George Orwell’s “1984” Will Receive A Public Reading In London – But Have We Forgotten The Message?

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On June 6, hundreds of people will gather at London’s Senate House as a parade of actors, politicians and other notables read George Orwell’s dystopian novel “Nineteen Eighty-Four” in its entirety. But how many of us actually understand Orwell’s message?

Besides a few posts on Twitter, I haven’t written anything about the heinous Manchester terrorist attack. What more is there to say? The locations change, as do the names and backgrounds of the victims, but the rote mourning processes, the denialism and the furious virtue-signalling always remains the same. Why jump into that toxic mêlée all over again?

But I did watch the BBC general election leaders’ debate on television earlier this week, when naturally the subject of terrorism and Britain’s proper response came up, and I was depressed as ever by the paucity of the “discussion” that took place.

Brendan O’Neill picked up on the section of the debate which also caught my attention, writing in Spiked:

Consider BBC TV’s General Election debate this week, which brought together leading figures from the main parties to talk about the problems facing Britain. There was an extraordinary moment during the debate. A member of the audience asked a question about security post-Manchester and the leaders talked about the need for better policing and intelligence and also for rethinking British foreign policy. It is possible, said Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and SNP deputy leader Angus Robertson, that our meddling overseas has exacerbated the terror problem.

Then UKIP leader Paul Nuttall chimed in, and he said this: ‘Politicians need to have the courage to name [the problem]: it’s Islamist extremism.’ The reaction was swift and pretty scary. Nuttall was jeered at by the other panellists. ‘NO!’, one said. ‘Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul’, interjected Lib Dem leader Tim Farron. Nuttall has gone ‘straight for Muslims’, said a furious Robertson. Green leader Caroline Lucas said Nuttall was being ‘completely outrageous’ with this suggestion that ‘the violence in Manchester was somehow representative of Islam’.

Nuttall tried to explain himself. ‘Islamism, Islamism, Islamism’, he said over the din that his comments provoked. His point was that he had not said the word ‘Islam’. He hadn’t even used the phrase Islamic terrorism; he had said Islamist extremism. But his protests went unheard. The other leaders and some in the audience continued to shout over him and drown him out; to accuse him of being outrageous and prejudiced for using the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’.

This is an almost Orwellian level of linguistic denialism. For ‘Islamist’ is a perfectly legitimate and apt word for the terrorism that is impacting on cities in Western Europe. The Oxford dictionary’s definition of ‘Islamist’ is an ‘advocate or supporter of Islamic militancy or fundamentalism’. Is this not the right name for those in Paris, Brussels, Nice, Manchester and elsewhere who have carried out extreme acts of violence in the name of the Islamic State or radical Islamist ideology? To boo and demonise Nuttall for using the word ‘Islamist’ to describe those who blow themselves up in the name of ISIS is as nuts as it would be to boo and demonise someone for saying Oswald Moseley was a fascist: these are simply the correct words.

The response proved Nuttall’s point, which was that few politicians have the nerve even to say the word ‘Islamist’, even though it’s a political term in the actual dictionary. This live-TV pummelling of Nuttall for saying ‘Islamist’ really confirmed what the accusation of Islamophobia is all about today: it isn’t about protecting Muslims from genuine prejudice or abuse but rather has become a means for suppressing difficult political and moral questions about our society, its values and the divisions that exist either between communities or within them. That someone can be called ‘outrageous’ and anti-Muslim for using the phrase ‘Islamist extremism’ shows how deep and worrying our instinct to silence discussion about terrorism has become.

There isn’t much I would add to Brendan O’Neill’s warning, except for this: on 6 June, there will be a live public  reading of the entirety of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”, given at London’s Senate House. There has of course been a significant spike in interest in reading 1984, driven predominantly by people who believe that Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump herald the end to what was apparently a Utopian liberal era, and the start of an unprecedentedly authoritarian dystopian future.

The new converts to George Orwell seem to believe either that the architects of these particular geopolitical events used 1984 as some kind of How To guide, or that they themselves might find some clues within the novel to aid their survival during the coming apocalypse.

But here’s the thing. I’ll wager all the money in my pocket that many of the people who show up to this public reading of 1984, or who watch the live stream, will be the same people who never really had much to say about civil liberties violations in the War on Terror (at least when Democratic presidents and Labour prime ministers were in charge), or about the extra-judicial killing of American citizens by drone strike under Barack Obama.

