Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Defending peoples rights is never comfortable

(or Thought Crime and Shouting Down in the name of Free Speech)

Defending peoples rights is never comfortable - because they most need defending when they are most under attack. If you see to defend someones rights their attackers will mindlessly aim for you too.

Marxists and other totalitarians typically like to supress opposing views by shouting them down claiming that their right to shout vacously over someone is 'free speech' while their drowmed out victim seems to have no such right.

It is, of course, just a ploy. The objective is simply to prevent alternative views being spread and to that ends any means is considered justified. In support of the action bogus, spurious arguments will be deployed, and any quesitoning of them will get the same 'shouted down' treatment.

What makes the whole question even more bogus is that the principal of 'free speech' refers to the right to hold and express your own view, it is not specifically about that act of talking (or even tweeting).

Those against free speech (or limits on it) often use the example of 'does free speech extend to somone standing up in a packed cinema and shouting "fire!" ?'. This entirely misses the point that shouting "fire" with the intention of causing panic is neither holding a view nor expressing it, so the example is entirely irrelevant.

A better way to think about free speech is to consider the counter point 'thought crime'. Making a criminal offence of even thinking in a way that others object to.

- Does it make sense for it to be a criminal offence purely for having particular thoughts or beliefs?
- Does it make sense for it to be a criminal offence to discuss those thoughts or beliefs?
- Does it make sense for these to be criminal offences even if they are not acted on?

If the answer to any of the above is yes, then this leads on the the further questions:

- Who is to decide which thoughts/beliefs are to be made lleglal?
- How is one to judge whether a particular individual does indeed hold lleglal thoughts/beliefs?

I beleive that the principal of 'thought crime' is a fundamental attack on our humanity - with out free thought we are nothing. However, if anyone wants to disagree then they need to answer the questions above, and explain how abuse of the principals set out will be avoided (if they can).

Unfortunaely this ploy has, in practice, proved quite successful and has spread to other groups in various forms. Recently a number of mainstream parties have supported 'denying a platform' to views they do not like.

As a libertarian and democrat, I support the public freely expressing their views at the ballot box, but they can only do this effectively if they are properly informed about the options open to them - without information their choice is not informed and cannot be free.

So, for instance, while I may object strongly to a party because of its views in all kinds of fundamental areas, I would still support the right of the party and its members to hold their own views.

If a party's views are silenced through any means other than humiliation at the ballot box, then it will be a case of "First they came for" And we must look to who will be next, and next, and next - somewhere you will almost certainly be on that list.

Mankind thrives thought change and new ideas these things drive progress and development sometimes because the ideas are good but also when the ideas are bad and new counter-arguments have to be deployed against them - none of this can occur in a totalitarian state that silences those who *it* considers disenters. Shouting down opposing views is a good way down the slope to that totalitarian state, and those shouters would do well to consider their part in it.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

The biggest threat to public information and political accountabiliy EVER.

Don't be put off this is not yet more on expenses!

1) Goto your favourite search engine search for "Cameron Expenses"
2) Goto your favourite search enging search for "Brown Expenses"

Now go through each set of results and cross off any that come from a commercial media/news organisation, and any that are blogs repeating the content from commercial media/news organisations.

Look at what you have left - if anything.

This is what the internet searches in the UK will look like to the common man for all news based searches in a few years time if we don't take back control of our own laws and call our politicians to account. It will be an internet void of the information the public need to hold politicians to account. This is an internet that will suit our professional political class down to the ground.

It has taken a decade, but the Freedom of Information act has started paying serious dividends to the public. MPs abuse of expenses was a complete disgrace. But the public being able to find out that it was happening and so stop it is a landmark in British history that should be remembered as well as the Gunpowder Plot (for different reasons, but remembered just as well).

Now the professional political class, starting from the EU and then leaching into the UK via their oily middle man Peter Mandelson with his nasty 'Digital Economy Bill' is setting the scene to destroy the greatest revolution in public access to information that the world has ever seen.

If a new bill for the internet is needed, its central focus should not be how to maximise the expense to the public in favour of big business (as the digital economy bill does). It should be focusing on empowering the people, giving them maximun access to information, and from that standpoint consider how viable, sustainable businesses may operate to serve that ends.

What is the specific threat I mention in the title? It is the decision to charge for online access to the Times newspapers.

They are not nasty or evil for doing this, they are being rational within our current laws.

It is not wrong for anyone to seek reward for labour - that is the very core of what holds our society together - we need workers, customers, suppliers and employers we need others to get the best for all of us. However a model that requiers every member of the public to spend a pound a day per newspaper to have access to information (current and historic) to hold their politicians to account is clearly not in the public interest.

This situation has to be addressed, the people of the UK cannot be hobbled by the lumberous EU and its obscure and awkward rules and processes - we don't need to solve the problem for the whole of Europe, we only need to solve it for the UK and we can do that best, and fastest outside the EU. If the EU want to copy us later, that is fine.

However I suspect that the EU is very, very happy with the way things are going as it drags us back from our new found Freedom of Information dawn into the darkness that is european style politics of secrecy and privacy for those in power.

The UK has often been a world leader and must be again - not in bogus new age technologies that noone actually needs, but in politics - where our mother of parliaments must lead the way again.