Civil Liberty


My mum was an anti-racist activist in the 70s and 80s. She fought the National Front in Newham, Wood Green and New Cross; she helped organise marches after the murder of Altab Ali in Whitechapel; she participated in neighbourhood police-monitoring groups, at a time when the Metropolitan police faced intense criticism from black and Asian community groups for its failure to adequately investigate racist murders, its protection of the NF from counter-protesters, and inflammatory “swamp” style policing. I grew up listening to her stories with the sense of awe you might feel when hearing about the labours of Hercules: these feats are impressive, but ultimately consigned to the past. Skinheads, swastikas, Paki-bashers – such monsters had long been laid to rest. The past felt so distant, it may as well have been myth.


its protection of the NF from counter-protesters

The police should not protect people going about their lawful business from the attentions of the mob?

This isn’t modern slavery

Traditional Turkish barber shops are using slave labour, the police officer behind the UK’s first child modern slavery prosecution has warned.

Detective inspector Charlotte Tucker said, “There are barber shops setting up now where people live above the shop and customers pay in cash. Owners are looking to exploit workers and make money.”

Capitalists profiting from the surplus value of labour just isn’t modern slavery.

Deeply unconvincing argument

The language of “free speech” and “censorship” is old, but the fervour of this panic is new. Of course, this could be entirely due to a sudden rise of censorious behaviour. But this explanation is hard to credit for one obvious reason: the current wave of “free speech” advocacy has coincided directly with the rise of social media, amateur publishing and the “citizen journalism” that is now possible at virtually zero cost. The proliferation of platforms that grant anyone a public voice should, in principle, have put concerns about censorship to rest. After all, even very bad writers with offensive opinions can now see their words published – or broadcast their voices via YouTube and podcasting. By any measure, speech is less regulated or inhibited than ever before. This has spawned some ugly argumentative tactics, including the hostile mobilisation of online supporters against opponents, which have made public debate angrier and less inviting to many. But, as unattractive as this is, it is not censorship. The claim that free speech is under attack is often a mask for other political frustrations and fears.

The complaint isn’t about censorship, it’s about the censoriousness. Say something the mob don’t like and watch as the pitchforks wave to silence that view. Sure, that is rather what free speech is meant to be about, we all get to say and suffer the consequences. But the real complaint is about eh smug self-satisfaction pf those doing the shouting……

So, abusive monk


He would like the privately owned island to be taken from the monks and handed over to a conservation body. “The island and the monastery should be given to the National Trust so visitors can appreciate the natural beauty of the island without the spectre of child abuse.”

We should steal an entire island therefore?

No, I don’t see it really

Theresa May has warned that giving suspects anonymity will hamper police investigations after Sir Cliff Richard won a landmark High Court privacy battle against the BBC.

The Prime Minister said that publishing the name of a suspect “enables other potential victims to come forward” in some cases and therefore “strengthens the case against an individual”.

I do understand the argument. Just as I also understand the one where anonymous accusers, who stay anonymous for life – in the absence of conviction for false accusations – might be tempted to accuse out of malice and thereby cause problems for those publicly named.

Given human nature I regard the second as the greater risk of the two.

Where accuser gains privacy protection, so should accused.

Quite so, quite so

Supporters of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) should not necessarily be criminalised, because it impinges free speech, a joint parliamentary Committee says.

A report released today will say that the bill “may criminalise curious minds and expressions of belief which do not carry any consequent harm or intent to cause harm.”

The Joint Committee on Human Rights says it has “serious concerns” with the new powers the government is proposing in the Counter Terrorism and Border Security Bill currently going through parliament.

The Committee, chaired by Harriet Harman MP and made up of MPs and Peers, is concerned that some of the new powers are too vaguely defined and do not have sufficient safeguards to protect human rights.

Yes, yes, of course it’s Harry Harbird. But think on a little. We think that a government is going to pass a law that imposes he correctly strict punishments for actions and yet leave that speech as gloriously free as it should be, do we?

Sure they do

The church brutalised Ireland. People have a right to protest against the pope’s visit
Emer O’Toole

You’ve a right to say anything and protest anything you wish.

