February 24, 2006

Forget Voltaire! I will not defend your right to say it!

In fact, I'll fight for the right to gag you if I don't agree with your opinions. The lofty notion of defending to the death the right of someone to say something with which we disagree is officially dead through much of the Anglosphere. Today, the primary right that takes precedence over every other right, especially the right of free speech, is the right not to have hurt feelings.

Today, we got the news that London’s communist mayor, Ken Livingstone, has been suspended from his post for four weeks for causing offence to a journalist, who he accused of being a Nazi. When the journalist said he found this slur offensive, as he is Jewish, Livingstone, leaving an evening function and none too steady on his feet, then accused the reporter of being a guard in a concentration camp.

Now this is most unpleasant and – at the time it was said - was intended to cause offence. And it did. The reporter hied himself off in a huff and reported Livingstone and now a three-man adjudication panel has decided Red Ken was “unnecessarily insensitive and offensive” and suspended him from office. So now you know. No “unnecessary insensitivity” or you will be hauled up by the Manners Police. I thought I would gnaw my own leg off before I would ever have a sympathetic word to say regarding terrorist sympathizer Red Ken Livingstone, but this is garbage. Muslims don’t have a right to go on lunatic rampages when someone offends them, and newspaper reporters, Jewish or otherwise, need to toughen up their hides.

This thought control and speech control is getting out of control and needs to be clipped back. If Livingstone says offensive things about Jews, even while in his cups, the large number of Jewish voters in London will not vote him back in. This is how the world works. Not "three-man adjudication panels".

Posted by Verity at February 24, 2006 01:50 PM

I am not sure that really is the point about Hizonner, the Mayor. I wasn't going to cross-post from the OneLondon blog because I thought this was a truly parochial issue but here is the link if anyone is interested:


Posted by: Helen at February 24, 2006 02:07 PM

Helen - I don't see it as parochial. I see it as part of a dangerous trend, and that trend is being especially vigorously pursued in the American and British press. Not one big - or even medium-sized - newspaper in the US has published the cartoons. No British papers, needless to say, have published them, citing their dainty desire "not to offend" Muslims. Worse, they are congratulating themselves on their sensitivity.

Anyone not toeing the party line gets hauled up in front of re-education committees.

America is safer than Britain, in that they have the bastion of their Bill of Rights, but freedom of expression is being diminished across the world for fear of giving offence - especially to people who manufacture bombs. But even in the US, editors of student newspapers have been fired for running the cartoons.

This Livingstone incident is illustrative of the latest trend in the Anglosphere - the universal human right not to be offended.

Posted by: Verity at February 24, 2006 02:22 PM

Well said Verity. The only people that should be able to remove Livingstone from office are the voters. Livingstone may now resign and the voters will not get the chance to express their views because of the actions of the Standards Board of England, who, BTW, are just another quango in a land now ruled by quangocracy.

There is a certain poetic justice to all this. Livingstone is the man that a statue of Nelson Mandela on the fourth plinth in Trafalgar Square; he has devoted a lot of time fighting racism, including tarring anyone that objects to immigration and multiculturalism as a racist. Strung up by his own petard.

I spent years trying to get him to celebrate St George's Day in London always to be brushed off with one excuse or another - it attracts the far-right / isn't traditional - whilst he went out of his way to have celebrations of black/Muslim/Sikh/Irish/Asian/[insert minority here] culture. The Daily Ablution has a good post on Ken's minority supporting credentials.

I don't know if Ken's support of the Palestinian underdogs, and hatred of 'neocons', has brought out an anti-Jewish streak in him. Even if it has it's no business of the Standards Commission.

Posted by: Toque at February 24, 2006 03:27 PM

Well, I think it's parochial and I work in the wretched place. (In the Assembly not Hizonner's office.) There are bigger things out there and weeping over dear old Ken and his right to free speech is not part of my life plan. On the other hand, it is interesting to see all these people squirm for one reason or another.

You can celebrate St George's Day if you want to but a parade would not attract all that many people I suspect. The English, unlike the Irish, do not like parading. David Carr of Samizdata has a party every year and advertises it on various blogs and e-mail lists.

