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Sunday 10 January 2021

Spiked Authoritarian Stupidity

Authoritarian is a word bandied about like confetti by those who claim that they support freedom of speech. It is the word used by Brendan O’Neill of Spiked, so called because it should have been long ago, in response to the decision by Twitter to ban Combover Crybaby Donald Trump, as well as talking of “unilateral purging” and claiming that social media platforms represent “the greatest threat to freedom and democracy”.

Trump, he declares, secured all those votes, yet those in charge of Twitter and Facebook didn’t get any, thus forgetting the excuse his press pals use every time their lack of democratic accountability is broached: ah yes, the answer will come back, but the press has to earn its readers’ votes every day, otherwise it would quickly go out of business.

Moreover, O’Neill is plain flat wrong when he posits Trump’s Twitter ban as silencing anyone. Trump can get himself on any number of broadcast outlets, and into as many newspapers. He has the entire White House press operation at his disposal. And when he talks of “power to dictate what political opinions it is acceptable to hold”, well, no.

Let me digress for a moment, in order to show just what “authoritarian”, “purging”, and the dictation of what opinions are acceptable actually entails. As I’ve told many times, in the living memory of those of A Certain Age, countries on the southern fringe of Europe were ruled by totalitarian dictatorships: the Falangist régime of Francisco Franco in Spain, the military junta of the colonels in Greece, and the Estado Novo in Portugal.

In December 1973, I was on a short holiday in Spain. One evening, the bar area in the hotel fell silent; the expected band did not appear; there was no music. Government had decreed that this had to be so: it was the evening after the assassination in Madrid of Luis Carrero Blanco by Basque separatist group ETA. And orders were orders.

It’s highly probable that there would have been no consequences, had one or two hotels disregarded the decree, but that was not the point: no-one could know who might inform on them. The climate of fear was real. The night-time knock on the door was equally real. People disappeared, were detained, abused, brutalised, tortured. So when a decree was received, one did not debate the issue. One complied. Or else.

The same applied to freedom of speech: those of inconvenient opinion were regularly jailed, or murdered. What happened in Spain happened also in Portugal. One complied, and one did not make any noise about it. Thus the reality of genuine authoritarianism.

To equate that with companies deciding at long last to enforce their own Ts and Cs, and especially drawing the line at becoming embroiled in an attempt to overthrow democracy, is the most transparently dishonest and false equivalence. That social media platforms might not want to expose themselves to ruinous lawsuits for enabling, and indeed promoting, domestic terrorism is entirely understandable.

Instead, O’Neill whines once again about Woke. And the mythical left, which is asserted to be “cheering this on”. He talks of interference in the democratic process, but no election has been subverted, overturned, or delayed. It is mere hyperbolic nonsense.

Meanwhile, he ignores Trump’s attempt to actually subvert democracy. What a clown.

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Anonymous said...

O'Neill never talks of real cases of freedom of speech being curtailed. Just about white men and cranky feminists being stopped from spouting hateful bile on social media.

Anonymous said...

A timely reminder of the South Europe versions of fascism. The same kind looming in East Europe.

Meanwhile, now as then, mealy-mouthed Graun-readers mutter their usual weasel words about "debate". Which in their seedy, cowardly world really amounts to nothing but political surrender and moral bankruptcy.

At the present rate we'll have our own fascist version soon enough. Then they can "debate" the latest edition of Newspeak published by MurdochGraun Inc.

Anonymous said...

An interesting anecdote Tim, and thank you for sharing it with us. Nothing pisses me off more than the noise of people shouting about authoritarianism when they've never actually experienced what it really means first hand.

Anonymous said...

You don't have a right not be offended!

Jonathan said...

Anyone heard from Farage recently?

Anonymous said...

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Please ask your MP to urge the government to sign the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. Current signatories include Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon.

A special lobbying tool has been set up for this purpose. With your help, we can achieve a world without the threat of nuclear annihilation.


Anonymous said...

I'm off to North Korea

Anonymous said...

fascism, bring it on, prove Tim right for once!

Anonymous said...

@ Jonathon, Farage is upset that twitter has blocked his Fuhrer. He has not apologised for his ties with the orange ape, nor said anything to upset him, lest he be denied further access to his rectum.

Anonymous said...

As the founder of Turning Point USA has boasted of sending buses full of people to riot in Washington DC, can we now label those endorse its UK branch (Priti Patel, Jacob Rees-Mogg Nigel Farage, etc) as supporters of terrorism?

Rosie said...

Excellent and well founded arguments against these people. A campaign to stop platforming the dangerous disingenuous loons- and reporting them to FB and Twitter now would help as both are on the backfoot. Surveillance capitalism being surveilled methinks.

N said...

I have a right to refuse bigots a platform, though, and a right to tell people like O'Neill that their opinions are pathetic trash. They're rights people like you don't think I should be allowed to have.

You don't have a right to speak to your betters, when you're a vile, pathetic bigot like O'Neill.