And also to accept what people think of you, consider you to be, as you do. Get on with it and accept whatever consequences there may be.

Well, yes, didn’t we say this?

First they came for the hoodlums. Now they’re after you
Zoe Williams

Asbos were once used to clamp down on unruly teenagers. Now they are being used in petty disputes between neighbours

I’m sure we did you know. Allow the State power and it will, in the end, be used against you. It’s rather the liberal argument against the entire Guardian project, isn’t it?

Erm, why?

The BBC has more than 400 transgender staff, a confidential internal survey has revealed.

The figure represents more than one in 50 of the workforce – about four times higher than the proportion in the population at large.

And it stunned the BBC executive behind the research, who described the total number of trans employees, at 417, as ‘very, very high’.

Tunde Ogungbesan, the BBC’s director of diversity, has now launched a major reform to make the Corporation more ‘trans-friendly’ following the findings.

The facts – OK. But the action, why?

Having a portion of something 4 times that in the general population would seem to indicate already being pretty friendly to that something, no?

Can’t you just smell the subsidy coming here?

The rise of so-called “fake news” means it is “vital” that high-quality journalism is supported, the Culture Secretary has said as he launched the latest stage of an inquiry into press sustainability.

Matt Hancock said a “fearless and independent press” is one of the foundation stones of democracy, but has been undermined by “dramatic technological changes”.

New research shows revenues from circulation and print advertising have fallen from £7 billion to just over £3 billion over the last decade as Facebook, Google and other websites have swallowed up an ever greater share of advertising spend.

At the same time, a Government review has highlighted “the role and impact of digital search engines…

They’re going to try and tax that digital side to support that legacy media. You can just taste the thought, can’t you?

All British media in a BBC style financial straightjacket.

Media plurality my arse.

Normally I’d be against mob rule

But since the Two Minute Hate is aimed at Trumpistas I’m just fine with it. Emmanuel Goldstein would be beyond the pale, but a Press Spokesman?

Donald Trump’s enforcers have lost the right to civil courtesy
Gary Younge

Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ ejection from the Red Hen restaurant might ordinarily be dubious. But these are no ordinary times

Recall, these are the people who insist it should be illegal to stand outside an abortion clinic and ask those entering whether they really, really, want to kill their own child.

One can have any view you like either way but both seem a bit odd.

Isn’t this fun?

Arron Banks, who funded Nigel Farage’s Leave.EU campaign, talked about using private investigators to dig up dirt on journalists looking into his business activities, evidence seen by the Observer suggests.

Last week, the Observer published evidence that suggested Leave.EU co-ordinated its social media messaging with the Kremlin, including re-tweeting attacks against journalists and MPs by the Russian embassy.

But shocking new evidence includes emails from the same period in which Banks and Andy Wigmore, Leave.EU’s press spokesman and Banks’s business partner, appear to discuss hunting for “personal stuff” to use against Ian Katz, who was editor of the BBC’s Newsnight at the time.

Investigative journalist, using stolen emails to write her story, complains that journalists might be investigated.

Geese, meet ganders.

The important thing about Facebook

It doesn’t actually sell data:

“If the goal of Cambridge Analtyica was to show personalized advertisements on Facebook, then what they did was stupid,” Kogan said, arguing that it is much more effective for any advertiser to use Facebook’s own advertising targeting tools.

They allow you to explore data so as to direct advertising programs. Entirely not the same thing at all.

No, really, there’s a difference between “Here’s some data for $” and “Here’s the tools which enable you to target ads, that’ll be $ for the ads please”

So, along with freedom comes calls for censorship

Amazon criticised for selling films promoting conspiracy theories on Prime

OK, Prime video has some nutters on it.

But as concern over online misinformation mounts The Sunday Telegraph can reveal it is also propagating the bizarre fantasies of Alex Jones and David Icke.

Mr Jones is a leading figure in the so-called US alt-right, known for his paranoid anti-government rants online.

OK. And here’s the kicker:

Amazon’s dissemination of conspiracy theories as part of a service challenging traditional television is likely to stoke debate over regulation.