I’ll wager that many of them will have said nothing when their fellow citizens have been tried and imprisoned for singing songs, writing offensive signs, asking impertinent or stupid questions, posting “offensive” tweets or expressing conservative religious views in the town square.

But I’ll also wager that a fair number of them will have reported posts that they found “offensive” on social media in an attempt to get the offending statements removed and the posters banned. I’ll wager that many of the younger student types will have called for The Sun and The Daily Mail to be banned from their university campuses, and for their Students Unions to stop playing certain songs with “problematic” lyrics. I’ll wager that they were the first to demand that boxer Tyson Fury be banned from boxing for holding the wrong views on family values, and to call for attention-seeking ex-LBC radio host/troll Katie Hopkins to lose her job last week.

And I’ll wager that a good number of these 1984 listeners, fearless young defenders of society against creeping authoritarianism that they are, will have cheered along when Tim Farron, Angus Robertson, Caroline Lucas and the rest of the lefty nodding head brigade ripped into Paul Nuttall for the high crime of correctly identifying the deadly ideology which killed 22 young people at an Ariana Grande concert, maiming 116 more.

I’m sure their hearts just swelled with pride and warm affirmation as their left-wing political heroes put that nasty, evil brute Paul Nuttall in his place and shouted down his vile, dangerous hate speech. I bet they sincerely believed that doing so was a great victory for Hope over Hate, that this was how society should best respond to terror attacks. By furiously avoiding looking at the source, assigning the blame to unidentifiable random “evil”, singing some John Lennon and angrily vilifying anybody who dared to react in a different way (such as by looking to identify and name the real problem so that it might be tackled and reduced).

And hearts aglow with courage and moral righteousness, many of these same people will assemble at the foot of London’s Senate House on June 6 and fortify themselves by listening to George Orwell’s stern literary warning about the dangers of groupthink, thoughtcrime, Newspeak and censorship, utterly oblivious to the fact that they are actively serving as advance guard to the Ministry of Truth.

 

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Our Schools Are Hotbeds Of Anti-Democratic, Anti Free Speech Sentiment, Hostile To Conservative Students

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British schools and universities represent an oppressive and highly unsafe space for young students who believe in free speech or hold pro-Brexit beliefs

If you think that you have been made to feel uncomfortable for holding eurosceptic, pro-Brexit beliefs, spare a thought for those young Brexiteers trapped firmly behind enemy lines in the clutches of Britain’s left-wing educational establishment.

Tanya Kekic, a sixth-form student, writes in Spiked about the post-referendum climate endured by those who supported Brexit:

As they had scarcely met anyone supporting Brexit, they could not understand how this had happened. Their only explanation was that the electorate was misguided, brainwashed, uneducated and motivated only by their hatred of immigrants. They were not at all embarrassed by their disdain for ordinary people. In fact, teachers and pupils openly said that democracy is a sham, that we need ‘experts’ to make the big decisions and that idiot Leavers should not have been able to vote in the first place. I’ve not been around long, but I have never seen anything like it. I knew this kind of loathing of the ‘masses’ existed, but in the past it had been disguised.

The same low opinion of people is shown by my teachers’ and classmates’ rejection of freedom of speech on the grounds that, firstly, the public are too uneducated to hear dangerous views, and, secondly, the public are too weak and vulnerable to hear something that might offend them. Over the past year my freedom-loving friend and I have had ongoing debates at school about whether there should be a limit to freedom of expression. We have not yet found a teacher who believes in unfettered freedom of speech.

The most shocking encounters have been with our philosophy teacher. First of all, she declared that she completely disagrees with freedom of speech and the very idea of a free press. (I am not kidding.) Secondly, she became hysterical when we said that no religion, including Islam, should be above mockery or criticism (this was after we were shown a video ridiculing Christianity). She told us to ‘get out’ of the classroom, while whining that we can’t criticise the prophet Muhammad because it says not to in the Koran. We heard from another teacher that apparently we have ‘extreme’ views. (As far as I know, we haven’t yet been reported to Prevent.)

If believing in freedom and democracy makes you an extremist, we are really in trouble. Schools are encouraged to teach students about British values, such as tolerance and pluralism. But when they don’t know what these principles are, little wonder they fail to uphold them in practice. In particular, the idea of tolerance is very confused. We are not told to allow unpleasant views to be shared and then to challenge and criticise them; rather, we are told either to shut up and respect all beliefs, or to censor and shut them down. To understand why hypersensitive university students are cowering in Safe Spaces and banning ideas they disagree with, you only need to sit in on a Year Eight citizenship lesson.

This is concerning indeed, though not surprising. This blog has previously reported on the plaintive cries for help and/or of frustration from young conservatives, eurosceptics and civil libertarians who found themselves being ruthlessly persecuted at school, often with the full knowledge and participation of their own teachers. And clearly the EU referendum has taken that pre-existing hostile climate for free speech and injected it with steroids.

One marvels in particular at the philosophy teacher who “became hysterical” at the mere idea (not even the act) of criticising Islam, and who pre-emptively ejected Kekic and her friend from class as punishment for daring to suggest that all ideas should be open to debate and criticism. On might have thought that adherence to this view would be a prerequisite for anybody seeking to teach philosophy of all subjects, but apparently there are now schools employing philosophy teachers who actively oppose the idea of critiquing certain ideas and belief systems.

Where teachers lead, impressionable students will often follow. And the clear message being sent by the academic establishment – not only at the university level but at the school level too – is that the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics is firmly in charge now. Free speech is even less of an absolute right than it was before, woolly metro-leftism is firmly established as the only acceptable political worldview and ideas should no longer be judged on their own merit, but rather on the identity of their proponent and the position which they occupy in the Hierarchy of Privilege.

When I appeared on the BBC Daily Politics earlier this year to discuss the phenomenon of oversensitive students, I joked that something strange seems to happen in the minds of otherwise sensible young people the moment they first set foot on a university campus, making them suddenly obsessed with their racial and gender identities and utterly incapable of tolerating alternative viewpoints. But of course this facetiousness disguised an important truth, made clear by Kekic: the fact that we are raising our children to be this way from birth, through our therapeutic culture, worshipping of the self, encouraging of a state of constant personal fragility and a starkly authoritarian attitude toward any speech which even remotely contradicts certain established orthodoxies (Islam is above reproach, the EU is fundamentally good, etc.)

There are already whole industries – certainly in academia but elsewhere too – where holding conservative or eurosceptic beliefs amounts to social or professional suicide. The other day I attended a meeting of good people involved in various social enterprises and charities in the third sector. After I brought up the topic of the EU referendum in passing, the speaker proceeded to wax lyrical about just how awful Brexit is, never thinking for a moment that anybody in the room might possibly disagree with her. Though it was amusing, I also felt a pang of awkwardness and discomfort, knowing that I was surrounded by people who would be utterly repelled if I revealed my own true feelings about Brexit (I did anyway).

The point is that as a grown man and a political blogger well used to debate and disagreement, I still paused momentarily before airing a perfectly mainstream and acceptable opinion in front of people who strongly disagreed and who thought that those who supported Britain leaving the EU were stupid at best and malicious at worst. How, then, must those young people with conservative or eurosceptic beliefs feel, who have not yet developed so thick a skin? How are they to feel comfortable expressing their sincerely and legitimately held political views when finger-wagging teachers casually accuse them of “extremism” and conspire to silence them altogether?

There is a cancer in our schools and universities, metastasising throughout the entire educational establishment. It is a tumour which sucks the life out of free speech and academic freedom, and encourages dull, lumpen conformity invigilated by a watchful, censorious, politically correct Taliban.

We need to excise that tumour before it kills off independent thinking, freedom of speech and academic enquiry for good.

 

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Brexit: It’s Time To Tone Down The Article 50 Hysteria

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There’s nothing super-democratic or virtuous about triggering Article 50 and starting the clock on our EU secession negotiation before we are ready

I like Spiked magazine a lot. Despite technically being a left-wing outfit, you wouldn’t know it from reading much of their output – they are certainly nothing like the morally bankrupt and ideologically rootless centrist politicos who infest much of the Labour, LibDem and Green parties. And on key issues like democracy and freedom of speech, their instincts are generally sound, while many of their writers argue with eloquent and forceful conviction.

That being said, Spiked’s new campaign to force the British government to immediately invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty to start the clock on our two (minimum) years of secession talks with the EU is rash and unusually ill-considered.

