tag : bright yellow-green apples: a matter of protection

"I see little point in persisting in a discussion with one so obstinate as you" Martin White

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

a matter of protection

figure 49.0. reality, filtered

I know I said I'd be exploring the imagery of gardens before I ran off on holiday, and knock out some comments on some of your own sites, but recent news couldn't be left without comment of some sort first.

It seems that matters are moving fast with the government. They're proposing to deport foreign nationals who 'preach hate', and were apparently floating the idea of treason threats against them - though the latter is said to be less likely. Now my instinct is to worry somewhat about freedom of speech, and to talk about needing an open debate to talk extremists down. But perhaps I need to question my reflex for a minute? As far as can be ascertained, this is basically focussed about a phenomenon whereby Muslim clerics are imported from other countries, who have a particularly greater propensity to extremism. Or at least a questionable view of our country's cultures and society, and how Muslims are to respond to it. Fairly dos, it might be said, let's go and have it out in a reasonable way - and prove them wrong by sound argument.

But from what I gather, their particularly malignant influence is actually more difficult to pin down and confront. A lot of what might be described as dysfunctional Islam, that which involves inducing people into considering violence, is to be found amoungst young impressionable people who're untouched by the mainstream communities for whatever reason - rather than the open spaces of careful public debate. Those who're disaffected will, apparently, be more likely to fall alongside a hardliner who speaks with 'authority' - who talks their alienation in colourful religious mettanarratives. How better to find purpose than to be confirmed that your alienation is actually something purely divine in source, that it's an expression of your sanctity as an exemplary follower to feel antagonism to your society? And that the consequence of such an identity is that you must strike back at the world?

Perhaps some pragmatism might be allowed here. If there are a few people at the margins who're difficult to bring out into an accountable space, and whose activities deliberately stray around the edges of discussion at all - then faced with the reality of what they're doing, perhaps the only way to immediately safeguard the young people being abused by them is to remove the hardliners from their opportunities. There are a thousand caveats I could give. To ensure against any unfair focus on the problems of parts of Islam, without a balanced sense of perspective. That the mainstream cannot be let off the hook, by targetting marginals for action. Against any chance for a Mail 'send 'em all home' line. To wonder where the Government is likely to go with another draconian line of thinking, it's general instinct to ban, enforce, and lock up.

Those hardliners likely to be hit by the proposed laws seem to be so entrenched in their faith of disaffection, that they will always have some reason to draw others along with them in opposing the very notion of their society's existing - many victims who could know better otherwise, with the right influences. Essentially, the abuse of those who're vulnerable - and any potential resulting implications for the rest of us - might be partially dealt with by the laws. That much I cannot deny, as the most heartfelt libertarian.


Blogger Martin said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

7:41 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

Attempt 2, because my earlier comment could have been misconstrued.

I maintain this is outside of the confines of any reasonable construction of freedom of speech, which is what I said there - you might not agree with it, but I know you'll engage with me at least, so I don't feel the need to write it twice!

Perhaps some pragmatism might be allowed here.

That sounds a good idea, being as how, to quote your idols, this is a matter of 'pragmatism, not idealism'. I can't see any substantive moral case - by which I mean one based on turning the human right of freedom of expression into the human right of the promotion of violence - against deporting hate preachers, but I can also see how the situation might be exarcebated by their removal.

Also, it strikes me a fair amount of those whose hearts are bleeding on this particular issue wouldn't bat an eyelid if we deported Nick Griffin...

10:02 PM  
Anonymous Donna said...

Terrorism isn't a problem unto itself, it creates a whole host of new problems, mainly silly legislation that hampers everyone's freedoms. See my post, "Boosting Britishness in Britian." I think you'll understand what I mean by silly legislation, after you read that. We in the US are suffering from horrible laws, including the Patriot Act, which infringe on our personal freedoms. Look how things are turning out here - you definitely don't want the same there.

3:53 PM  
Blogger Martin said...


I know your point wasn't addressed to me, but my limited dealings with the Patriot Act only teach me that it is a mindbogglingly self-referential piece of statutory mumbo jumbo, not really what practical effect it has. What horrible things would you say have happened to you as a result of the Patriot Act?

I also sense a little bit of presumption in your post that the UK hasn't dealt with, legislated around or thought about this terrorism until a month ago. Obviously, the UK government was dealing with it well before the US government (providing you don't count sponsoring under the definition of 'dealing with') and if you want silly pre-9/11 legislation on terrorism, you could do worse than the Terrorism Act 2000 (which has already been followed by the increasingly perverse (and perversely named) Anti-Terrorism Act 2001 and Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005. God only knows how they'll make the new law's title even more biased than the last. I guess something like the You're Just Playing Into Their Hands If You Don't Agree With This Particular Approach To Terrorism Act...)

As for equating citizenship tests with Nazism, that's just one big bowl of melodrama right there.

4:10 PM  
Blogger xdfb08ctrt said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

3:16 AM  
Blogger hatchris said...

Oh, PLEASE somebody deport Nick Griffin!
This is a sticky issue. The issue of human rights is a confusing one for me - where do they come from? I somehow have the notion that they are important, and need holding up, but, who decides which rights we have, and which we don't. I think freedom of speech and expression is a GOOD thing but also recognise that sometimes it can lead to unfortunate circumstances, ie the freedom to say 'lets blow up/hate/abuse.....Brits/Jews/Muslims/Indians/Ginger people/insert group of people here.
a) how do we encourage people not to abuse their rights in this way and
b) are there any quick solutions that will not prevent freedom of speech, but will stop some of the winding up of disolussioned youngsters leading them to do such terrible things?

