I watched BBC Question Time last night despite it having an extremely lack lustre cast. I knew before it started no heather was going to be set on fire. I was not wrong.
Twice during the show issues of censorship and control were discussed. Firstly, concerning the petition to ban Donald Trump from entry to the UK and secondly to ban Tyson Fury from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year competition. It was generally agreed that Trump was an “odious idiot” and his and Tyson’s antediluvian views were held in contempt by both the panel and the audience. There were, as might be expected, no dissenting voices.
However, when it came to plans of action Caroline Flint stood on her own. She was for banning, blocking and censoring. Alone on the panel, but with some support from the noisy Corbynistas in the audience, she took the illiberal and authoritarian line. To be fair, she did get a little help from Vincent Cable towards the end but in general she was the sole voice demanding limits on who can say what and where they can say it. This illiberal strand of the left is now very well established. Labours’ last government threatened many areas of personal freedoms and nearly got as far as introducing ID cards for the population to carry.
The socialists have always had a tendency to authoritarianism and this risk has long been recognised. In 1872 there was a serious split in the International Working Men’s Association over the differences between the anarchists (lead by Mikhail Bakunin) who worried the authoritarian state was a real danger and the Marxists who viewed the state as a useful tool to bring forward socialism. However, this trait seems a more prevalent problem over recent decades.
I think it relates to the loss of principle and focus of the left. No longer do they argue for a planned economy knowing that this has been found wanting. No longer do they promote internationalism as globalization has done more in this regard than they could. No longer do they promote the rights of men rather preferring to look at subgroups of chosen victims for whom they can campaign. At the same time as they have no principles that can promote they also have no ability to demand attention as a solution to the world’s production problems; capitalism has done better than they could have ever thought in tackling the scourges of poverty and disease. Indeed even war seems to have become less frequent and damaging with the progress of capitalism. What have the left left ?
Like priests of old the left needs to claim an authority to rule without any empirical evidence. Unable to call on God to stamp authority on their moral code they have developed their own. Based on the philosophy of victimhood and the heresies of hate crime they are now the secular priesthood policing our words and thoughts. Like the priesthood of old the rules are slightly changed periodically to keep the public on its toes, even the most god-fearing can become sinners in error – ask Benedict Cumberbatch about it !
They keep their authority and power by claiming greater moral probity than us. They tell us that they are necessary to keep us on the path free from sin. We are, in their eyes children, unable to work out right from wrong and we must be kept safe from bad ideas lest they corrupt us. In their eyes we are unable to distinguish between the hard truth and a sugar coated lie. They fear that without them we could become heretics and that they are saving us from ourselves. We do not need them, or any of their ilk, and the sooner we realize this the better.