Editor Brendan O’Neill (whom again, I respect enormously) thunders:

Right now, today, the government must invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. The people voted for it. More Brits voted to leave the EU than for anything else in history. So for officialdom, experts and agitators to demand that we hold off from triggering Article 50 – the clause that sets in motion a nation’s rupture with Brussels – is a straight-up denial of the democratic will. It’s an attempt to stymie, weaken, make meaningless the political demand of 17.5million people. Invoking Article 50 ought to be the great democratic cry of our times. Anyone who takes the franchise seriously, who cherishes the hard-won right of a people to shape their nation’s politics, must insist that Article 50 is invoked now.

The political and media elites are devoting an incredible amount of energy to ensuring Article 50 is not triggered. They have formed a protective ring around it, shielding it from being enacted on what they view as the reckless, ill-informed say-so of the public. From the legal realm, the political world, the media elite and the agitating leftist set, various actors have come together to say: ‘Don’t touch Article 50.’ And it’s no mystery why: they know Article 50 will make the people’s will a reality, and while they can just about handle the people expressing their will, they’re determined it should not form the basis of politics.

O’Neill then goes on to rightly criticise some of the delaying tactics we have seen orchestrated by the law firm Mishcon de Reya, attempting (on behalf of wealthy anonymous clients) to make invocation of Article 50 contingent on the will of Parliament rather than the outcome of the referendum.

We can all agree that any such delaying tactics borne out of a desire to overturn the result of the EU referendum are utterly abhorrent and toxic to democracy. But it does not follow, as Spiked seem to think, that maximal democracy is achieved by doing the exact opposite, by invoking Article 50 yesterday in a fit of pique.

The EU referendum question asked voters whether Britain should leave or remain in the European Union, and the electorate gave a clear instruction that Britain should leave. But it is the government’s duty to do so in a responsible manner, extricating the UK from a rejected political union while maintaining economic stability and limiting extraneous harm.

If the most “democratic” response to the EU referendum result is to leave the EU as quickly as possible, then Britain should immediately repeal the European Communities Act 1972 and walk away from all of our diplomatic and treaty obligations, consequences be damned. But what consequences they would be. Britain would rightly become a pariah nation, our word distrusted for many decades to come. And of course there is nothing amazingly democratic about such an act of self-harm.

Spiked love to take an maximalist stance on issues. When it comes to things like free speech, this is admirable. But applying the same uncompromising stance to the delicate issue of negotiating a departure from the EU on good terms is not wise.

Pete North agrees:

Ok kids, let me put this Article 50 nonsense to bed. Article 50 is a notification to the EU that we intend to leave. It triggers a two year period in which to negotiate our new relationship. Before that can happen we need to know from each member state what their position is likely to be on our position. This is called a scoping exercise so that we can create a timeline for events and an agenda whereby anything that was not agreed beforehand is not opened up for discussion unless the rest agree.

Before we do this we first have to know what our own objectives are and whether we wish to keep full membership of the single market and what we are prepared to compromise on and what we are not prepared to compromise on. That will require hearings of select committees, expert panels, public consultations and referrals to professional bodies, unions and trade guilds. I expect academia will want their say as well.

If we have even half a clue inside a year it will be a miracle. Scoping and testing the water with out position will take anywhere up to six months or more, also keeping in mind there are French and German elections which may see a change of position. So we would be quite reckless to even consider any rushed moves.

Some of this can happen concurrently but Article 50 invocation would be most ill advised until the process is complete. Keep in mind not a single strata of policy making is not affected somehow by EU laws. And at best after those two years of official talks all we will come out with is a roadmap for gradual divergence. To say this is complex doesn’t even begin to cover it.

Some have asked if I gave concerns that Article 50 may never be triggered. There is always a danger of that. It has yet to dawn on most politicians just how big this is and they may seek a pause when it does dawn on them. The only politicians who has thus far given us a hint of a clue that they know how big this is is David Cameron. That is ideally why we need someone from his camp leading the proceedings. They will have been given the same briefings. Gove will still be clinging on to childish fantasies about knocking up a free trade deal over beer and sandwiches followed by a slash and burn of red tape.

It is natural to want to see immediate, dramatic action following the referendum decision (not that we have been short of drama this past week), but even in the most reckless scenario, forty years of incessant and stealthy political integration cannot be unpicked in one quick move, as Pete North emphasises. And nor should it be attempted.

If there is some kind of coup to take place against Brexit, orchestrated by shadowy businessmen and lawyers over their cups of tea, I would be the first to march on Westminster with a flaming torch in hand. But in his admirable determination to defend democracy, Brendan O’Neill is making the mistake of conflating the absolute necessity of proceeding with initial scoping discussions to get an informal outline of a deal in place before invoking Article 50 with the more insidious attempts by vested interests and scorned left-wingers to unduly delay the Brexit process or thwart it entirely.

