I always thought it an amusing paradox that, in establishing a liberal democratic state following the horrors of Nazism, the founders of the German Federal Republic did so with a singularly illiberal and undemocratic act; namely that henceforth all Nazi symbols, the National Socialist Party itself, and any denial of the overwhelming facts supporting the Holocaust would be illegal.
Predictably, the hammer and sickle, the Communist Party and denial of the horrors taking place on the other side of the Iron Curtain remained legal, but that’s another argument (the Communist Party of Germany was banned in 1956 but this was because of ‘aggressive and combative methods’ – the German Communist Party swiftly replaced it and still exists today).
Still, at the least the Germans had the sense to be typically precise about what they were banning. Nobody can join the National Socialist Party and wave the Swastika in the street while shouting about how the Holocaust was a conspiracy by the West to discredit Hitler; but they can join the National Democratic Party, wave the old Kaiserflagge (which was the flag of Nazi Germany between 1933 and 1935, wink wink) and walk out of a minute’s silence for the Holocaust because people also died in Dresden during the war.
I worry that we can’t say the same about our present government. I’ve said this before but, while we at Conservatives for Liberty were extremely excited about the first majority Conservative Government in our political lifetimes – and there are many policies to be excited about – we were concerned about the Prime Minister and Home Secretary’s mutterings on confronting ‘extremism’ as a uniform term. That concern, sadly, has been horribly justified; neither of them appears to truly understand the concept of liberty or even the rule of law.
Worse still, they have the indecency to corrupt the language of liberty to peddle their authoritarian agenda, something we on the Right frequently are far more used to accusing socialists of. Garbage about freedom of speech as a ‘British value’ is interwoven with consciously vague calls for the persecution of law-abiding citizens who hold “extremist” views.
To quote the Prime Minister directly from his extremism speech delivered on Monday, this appears to include ideas he and Theresa May don’t much like, such as ‘that Jews exercise malevolent power; or that Western powers, in concert with Israel, are deliberately humiliating Muslims, because they aim to destroy Islam…that British security services knew about 7/7, but didn’t do anything about it because they wanted to provoke an anti-Muslim backlash.’
Here are some more unsettling excerpts from that speech;
‘This means confronting groups and organisations that may not advocate violence – but which do promote other parts of the extremist narrative.’
‘We are all British. We respect democracy and the rule of law. We believe in freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of worship, equal rights regardless of race, sex, sexuality or faith…These are British values.’
‘We need to put out of action the key extremist influencers who are careful to operate just inside the law, but who clearly detest British society and everything we stand for. These people aren’t just extremists. There are despicable far right groups too. And what links them all is their aim to groom young people and brainwash their minds.’
‘So as part of our Extremism Bill, we are going to introduce new narrowly targeted powers to enable us to deal with these facilitators and cult leaders, and stop them peddling their hatred.’
In line with his frighteningly totalitarian assertion that ‘For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone,’ the Prime Minister is planning to silence certain points of view even if they do not advocate or support violence, for no other reason that because he and the crazed crone he placed in the Home Office consider them ‘extremist’.
However, as pointed out earlier, this is being done explicitly under the pretence of defending the ‘British value’ of freedom of speech. Our Government has quite literally embraced the doublespeak of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four; like the idiosyncratic creed of ‘War is peace, freedom is slavery, ignorance is strength’, we are now destroying freedom of speech in its own name; eliminating something in order to preserve it.
The only people who win here are the terrorists the Government is claiming to fight. They wish to destroy our way of life – and we are gleefully doing their work for them.
This post is part of a series discussing liberty under the law. Read more: