JuliaM posted a somewhat controversial article here on Sunday. I have to say, given the theme of the site, it was rather a case of stepping into the lion’s den and I expect that she was fully expecting some flack. I do hope she wasn’t disappointed.
I slept through the Royal Wedding which seemed to me to be the best use of my time – having worked the previous night. Had I been awake, I’d have found myself something to do that avoided any exposure to it. I have no interest in the House of Windsor or their activities. They are a matter of supreme indifference to me. Others camped out several days in advance to get a glimpse of nothing much. That’s their prerogative in a free society – what freedoms we still have, that is.
Which brings me to the issue raised in Julia’s post; that of the police preemptively rounding up potential troublemakers. And it is here that we diverge dramatically. The word – the key word – here is “potential”. I believe some folk wanted to carry out mock executions. Now, I suspect that the police have a point here in that there was a real likelihood of public disorder, so preventing that might have some validity. Personally, I tend to place it in the same category as flag burning and given the general feeling of the majority of people in London on Friday, making fools of themselves is something of an understatement. I do appreciate that in this instance, the Fuzz had to make an assessment, so, okay, no mock executions, I can live with.
However, demonstration is a basic liberty. If the Muslim Brotherhood against King Richard – or whatever they are calling themselves today – want to have a peaceful protest, then fine. If the Marxists against the nobility want to have a protest and do a bit of banner waving, then fine, let them. That is what freedom of speech means; letting people have their say.
Julia’s argument is one that steps onto the top of a very slippery slope – and, no, this is not a logical fallacy – it is one that says; “well, this is a one-off, so stopping people just this once is okay”. It is not okay. On Friday, it was the Royal Wedding – an event that is fairly rare on its own. Next year we get the Olympics where already the elite will have the Zil lanes in place to avoid the delay caused by the proles going about their daily business. Was Friday a dry run for this? After all, it’s only a couple of weeks in the calendar. Then, having accepted it for Royal Weddings and sporting events, what next?
The idea that people can be rounded up for something they might do is repugnant in a civil society. Pre crime was supposed to be a piece of science fiction, just as 1984 and Animal Farm were supposed to be fiction with a warning. A warning that has not only gone unheeded, but has been actively put into practice – you will see this in London as the more equal animals speed by in their exclusive Zil lanes and you sit fuming at the red traffic lights. You can see this when people who say things we don’t like are rounded up because of what they might do, not have done.
This is why Julia is wrong on this one – freedom of speech, if it is to be preserved, is for 365 days a year, not 364.
And to finish, we have been taken to task because we have allowed Julia to publish her contrary article. It is not libertarian. Well, so far as I am aware, Julia does not consider herself a libertarian. She is not alone in our line-up of contributors. This is not a libertarian blog; it is broader than that. Our theme is liberty. We believe in freedom of speech – including speech that we disagree with. This is why, from time to time, you will see an article that you don’t like. James and I are practising what we preach here.