It’s understandable – like most of the Westminster media, O’Neill likely hasn’t heard of Flexcit. But if he were to familiarise himself with the only comprehensive, robust Brexit plan in existence, he might appreciate the narrow but crucial difference separating those who want an unhurried approach to Article 50 in order to plot out the smoothest and most economically non-disruptive secession and those who want to kick Brexit into the long grass altogether.

Spiked’s commitment to democracy and free speech is admirable, and a frequent source of inspiration to this blog. But in this case, by seeing the world in such black and white terms, divided between democracy-loving good guys who want to invoke Article 50 yesterday and the evil conspirators who want to delay it forever, Spiked is not serving the best interests of the country.

And sadly, this is one Spiked campaign which this blog can not support.

 

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The Moral And Intellectual Cowardice Of The Pro-EU Left

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The modern Left loves the EU because having lost the public argument for socialist policies, they see in Brussels their last and best hope of imposing their left-wing ideology on an unwilling population

Tom Slater has an excellent piece in Spiked, in which he takes to task all of the big name lefties – some of whom previously toyed with supporting Brexit as they watched the EU’s antidemocratic behaviour with growing horror – who are now supporting the Remain campaign, and thus betraying democracy when it truly matters.

Slater writes:

The last few prominent Eurosceptics on the left have started to peel away. They’ve been confronted with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to smash power, to strike out for democracy and to put the future of European politics firmly in the hands of the people, rather than a faceless, byzantine bureaucracy. And they’ve bottled it.

First there’s Yanis Varoufakis, the flash stepdad of European leftism and the former finance minister of ailing Greece. This is a man who has experienced the tyranny of the Brussels set firsthand. His modest proposals for rescuing debt-laden Greece from EU-enforced austerity were ignored. ‘Elections’, he was told by German finance minister Wolfgang Schäuble, ‘change nothing’. He quit government in protest as his Syriza comrade Alexis Tsipras signed an agreement that would once again shackle Greece to Troika diktat. What is the self-styled ‘erratic Marxist’ up to now? He’s touring the UK, telling Brits to say ‘Oxi’ to Brexit so that we can ‘reform the EU from within’.

Then there’s Owen Jones, the Corbyn choir boy who has followed the Labour leader’s transformation from Bennite Eurosceptic to apologetic Remainer. Last summer Jones called for the left to campaign for Brexit. After the horrors of Greece, he wrote, it’s time to ‘reclaim the Eurosceptic cause’. Now, just 10 months on, he’s joining Varoufakis on the campaign trail. His flirtation with principle over, he wants to ‘unite with people across the continent to build a democratic, workers’ Europe’. How propping up a democracy-thwarting institution puts you in line with the little guy is beyond me. Not least when said institution has effectively abolished workers’ rights in austerity-battered countries like Greece.

But perhaps the most glaring retreat of them all has come from Paul Mason. The former Channel 4 economics editor and ‘radical social democrat’ actually had the brass to pen an article titled ‘The left-wing case for Brexit (one day)’. One day. Those two, trembly words sum up the sentiment of these fair-weather Eurosceptics. Yes, yes, democracy – one day. Not now. Especially when, as Mason sees it, a Brexit would allow Michael Gove and Boris Johnson to ‘turn Britain into a neoliberal fantasy island’. He’s in favour of democracy, you see, just not when the pesky demos elects a government he doesn’t like. This is hypocrisy dressed up as strategic nous.

Tom Slater is absolutely correct to denounce each and every one of these reversals as a shameful failure of courage. His piece is entitled “The Progressives Afraid Of Change”, and regrettably that is exactly what we see from the supposedly ideologically pure Corbynite Left. Yet after having grown in prominence and power primarily by denouncing the compromises and betrayals of the centre-left, these virtue-signalling true believers are now selling out British democracy in exactly the same way, proving that they are no better than the Blairite New Labour government which they so despise.

This blog has also taken each of the prominent leftists identified by Tom Slater to task for their utter failure of courage and vision. My critiques of Owen Jones are here, herehere and here, Yanis Varoufakis here and Paul Mason here.