Incidentally, Ken was elected by a tiny proportion of London's population, gaining lots of second votes - terrible system - and has turned the mayoralty into an elected dictatorship, setting up lots of quangos himself with highly paid mates of his in charge. So, I think, there is a poetic justice here. And that's my last word on the man. Who really cares?

Posted by: Helen at February 24, 2006 03:49 PM

Yes, Toque. I believe the voters, as is their traditional right, can take care of Ken Livingstone without the assistance of a quango.

One further worry is, the action of this officious quango has, to an extent, diminished the offence in that he has now been "punished" for it. At the end of the month, it'll be, "Ken's paid his dues. Let's move on." So they intentionally took it out of the hands of the voters. The left is very sly.

Posted by: Verity at February 24, 2006 03:52 PM

May I point out the similarity with Teddy (I can swim and she can't!) Kennedy, when he drove his car off the bridge in Chappaquidick and left his pregnant girlfriend gasping for air in a little airpocket she'd found.

Teddy swam back and went to bed to sleep it off. Mary Jo Kopechne drowned. Big OOPS! from the Kennedy pr machine. Think, think, think! Okay! How about this! Teddy broke his neck in the crash (which wasn't his fault because the bridge was in the wrong place)and was lucky enough to be able to open a door and float out ...?

Yeah, that'll fly! ... uh, float!

Next day, Mary Jo Kopechne is long dead and a very serious and responsible-looking "fellow victim" (he didn't cause the crash because, see? he got hurt!), Teddy, goes to the police in a neckbrace.

It's all part of the lefty deflecting responsibility by putting on a little show and then saying, "OK, show's over! Now we have to MOVE ON and address issues!"

The neckbrace and the Livingston knuckle-rap by the quango are identical. Deflectors and decompression agents for the naive.

Posted by: Verity at February 24, 2006 06:52 PM

As always, the fascists begin to turn on their own.

Posted by: Matt Shultz at February 25, 2006 07:56 AM

Who said anything about a parade?

Posted by: Toque at February 25, 2006 12:31 PM

Hi all:
Silly question: is the erosion of free speech in England (and other areas of the Anglopshere) due to the earnest (sometimes sanctiminious) moralistic do gooderism that appears to afflict the Anglophones peridoically? I've always found it peculiar that a people who pride themseleves on their lack of a language academy enforcing a standardized language obessess about labels. Maybe it's the Anglospheric compensaatiopn ;) Seriously, I've always been mystified

Posted by: xavier at February 25, 2006 08:20 PM


It's the Puritan heritage: the importance of a personal demonstration of virtue instead of any consideration of actual effects, or effectiveness. Correct speech and avoidance of proscribed language is one way of demonstrating virtue

Posted by: Jim Bennett at February 25, 2006 09:27 PM

Better to go to the courts and sue his cocks off for libel and slander. You get to shut him up and hopefully some money at the same time.

The same goes for David Irving.


Posted by: The Wobbly Guy at February 26, 2006 12:44 AM

The quickest way to get this stuff eliminated is for conservatives to start using it as aggressively as possible against liberals. Every little thing they say from now on should get our goat, and we should demand the punishment and silencing of the liberal who said it. Anti-Christian comments, anti-American, anti-Red State, whatever - send swarms of lawyers to prosecute any liberal loudmouth. We should work to get liberalism itself declared hate speech, since after all they desire the end of the bourgeoisie as a class.

Use it on them and they'll abandon it. (It'd be fun too.)

Posted by: Brian at February 26, 2006 08:44 AM

Wow, that is an evil plan.

Worse(or better) yet, I can see it working.


Posted by: The Wobbly Guy at February 26, 2006 10:57 AM

I rather like it, too. And yes, if cleverly prosecuted, it could work.

Posted by: Verity at February 26, 2006 11:34 AM

Hmm Puritanism. OK can you elaborate about the tension between Anglopsheric Puritanism vs restorationalism (for the lack of a better word when the English relaxed a bit when Charles II took to the throne)?
I think that would be helpful.


Posted by: xavier at February 26, 2006 04:22 PM


"OK can you elaborate about the tension between Anglopsheric Puritanism vs restorationalism..."

The American Civil War was an episode. It was only resolved in the 60's, and it's arguable that the current Dixiecrat > Republican ascendancy with its Southern base is yet another episode.

Posted by: Jim at February 27, 2006 03:14 PM


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