The pathetic petition to ban Donald Trump from entering Britain – for the high crime of being an idiot – reveals a festering illiberal sickness at the heart of our nation
Are we really that country? Are we really that petty, authoritarian, second rate destination that bans foreigners whom we accuse of endangering the “health and morals of the nation”?
Yes. Increasingly, regrettably, yes we are. Donald Trump will escape the travel ban which many on the virtue-signalling Left are desperate to impose by virtue of who he is, the fact that he has no plans to come here anyway, and the diplomatic impossibility of thus spurning a US presidential candidate, even an unlikely one. But others before him have not escaped Britain’s growing intolerance of intolerance.
Comedians such as Dieudonné M’bala M’bala have been banned from visiting Britain to perform their racist comedy routines. Bloggers like Pamela Geller have been banned from entering the UK because their pungent and unpleasant political views have been deemed to be “not conducive to the public good”.
So we are already that country, no matter whether or not Theresa May decides to put Donald Trump’s name on her little list. We are already that country which has lost so much faith in our British, Western and democratic values that we now see unpleasant or inflammatory speech as something which will harm our already-fragile society.
The wretched story even made it to Prime Minister’s Questions. The fevered ramblings of that reality TV star turned presidential candidate were actually raised by an MP in the House of Commons, and George Osborne (standing in for David Cameron) was asked to intervene to protect us from the Big Bad Man. Serious journalists debated whether or not a ban was appropriate, when they could have been writing about something, anything else.
There’s certainly nothing like a swaggering, ignorant Republican presidential candidate to bring out the angry, authoritarian cheerleader in Dan Hodges:
What we have just witnessed is not just another attention-seeking rant from a Republican hopeful who is trying to secure definition in a crowded primary field. What Trump has done is effectively call for a race war.
[..] One of the most popular TV shows in the US at the moment is an alternative history drama called The Man In The High Castle. It is set in a world in which the Allies lost the second world war, and America lives under a fascist dictatorship.
Donald Trump wants to be the man in the high castle. Ban him. Ban him now.
But this is far from an uncommon reaction. The Independent earnestly argued exactly the same point – that Donald Trump’s views were not simply factually incorrect and misguided views to be challenged and debated, but potentially “harmful” words of such power that their speaker must be forcibly kept at bay and prevented from corrupting the impressionable minds of the British public.
Fortunately, there are dissenters. This blog weighed in when the Donald Trump story first broke, making the case that the illiberal instincts of the outraged Left are just as harmful as the nonsense spouted by Trump.
And now Alex Massie has an excellent piece in CapX, taking square aim at the “fatheaded nincompoops” more interested in signalling their virtue and parading their ignorance of the free society than defeating the actual ideas espoused by Trump.
Massie writes, sarcastically:
If we ban something, you see, that something will disappear. Even better, by banning ugly speech we will be able to demonstrate our moral superiority. And, when push comes to shove, that’s what matters most. Smugness warms the soul like nothing else this winter and every place must be a “safe space”.
And so it is. Imprisoned by the dogmatic belief that all cultures and values are inherently equal, none superior to any other, all that some parts of the Left can now do is squeal with protest when anyone does anything to hurt someone else’s feelings.
Massie continues, making reference to the parallel “controversy” surrounding champion boxer Tyson Fury whose nomination for Sports Personality of the Year is causing hysteria because of his unreconstructed views on gender roles and sexuality:
Repeat after me: there is no right not to be offended. But if we must be outraged let us be more outraged by those who seek to stymy and prohibit speech than by those whose speech the censors would have us suppress.
I deplore Donald Trump and have little admiration for the cut of Tyson Fury’s jib but, damn it, I’ll defend their right to be objectionable – and even repellent – if the alternative is siding with those who instinctively react to disagreeable opinions by seeking to suppress them. These people pose a vastly greater threat to liberalism and public decency than the people they deplore themselves.
These arguments over Trump and Fury might seem trivial but they are minor manifestations of a much larger issue. Remember January? Remember “Charlie Hebdo”? Remember all the pious declarations of sympathy and support and solidarity? Remember how politicians discovered that free speech might actually be something worth defending? Remember “Je suis Charlie”?
[..] Trump and Fury do not, in themselves, matter very much. But the reaction to their speech does matter. It is always depressing to discover that there are vastly fewer liberals in this country than you might wish there to be. But that discovery should no longer surprise us.
One can hope that the growing number of signatories to the Ban Donald Trump petition are drawn entirely from the ranks of virtue-signalling left-wing keyboard warriors, and are thus entirely unrepresentative of the British people as a whole.
One can tenuously hope that some of those who say that they want to ban Donald Trump are simply registering their strong disagreement with his latest inflammatory comments, and that they don’t really mean it when they call for a person to be banned from entering this country on account of their political views
One can even hope that the angry petitioners are outnumbered by a greater silent majority of Britons who don’t see Britain’s current, shameful track record of banning controversial people from entering our country as a marvellous precedent which should be extended to Donald Trump, simply because he’s an exceedingly offensive ass.
One can hope.
But I’m not sure any more. Perhaps it’s entirely a function of following the daily news cycle too closely and attaching too much weight to the petty storms and crusades of social media. Perhaps Britain isn’t really becoming a more sanctimoniously self-satisfied and intolerant place, populated by beady-eyed, brittle-egoed adult babies whose first reaction to encountering dissenting or unpleasant opinions is to screech indignantly for the authorities to have them banned.
But it’s hard to feel much hope after reading much of the Donald Trump coverage in Britain over the past couple of days.
From next week, I’ll be in Texas and Ireland to celebrate Christmas and the New Year respectively. Blog updates will continue, but at a reduced frequency until normal service resumes in January.
Many thanks to everyone for reading, sharing, commenting, debating and contributing.
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