Slater continues:

In fact, it’s worse than that. It’s often said that the shift in left-wing attitudes towards the EU over the past few decades has been the result of pure political contingency. When, in the 1970s and 80s, the EU was seen as an avowedly capitalist project, Labourites and trade unionists took arms against it. Now that it’s been given a social-democratic lick of paint, replete with talk of workers’ rights and free movement, it gets the nod. But there’s something even more sickening going on here. These turncoat Remainers, these radicals for the status quo, don’t just bristle at the turn of public opinion, on economics or migration – they’re scared of it. Their Brexit-phobia is really a fear of the demos itself.

You see this in their panic-stricken talk of the furies Brexit might unleash. ‘We don’t know… how the plebeian end of the Leave campaign will react if they lose. My instinct says: badly’, writes Mason. Varoufakis, meanwhile, is even more pessimistic. Only fascists and racists, he says, will profit from the demise of the EU. A Brexit now would mean ‘anti-migrant racism, pandered to by the political establishment for decades’, writes a commentator in the New Statesman. There is constant talk of chaos. Democracy is seen not only as disagreeable, but as dangerous. The left, once intent on stirring the passions of the people, now wants to keep a lid on them at all costs.

This is why you shouldn’t take the left appeals to ‘reforming the EU from within’ seriously. Not only because Cameron’s paltry renegotiation revealed an EU incapable of making even minor concessions. Not only because the only salient proposal Varoufakis’s Democracy In Europe Movement has managed to come up with is livestreaming council meetings. But because the cowardice of the left in the face of Brexit is bred of the very same fear of an unshackled demos that forged the European Union in the first place.

Devastating, and utterly correct. For the European Union itself was deliberately designed to muffle and constraint the voices of national electorates, replacing them with the cool, cerebral and detached government of a supranational European elite, which is exactly what the pro-EU Left now want – a tool to suppress what they see as the “dangerous” authentic voices of the people.

Slater concludes:

The modern left’s detachment from the masses, its sneering distaste for our habits and desires, has fostered a profound fear of change itself. Their paranoia about where unleashed public passions might flow has led them to cling to the status quo for dear life. These are progressives terrified of change – and terrified of us. Faced with the opportunity to demolish an anti-democratic order, they are standing athwart, yelling Stop. History will not be kind to them.

But it is worse than a mere lack of vision and fear of change. Most offensive of all is the grubby desire of the pro-EU left to bypass democracy altogether, to give up on trying to persuade national electorates of the value of left wing policies and simply impose them from the EU’s unaccountable, supranational higher level of government.

As this blog recently put it:

The Left look around and see free markets accepted and delivering prosperity in nearly every country, including those who have sworn eternal opposition to capitalism. And despite the Corbynite takeover of the Labour Party in Britain, there is still no evidence of a groundswell of public longing for 1970s style statist economic policies to be brought out of mothballs. What chance, then, does the Left have to bring more of the economy under state control other than the extreme long shot of seizing control of Europe’s supranational layer of government on the back of the supposed European left-wing popular movement (DiEM25) talked up by Varoufakis and Jones?

As Varoufakis admits, “the retreat to the nation state is never going to benefit the Left”. The Left can only advance their cause by sidestepping nation states altogether, which means taking control of the EU, where national legislatures are bypassed and unpopular and even hated policies can be imposed on the peoples of Europe with very limited opportunity for effective resistance (see Greece). This may seem laughably unrealistic – and it is. But it is the Left’s only remaining hope, and so they cling stubbornly to their delusion even if it means betraying democracy and supporting the EU in its current form (and with its current policies) until the time comes for their popular revolution.

And that, to my mind at least, is the most disappointing thing of all. Even pugnacious, articulate left-wingers like Owen Jones and Paul Mason are unwilling to achieve their desired ends by first winning the public debate and then winning a national election. Their commitment to democracy is so feeble that they would rather see their preferred policies foisted on an unwilling British people from above by the European Union rather than do the hard work of winning support for those policies among the British electorate.

Of course, they don’t explain it this way themselves. Talk to Owen Jones and Paul Mason and you’ll get an earful about their deep concern for workers’ rights or some other emotive issue. But when push comes to shove, they would rather live in a country where their minority opinions were forced on the majority by Brussels than do the hard work of convincing voters of the necessity for left-wing policies.

And the Left are perfectly entitled to that opinion. They are entitled to advocate for Britain to remain in the European Union because they do not trust the British electorate to support what they see as essential policies at the ballot box. They can do all that. But they cannot any longer call themselves supporters of democracy.

