Thursday, 7 March 2019

The rush for censorship is the swansong of the establishment


I don't knowingly follow any journalists on Twitter unless they follow me. Generally they are not useful. What they offer is speculation and gossip. The speculation is generally based on a misunderstanding of the issues while the gossip tends to be Westminster-centric noise or based on the alleged comments of an "EU diplomat".

This is stuff is rather less news as it is a pollutant. Most of what we need to know can either be found in official EU press releases or from the horse's mouth on Twitter. They are not telling us anything we don't know and seldom tell us what we need to know, not least because their priorities are in a world of their own. There is a good reason why people now look elsewhere for news and analysis. They've also excluded themselves by hiding behind paywalls.

Consequently the public debate is increasingly bypassing the media whose narratives we no longer have to buy into. They no longer control the message. This has the establishment in a blind panic. This is what's behind the EU's new found concern about "fake news". As tweeter Capel Lofft puts it
Liberal centrists/establishment politicians can find only one explanation for Everything Kicking Off that they can psychologically cope with: 'fake news', social media bots and the 'abuse' of freedom of speech. Crack down on that = 'Bang! And the populism is gone!'
There are 2 theories for why this is: 1) It's a displacement activity - they don't really believe it, but hope it will provide them with something to say until 'normality' returns. 2) They *do* really believe it. Not sure which is more worrying, that they really don't see that there might be a few other issues, like, oooh, I don't know, the systematic rigging of the economic system to benefit wealthy corporations and corrupt hacks, the systematic spitting in the face of the culture & social mores of the majority of ordinary people. Stuff like that.
Or...that they do, but don't care, and think that if they batten down the hatches, all of these icky populists (that is, anyone who doesn't accept the tiny framework within liberals want politics to be constrained) will just magically disappear. Stupid or deluded? Bit of both?
Sadly, in the meantime, legitimate freedom of speech could be seriously imperilled, with anything deemed 'populist' (i.e. shit Macron doesn't like) banned. Sure, there's a lot of weird conspiracist quackery out there, but don't conflate that with legitimate non-liberal opinion.
But that is exactly what they will do. They will attack from all angles. There will be larger regulatory initiatives to "take back control" of the debate, compelling social media platforms to strangle the life out of debate. There will then be a raft of criminal measures they can liberally enforce whenever an MP feels insulted. This, as ever, is coupled with demands for "civility" in politics.

Civility, though, is just code for uncritical. Any criticism at all will be deemed as crossing the line. Ordinary people can expect to have the plod hammering on their door at 6am on account of a tweet. A few exemplary cases will make the plebs think twice before mouthing off. This is also why we will see more abuse of the libel system by rich political figures.

This is essentially why I've been sued by AC Grayling. He said so himself. "Prof Grayling had felt the tweet was so insulting 'he could not simply ignore it'. He explained after the court hearing that his case was partly driven by 'a wish to put a marker down that social media should not be used in this incredibly irresponsible way'."

This actually a grotesque piece of fakery on his part. When viewed in the original context, no reasonable person would see it as a serious allegation (which it wasn't) nor would it otherwise have been seen by many people, much less harmed his reputation. As it happens there was a recent case where an ex-Ukip chairman was sued for making a serious allegation of paedophilia, in the from of a tweet which was then retweeted by one Tommy Robinson (NHRN). There, there is potential for harm. Context, though, has been disregarded in my case.

What this is really about, is making us plebs think twice about mocking the great and the good. Grayling's submission to the courts was a full CV to demonstrate his stature as an upstanding citizen - leaden with prestige, and no doubt he impressed upon the judge just how hurty my tweet was.

Grayling would have known full well that he won't see a penny from me, but what his £26k in legal costs has bought him is an article in The Times and the Daily Mail. As it happens, it didn't do my hits any harm either. But then this is not the first time I've been at the centre of a Twitter storm. I think this is the fourth of fifth time. There is a two day spike in hits and then it all goes back to normal. In a week nobody will remember and and the mob will lose interest. Hence I'm not losing any sleep over it. 

The precedent set here though, is that if you have the money you can hoodwink the legal system to leverage the power of the Twitter mob against an individual. That's why the culture wars are only going to get worse. Like Grayling, Countdown presenter, Rachel Riley, has taken to Twitter to dish it out and is now suing half a dozen people. We will see more of this. It can only become more "uncivil" when the rich and powerful go to war against ordinary people. 

Course, being that I've made my fair share of enemies over the last few years, I've had a procession of gloaters descend on my Twitter notifications and in the comments, all telling me I deserved it and it's my fault for not filing a defence. There was, though, a precedent that predefines harm, so even though there was zero harm done to Grayling's professional reputation, so I'd have been wasting my money. 

It's also the case that libel cases are a rich man's game. Lawyers fees are expensive and then there's the travel and the cost in time. The whole point of Grayling's vendetta was to cause me to worry and spend money I don't have. I wasn't going to give the prick the satisfaction. He'll just have to settle for making an example of me. I won't pay the damages but people will believe I did. They won't look at the context. They will simply believe the Daily Mail's version of events - which is not without irony.

The establishment is not happy about Brexit. They really do not like it that ordinary people have a voice. They don't like it that they do not control the narrative and people look elsewhere for information. They're not going to let go without a fight and they will bring the full weight of the state down on anyone they feel threatened by. 

There was a time when I thought the splash headline of "Enemies of the people" was a bit much. But when you watch what these people do and how they behave, they very much are. If it isn't weaponsied offence taking and spurious court cases, they're grovelling to Brussels to sabotage Brexit. These people have power and they won't stand for it being usurped by democracy. 

There is, though, a flaw in the plan. As far as the law goes, and as far as the politico-media nexus goes, this is all above board. We plebs should not step out of line and if we do then we have it coming. But this assumes that people cannot see for themselves the game in play. You don't have to be a supporter of Tommy Robinson to see the see the way the media operates and the double standards in play. And anyone who looks at the primary evidence objectively will see it. 

The same applies with this case. Anybody who looks at it objectively will see that this fits the pattern of Grayling's unhinged vindictive crusade against Brexit which has done more to damage his public reputation than I ever could. Before Brexit he was a relative unknown. Now he is known as an utter fruitcake, a quisling, and a crank.

Ultimately the establishment has lived in its own cosy disconnected little bubble where their ideas go unchallenged and its denizens have been insulated from criticism and mockery. Now that the plebs are finding their voice they will do anything to put the genie back in the bottle. It's telling that we are 22 days from Brexit day and we still do not know for a fact that the vote will be respected. If, though, they think reversing Brexit will put dissent back in its box and we return to the cosy consensus of 2015, they are quite wrong. They have declared war on us. They started it, but we'll finish it. 

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