NATIONAL LIBERALS will be aware of a new Facebook group known as Free Speech: How Do We Protect It? (1).
The purpose of the group is to promote, protect and preserve civil and religious liberties for all. It is interested in all aspects of freedom – however, it is especially interested in instances whereby elements of the State try to restrict freedom of speech, assembly and so on.
And as we noted at the end of September (2), the group have produced the first issue of its publication Free Speech. Indeed, as the NLP is a true liberal party (in that we support free speech and assembly for all) is helping to distribute this issue in pdf form. It can be obtained simply by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org and requesting a FREE pdf copy.
We’ve now come across the first review of Free Speech which appeared on the popular and well-respected Counter Culture site (3). This review has been reproduced below. We also understand that the long-running publication Fourth World Review – 4WR – will also be publishing a review in due course.
Civil & Religious Liberties For All
“IF LIBERTY means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
- George Orwell.
ISSUE 1 of Free Speech (FS) is a double-sided A4 pdf publication. I understand that those who’ve produced it – a new Facebook group called Free Speech: How Do We Protect It? – hope that it’ll appear in hard copy in due course. You can check out this Facebook group here: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1607711629485795/ There’s no indication how often FS will appear, but to my mind there’s so many attacks on various freedoms these days that it could become a daily publication!
Two things immediately struck me when I took a look at FS. First of all, its strapline declares that it supports Civil & Religious Liberties For All, something that I agree with wholeheartedly. Secondly, I was delighted to see that the lead article – Trigger Warning! – takes it cue from Mick Hume’s new book Trigger Warning: Is the Fear of Being Offensive Killing Free Speech? This is an excellent and thought-provoking book which I’m very slowly ploughing through myself. If you haven’t read it yet, check out this recent review on Counter Culture: http://countercultureuk.com/2015/07/26/trigger-warning/
This lead article is accompanied by some dramatic artwork featuring a gun which cleverly uses quote marks as a trigger. But more about Trigger Warning! later on.
Issue 1 of FS features a brief but very important ‘mission statement’ entitled Where We Stand. It’s worth reproducing in full:
“FREE SPEECH is a new group which aims to promote, protect and preserve civil and religious liberties for all. We are interested in all aspects of freedom. However, we are especially interested in instances whereby elements of the State try to restrict freedom of speech and assembly.
We believe that Britain should have a formal constitution and bill of rights, based on the concept of civil and religious liberties for all. We also feel that a civil rights’ watchdog should be established to protect people’s ability to make use of these fundamental rights.
We believe in absolute free speech – with very few exceptions to this rule e.g. inciting violence. Either we all have rights – or none of us have rights.”
I’m more than happy with this ‘mission statement’ as I’ve held a deep distrust of elements of the State for many years now. It also seems to echo the words of one of Britain’s most well-know Libertarians – and a man I really admire for his unwavering commitment towards total free speech – Dr. Sean Gabb. Here’s what he has to say about State interference:
“My own view—and I speak on this matter not only for me but also for the Libertarian Alliance—is that there should be no restrictions on freedom of speech where public affairs are concerned. This involves, among much else, the right to say anything at all about politics, religion, sex, science or history. It is no business of the State to tell people what they can and cannot think. Our bodies are our own. Our minds are our own. What we do with them is our business. It is one of the highest glories of the Enlightenment that states were shamed out of dragooning people into the various established worships of Europe. It is one of the most ominous signs of the modern counter-Enlightenment that people can again be persecuted for their opinions.”
With this in mind, let’s return to the lead article.
Trigger Warning! provides an overview of the various attacks on free speech. One would have thought that only views that deliberately broke the law (maybe by, say, advocating violence) would be monitored or subjected to some form of control. However, the targets for attack are widespread, ‘ordinary’ and don’t necessariyl encourage violence. For as FS notes:
“DO YOU use the internet? Are you a football supporter? Do you like comedy? Do you go to university? Are you interested in history? If so, your right to free speech – and assembly – could be under threat!”
FS notes that the main thrust of Hume’s book is “that freedom of speech is under threat, mainly because many of us don’t want to offend anyone. Indeed, politeness or fear of causing offence is undermining the hard-won rights of freedom of speech and thought that we like to think are the foundations of our society.”
Those who seem take offence at anything and everything are branded as illiberal liberals and ‘Reverse-Voltaires’. I like the phrase ‘New Totalitarians’ but it’s not used by FS or Hume. However, the descriptions of illiberal liberals and ‘Reverse-Voltaires’ as used Hume and FS are spot on:
“Illiberal ‘liberals’ don’t wish to debate or dispute arguments that they find offensive. They would deny the other person’s right to say it in the first instance. Reverse-Voltaires believe that their personal emotions and feelings come first. They want to be protected from words.”
According to FS, there are five main areas which appear to be targeted by illiberal liberals and Reverse-Voltaires: the internet, football, comedy, university and history. Examples are given for each area under attack – and, in doing so, both the beliefs and ‘justification’ provided by new totalitaians are shown up for the nonsense that they are.
To some degree, I can understand why elements of the Establishment would want to control – or at the very least, monitor – what’s thought and/or said on the internet and in university. In addition to this, I think that it could come in useful for the Establishment to have its own version or interpretation of history. Indeed, as Walter Benjamin noted, “History is written by the victors.”
I also think that the Establishment can also effectively use history for its own ends and to suit its own agenda. This is also the thrust of History Is A Weapon – http://historyisaweapon.com/ – which is a US-based “left counter-hegemonic education project.” It has the following to say about the subject:
“History isn’t what happened, but a story of what happened. And there are always different versions, different stories, about the same events. One version might revolve mainly around a specific set of facts while another version might minimize them or not include them at all.”
However, other areas which have been targeted by (and are under attack from) the illiberal liberals and ‘Reverse-Voltaires’ are surprising. Why attack football and comedy? I’ve two linked theories about this.
My first theory is that the illiberal liberals and ‘Reverse-Voltaires’ are engaged in a deliberate and well thought out ‘war of position.’ Here they’re working to a political agenda, and as any true liberal publication would assert, they’re:
“Politically Correct busy bodies who seem to want to dictate to everyone how they should think and act. Despite their self-proclaimed ‘liberalism’, in reality they’re dogmatic, undemocratic and totalitarian in nature.
Indeed, they would have given the combined forces of the Gestapo and KGB a run for their money!”
My other theory is that – whilst I’m not into ‘class’ – their actions (indeed, their ‘war of position’) could be part of some bizzare form of class warfare. The reason I say this is that the vast majority of football supporters in Britain are working class. The same could be said for those who attend comedy nights in pubs and clubs. But the illiberal liberals and ‘Reverse-Voltaires’ tend to be middle-class professionals.
“This elite tolerates those who agree with their values and views. But they spew real hate and venom when they disagree with others. It appears that they are more than happy to see the working-class working – as they’re helping to generate profits for others – but as soon as they let their hair down or try to organise politically, culturally or ethnically, they’re demonised.
The illiberal liberal elite simply don’t – or won’t – understand working-class style terrace chants and banter when it comes to race, ethnicity, nationality, religion and sexuality.”
I suppose only time will prove my theories right or wrong. In the meantime, and for what it’s worth, I’d highly recommend issue 1 of Free Speech. You can check it out in the Files section on the Free Speech Facebook site here https://www.facebook.com/groups/1607711629485795/
- Reviewed by John Field