 

Postscript: Look at the image at the top of this article, showing a quote by filmmaker Ken Loach, in which he openly boasts that the chief advantage of the European Union is that it thwarts the will of democratically elected national governments. This is the toxic, antidemocratic position which left wing favourites like Owen Jones and Paul Mason have decided to embrace. Shame on them.

 

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Tales From The Safe Space, Part 37 – Whisperings Of A Revolt

NUS Disaffiliation Campaign

Has the NUS finally gone too far?

All tyrants, petty or otherwise, eventually go too far and overextend their vast authority. Maybe they get cocky. Maybe they surround themselves with so many Yes Men that they lose the pulse of the people. But inevitably, somehow or other, they will at some point find themselves overextended, and see their exalted position threatened as a consequence.

It is delightful to see such a thing now happening to the National Union of Students, that censorious, moralising platform for embryonic leftist politicians and demagogues, which long ago gave up any pretence at advocating for students, preferring to exercise paranoid control over them instead.

Now, some students are fighting back. A number of smart, more liberty-minded students have realised that since most Student Unions derive their democratic “legitimacy” from a vanishingly small slice of their respective student populations, it should be relatively easy to mount a small insurgency of their own to topple the Social Justice and Identity Politics cultists in charge, and make their local unions work for the students rather than simply trying to control their thoughts, behaviour and speech.

Hence the brilliant NUS disaffiliation campaigns now springing up at campuses around the country.

Spiked’s Tom Slater reports in The Spectator:

In a move that has left student union politicos across the country clinging to their therapy dogs, the University of Lincoln Students’ Union has voted to disaffiliate from the NUS. Springing from the new, anti-NUS sentiment that is brewing on campuses across the country, Lincoln students voted 881 to 804 to leave.

This was a big breakthrough, putting wind in the sails of disaffiliation campaigns currently being fought at York, Oxford, Exeter and Manchester. And though this was all sparked by the election of new NUS president Malia Bouattia – the overgrown student fond of waxing lyrical about the ‘zionist-led media’ – the gulf between NUS leadership and its members has been growing for years.

After Lincoln’s vote, outgoing NUS president Megan Dunn said she was ‘sorry this decision was made by such a small number of students’. Which was a bit rich, seeing as she was elected in 2015 by a whopping 413 NUS delegates, and turnout at campus NUS elections – which select those delegates – is notoriously low.

Lincoln’s vote is significant. Not least because so many felt so detached from the NUS they didn’t even turn out to vote. And, in an interesting twist, Lincoln SU’s own president appeared to approve of the move, telling the Independent that ‘for some time… the NUS has been far removed from the issues our students tell us are important’.

And now Newcastle University has followed suit:

Newcastle University Students’ Union (NUSU) has become the second to announce it is to disaffiliate from the National Union of Students (NUS) following a controversial National Conference in Brighton last month.

The move has come as a double blow for the national student campaigner after Lincoln University announced on Monday it, too, will be breaking away from the NUS at the end of the year.

NUSU confirmed on Thursday that 1,469 total votes had been cast in the referendum by Newcastle University students, with a majority of 67 per cent voting in favour of disaffiliation.

Brilliant. While this blog contends that the power and influence now wielded by the Cult of Social Justice and Identity Politics can only be truly broken when those with most authority – professors and university administrators – finally rediscover their backbone and begin to defend academic freedom and free speech rights, it is heartening to once again see students in the vanguard of the resistance.

For in truth, it is in the interests of almost no students – save the Identity Politics priests who derive power and influence from policing the culture of their institutions and the behaviour of their peers – to allow the NUS to continue along its present, authoritarian path. As Tom Slater argues in The Spectator, students deserve local unions which fight for their interests as students, rather than a union which wastes its time fighting a culture war and playing off different groups of students against one other based on an arbitrary judgement over how “oppressed” they happen to be.

The growing NUS disaffiliation movement should be encouraged and helped to spread like wildfire, burning through the rotten foundations and (ideally) causing the whole organisation to topple. And now is the time to strike, when the enemy is dangerously overextended, making very specific and highly controversial claims (pro-censorship and the identity politics agenda) on behalf of all students when in fact they speak only for a small but noisy illiberal minority.

First Lincoln, then Newcastle. Who will be next to throw off the puritanical, totalitarian shackles of the National Union of Students?

 

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