I wouldn't want to be in government at the moment!

2:09 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Martin -

I can see how deporting these 'notable figures' might well exasperate the problems that're connected with them. Not least because it raises thier profiles, and thereby influence, in drawing attention to them (for the press have an automatic interest - just see how the fomer leader of Al Muhajiroun has been made a near celebrity!). But also because they become martyr figures, and the action of the state have a sustaining effect on thier isolationist faith - any action can be construed as a confirmation that the west is corrupt and persecuting true muslims.

It would be very easy, for a lefty person, to be selective in viewing certain peoples as worth going after. I suspect many would follow a George Galloway route, and bear an instictive reticence about any reaction to people connected to Islam, which is not bourne out by a similar willingness to interrogate BNP-esc movements...

12:12 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Donna –

My instinct is the archetypal liberal – I would worry about any legislation, or policy, or approach, that might diminish civil liberties and openness in society. Any my initial perception is that what’s proposed, and in part being enacted, by this government is very dangerous and should be opposed.

But in this case another instinct is taking precedence – and that is the concern for those who’re in danger of violent proponents of the faith. In the short term, I suspect there might need to be a physical restraint of their capacity to lead others – often very impressionable young people – astray (and perhaps encourage them to harm others as a consequence). If that might involve the deportation of some, then I might have to hold my nose and support that action. Though this could easily shade into a general policy of sending away anyone ‘we don’t like’, which would be terrible.

The Patriot Act seemed like a parody to me, it was that absurd. You can no more define such ethereal things as inherent patriotism by legislation than you can being a Christian – especially when definitions tip into being sectarian nationalistism. That kind of government action we can do without.

3:38 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Chris –

I wouldn’t wish to be in government – and couldn’t claim to have any competence in any such compromised and intense position!

Good questions - more than I can answer, really.

You’re right to indicate that it’s better to have approaches that encourage the disaffected, and those susceptible to violent and dysfunctional religion, to explore their faith in more positive and engaged ways – with a valuing of those around them.

Recently, Draven's been exploring ground that touches on this - trying to see how faith in general might be expressed through a non-violent paradigm, as the norm against which we might aim to make any violence merely relative.

3:46 PM  
Blogger Martin said...


I think freedom of speech and expression is a GOOD thing but also recognise that sometimes it can lead to unfortunate circumstances, ie the freedom to say 'lets blow up/hate/abuse.....Brits/Jews/Muslims/Indians/Ginger people/insert group of people here.

If I say one thing on this issue that people are actually going to listen to, let it be this. Freedom of speech never means, never has meant and never will mean freedom to promote violence. End of.

a) how do we encourage people not to abuse their rights in this way

We fling Article 17 of the European Convention on Human Rights at them.

b) are there any quick solutions that will not prevent freedom of speech, but will stop some of the winding up of disolussioned youngsters leading them to do such terrible things

Yep, you can deport the preachers.

I'd also like to clarify - and this can be the second point you take note of, if you want to take note of two - that when Lord Falconer is talking about amending the Human Rights Act he is talking about changes affecting Article 3 of the ECHR (the prohibition of torture) and that this has nothing to do with Article 10 (freedom of expression). As far as I know, this is where your old foes Liberty and others are focusing their objections too.

Laurence, I agree on the whole that all publicity is good publicity for these people. I think the same logic applies here as the logic regarding BNP a broadcast - treat them exceptionally and they'll have more perceived basis for their paranoid views.

I'm still yet to understand how the Patriot Act was so horrific. Utterly puzzling, yes...

7:32 PM  
Blogger hatchris said...

Thanks, Martin...I haven't er, read so many laws myself. Hmmm. Im still puzzled as to how liberty et al get so touchy about freedom of speech in connection to all this, if freedom of speech was never supposed to allow people to promote violence in the first place?

5:11 PM  
Blogger Martin said...

As I say Chris, I actually don't think Liberty claimed any issue related to freedom of speech in their response to the arrests last week. Here's what they said:

"What separates us from the terrorists is that we do not torture people or send them to be tortured. It should take more than self serving assurances to demonstrate that countries with a human rights record such as Jordan's are safe. Now is not the time for our Judges to be cowed by the impudent warnings of populist politicians.

"It is far better for public safety that a terrorist suspect be tried than shuffled around world."

Doesn't mention freedom of speech, and sounds to me like it is entirely to do with the issue of torture. I don't agree with everything Liberty say, but it's good to at least make sure we know what it is.

Incidentally, I also think that Liberty are unduly portrayed as terminal government critics in the media, because statements like this, which support the government, are not as newsworthy as when they are objecting (which, admittedly, they are much of the time)

Laurence, those spammers must be really pissing you off, but at least try and smile at their feeble attempts to convince you that they're real :-)

10:18 PM  
Blogger postliberal said...

Thanks for all that stuff to read - though there's a lot to take in, it's right interesting. Perhaps after some digest, I'll get back to you.

I have no respect at all for spam. It's often very silly and amusing - but the freeloading, using me for advertising, will not be tolerated. We must get tough ;P

12:35 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

Tough on spam, tough on the causes of spam?

12:36 AM  
Blogger postliberal said...

I'm not sure what to do about the deep rooted causes. Perhaps an initiative on social deprivation, some return spamming, and the planting of a few flower beds, might help?

12:39 AM  
Blogger Martin said...

And a Nice Pretty Weather Map.

10:27 AM  

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