Sunday, 21 July 2024

From The Liberty Wall – Free Speech: How Do We Protect It? – The Historical Importance Of Magna Carta Day
THURSDAY 15th June marked the 802nd Anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta. As National Liberals will know, its signing – by King John and his Barons – represented the first time a Monarch accepted that he/she had responsibilities and their ‘subjects’ had rights.

We feel that the signing of the Magna Carta was the first step in establishing the right to free of speech and assembly. These rights were further strengthened during the reign of King William III (who, along with his wife Mary, were crowned joint monarchs of England, Scotland and Ireland in 1689) which ensured ‘Civil and Religious Liberties for all.’

To mark Magna Carta Day our friends at Free Speech: How Do We Protect It? – – produced an e-poster and article, which we reproduce below. They asked their supporters to viral it out via social media to remind everyone of the historic importance of the day and to wish everyone a Happy Magna Carta Day.

The following article – supplied by Free Speech: How Do We Protect It? – examines why the issue of freedom should remain central to any political agenda.


The Historical Importance Of Magna Carta Day

FREEDOM LOVERS recently took time out to celebrate Magna Carta Day. However, immediately afterwards we resolved to re-double our efforts to defend free speech, especially – but not exclusively – from establishment attacks.

Why? Because we feel that the establishment will use the rise of Islamist terrorism in Britain as an excuse to clamp down both on freedom of speech and assembly. During the recent election campaign Theresa May made plenty of noise about the need to curb ‘extremism’ as well as combating terrorism. Free Speech realises that much of this noise, to some degree or other, would have been sound bites, designed to appeal to reactionary Tory ‘right’ supporters – basically, the ‘flog ‘em and hang ‘em brigade.’

However, freedom lovers should be wary of Theresa May’s approach for several reasons.

Firstly, at the moment Theresa May is down – but she’s not out. And that makes her a very dangerous woman indeed. Election promises aside, she does have a reasonably long-term record of wanting to clamp down of Human Rights legislation. And when it comes to freedom of speech and assembly she is more ‘hawkish’ than many of her fellow Tories.

Secondly, her ‘government of certainty’ with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) may wish to lay down a marker when it comes to Islamist terrorism. It’s probably fair to describe the DUP as a socially conservative political party that is totally opposed to any terrorist group which threatens the United Kingdom. This is hardly surprising given Ulster’s recent past. With this in mind, we’re concerned that it wouldn’t be difficult to persuade the DUP to clamp down on ‘extremism’ in the name of fighting Islamist terrorism.

Free Speech feels that it would be sheer hypocrisy and political opportunism for the establishment to use the terrible events of Manchester and London to justify clamping down on freedom of speech. Our position is simple: either we all have rights or none of us have rights.

(As an aside, are we alone in wondering if the Manchester suicide bomber and London Bridge terrorists are, to some degree or another, mere pawns in a wider geopolitical ‘war of position’?)

Thirdly, May – and others on the reactionary right – talk a lot about ‘extremism’ but never seem to provide a legally binding definition of ‘extremism.’ What exactly is ‘extremism’ – indeed, how would you define it? We’re worried that its definition could be left so vague that it could potentially include those opposed to capitalism right through to those who would go out and kill people in the name of Allah.

With all of this in mind, we feel that it’s essential that we stand up for the right of free speech and assembly – as well as the concept of Civil and Religious liberties for all. Free Speech appreciates that, on a personal level, it may become very uncomfortable to make a principled stand on this issue. No doubt, some elements of the establishment mainstream media will twist our position and produce fake news stories claiming that we support terrorism!

However, if freedom lovers don’t make a principled stand, who will? We should not abandon our ancient rights (effectively granted by the signing of the Magna Carta at Runnymede in 1215) and merely surrender to political expediency, media pressure, the need to be ‘popular’ or simply go with the herd.

Remember, the establishment is smart and will use any excuse as an opportunity to ban groups and organisations. Any legislation designed to silence ‘extremists’ will simply be the thin end of the wedge. In the past the establishment has picked on ‘unpopular’ groups – in the recent past it was the British National Party or Religious (but non-violent) fundamentalists – and demonised them. If the ‘unpopular’ group is not banned outright, the establishment will try to make it near nigh impossible for it to organise. It will be subject to numerous restrictions and smear jobs. ‘Counter gangs’ could also be used to fight it on the streets.

To reiterate, when making any informed decision subjects relating to freedom, we must always examine the cold hard facts, figures and evidence. In addition, we should not let our emotions get the better of us. As we noted earlier, we should not abandon our ancient rights and merely surrender to ‘political expediency, media pressure, the need to be ‘popular’ or simply go with the herd.’

As a pressure group, Free Speech is not interested in being ‘popular’ – we’re only interested in being right. And it is right and proper to both support free speech and assembly and the concept of Civil and Religious liberties for all.

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