The BBC and Channel 4 are demanding rule to ensure their programmes – which are produced under strict rules of accuracy – are guaranteed prominence as a shift to on-demand viewing via apps instead of channel menus accelerates.

On-demand-only programming is currently subject to much more relaxed regulation, although the Government has signalled a crackdown is in the works. Amazon did not respond to requests for comment.

They do indeed want to censor.

And they can go boil their heads, too.

About Tommy Robinson

From the comments:

Tim–why don’t you put your article about Tommy Robinson up on here?

It is not to your credit that you are with the likes of Seaman Staines, Ole Holebone and others buying the state’s COCrot.

OK, so here’s how I read it right now.

Tommy Robinson has been an idiot and broken a law he had been warned about, indeed convicted of breaching before.

Contempt of court is a serious crime. As it should be. As is potentially prejudicing a trial that’s underway.

Why is it a serious crime? Because everyone does deserve a fair trail. And the worse the crime, the more the possible criminal is someone we don’t, or might not, like then the more essential is the fairness of that trial.

Tommy’s in jail because he was being an idiot tosspot. Nowt else.

Well, yes, sorta, maybe

The “right to keep and bear arms” was included as the second amendment to the US constitution in 1791 (Report, 17 February). Surely it would be logical to restrict that right to the types of guns available at the time: muskets and flintlock pistols? Semi-automatic guns have no place in private hands.
Elaine Yeo
Enfield, Middlesex

The logical restriction would be to what you can make at home. On the very simple grounds that you’ll never really be able to regulate that anyway.

It’s amazing what you can make with a hobby CNC machine these days. There’s even that high school student who made a nuclear bomb (sans payload, to be sure).

There’s sharing information and then there’s sharing information

Ken Livingstone, John McDonnell and Jeremy Corbyn were part of a group of at least 15 senior Labour figures who shared information with Eastern bloc agents, it is claimed.

Jan Sarkocy, a former Czechoslovak spy, described the MPs as “great sources” to himself or his colleagues in the KGB.

The new claims come after he said on Friday that the Labour leader had shared information with the Communist Czechoslovak regime.

My own opinion – based upon no evidence other than just this is what I think they would have done – is that they were over the line. That line between “Here’s a newspaper article” and into “I desire that the system be smashed, here’s some good info.”

But it does depend upon where you draw the line. A generous drawing of it, a too generous one, would have me myself as an agent of the Americans, Brits, Russians and N Koreans all at the same time. That there were some really taking Moscow Gold is known fact. That all were not so. Most I would think would fall under the Tony Benn exception. Regarded by the Soviets as too dippy to be reliable.

Lie detectors don’t work

Lie detectors have been used to send 160 sex offenders back to prison, Ministry of Justice figures have revealed.

Probation officers have sent paedophiles and convicted sex offenders back behind bars after flagging up concerns about their behaviour or the answers they gave to the polygraph tests.

The Ministry of Justice (MoJ) started using lie detectors on convicted sex offenders in August 2014 and around 50 people are tested on the machines every month.

Officials have the power to send sex offenders back to prison if the results of the cross examination on the lie detectors trigger concerns for public safety.

Bit of a problem that, isn’t it?

Psychologically they can:

“The machine says you’re lying”

“Yes, sob, sob”

But other than that they don’t. Not the basis upon which we should be jugging people.

Seems entirely reasonable

Almost two thirds of Muslim women who marry in the UK are not legally wed because their Sharia ceremonies are not registered in law. The percentage is rising, with estimates suggesting there are as many as 100,000 people in unregistered marriages among the 2.7 million Muslims in the UK.

Civil registration — as with all other marriages in Britain — would provide couples, particularly women, with the protections and rights of family laws, ensuring that they face fewer “discriminatory practices,” a recent report commissioned by the government has concluded.

All marriages in England (at least) which are legal marriages are civil registered. Sure, often enough it’s the priest, vicar or rabbi doing the paperwork but that’s what is happening.

So, why not?

Note that this isn’t to try and have special rules for Muslims. This is to afford them the same rules as everyone else.