join it and shore it up?

Eric Praline

19th November 2019 at 10:55 am

It’s all very well just blaming the young generation but where do they get it all from?

Jerry Owen

19th November 2019 at 11:08 am

Eric Praline.
The shops , online , paid for on credit mainly I would think.

Stephen J

19th November 2019 at 7:39 am

Yes, let us hope that the current malaise that the Brexit party is suffering from is curable.

Despite people having tons of ordure dropped from a great height at regular intervals by both red and blue, people keep voting for them, whilst forgetting that there is a solution, and it is organised by ordinary folk from all walks of life, who are interested in civics, rather than a lucrative income derived from political grift.

There is not much that CAN be done, I am afraid.

Philip Humphrey

19th November 2019 at 7:34 am

We desperately need something equivalent to U.S. first amendment, enshrining in law free speech, free press, freedom of religion from state interference, right of lawful assembly etc. Perhaps it could be part of a British bill of rights to replace the pretty useless Human Rights Act. Only direct incitement to violence should be an offence, it’s easy to define the latter legally whereas concepts such as “hate speech” can mean whatever the prosecutor or accuser wants them to mean.

H McLean

19th November 2019 at 2:08 am

Hate speech laws have absolutely nothing to do with protecting minorities or vulnerable people, they’re a political weapon used to silence and control people. Any discussion on the subject with its advocates reveals their blinkered willingness to embrace authoritarian ideology over principled reason and personal freedom.

That the Tories have literally rolled out the red carpet to usher in such rank betrayals of enlightened democratic principles is a disgrace, frankly. John Stuart Mill will be spinning in his grave.

This beige congruity of mainstream political parties has opened the public’s eyes to the illusion of democracy across the western world, and is directly responsible for the rise of populism and Trump-like politicians who happily flip-off the establishment and offer massive appeal to disenfranchised voters. And who can blame them.

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