Sunday, November 20, 2022

Online ‘harms’

Having drilled through layers of our rights and freedoms, the government has now reached the rock foundation of our human sovereignty and, by its proposed new legislation regarding free speech online, it is now seeking to gain dominion over our minds.

Under the pretext of protecting us from harm, a new bill, perfidiously entitled ‘The Online Harms Bill’, will hand authority to the State and its proxies to censure our online communications and narrow, through ambiguity and confusion, the already diminished field of permitted speech.

Far from protecting the legitimate rights of vulnerable individuals, the legislation will cause harm to our entire society.

Morality and Virtue

By imposing the subjective criteria of vexation or displeasure (in whatever amount and however sincerely felt) as the supreme principle of selecting values, the government is promoting a treacherous and untrustworthy standard and a rather dangerous world-view. Such a view will not encourage and cultivate virtue – it will seriously hamper it. Loving your fellow creature is an essential commandment, but for this love to count, it must be given freely and earnestly. The UK’s government proposed legislation, far from promoting genuine feelings of love and compassion, will make them less likely.

 When virtue has no antagonist” wrote Seneca, “it becomes enervated”. The ability of human reason to discern between right and wrong, between truth and falsehood, is a necessary part of moral virtue. Discernment, like athletes’ muscles, develops through exercise, and presumes unimpeded observation of facts, clear moral principles and external consultation and debate, all of which the government’s proposed legislation will manage to suppress.“Discernment is a fundamental human virtue which like every virtue “is perfected from reason, deliberate choice and power[1]. Discernment does not develop in the absence of opposites between which one can discern and choose from, neither can it be subcontracted.  “But how, if he had no knowledge of the contrary, could he have had instruction in that which is good?[2]Virtue is attained in proportion as liberty is attained: for virtue does not consist in doing right, but in choosing right.[3] […] “this is the great distinction between the animal and the man. The animal always does right; it cannot do wrong. But it has no virtue, for it lacks the indispensable power to choose between right and wrong.[4]

False communications corrupt good manners and the best defence against being deceived is for each of us to be on our guard, to test the information we receive, have access to multiple sources and the ability to discern between alternatives. Falsehood doesn’t necessarily originate from ordinary members of the public – it can often bear the sanction of officialdom, avail itself of their power, and be all the more dangerous for that.

As to politeness, this is undoubtedly a fine human quality which needs to be properly cultivated; however, imposing it at the cost of free speech is too high a price, if not wholly counterproductive. After all, Confucius himself was said to have learned politeness from the impolite. Improving morals and social behaviour requires persuasion; censorship for reasons that are not understood or felt as fair doesn’t produce any moral improvement, but only causes indignation or anger in those affected by it. “We are not conscripts in the army of virtue, but volunteers.[5]

Speaking also for the ‘victims’, feeling offended is unpleasant, but is it always bad? “I shall be safer, if I am not mistaken, in saying that there are some pleasant things which are not good, and that there are some hurtful things which are good...[6] Who can deny that there are many occasions when open contempt and ridicule can be beneficial to those who are their target. Man’s behaviour is regulated by social intercourse – the wider the better. “And so Antisthenes said well that those who wished to lead a good life ought to have genuine friends or red-hot enemies; for the former deterred you from what was wrong by reproof, the latter by abuse.[7] Yes, disrespect can often act as therapeutic aid to those whose defects and follies it targets. Xenophon said that “a sensible man will receive profit even from his enemies.” Those who ‘hate’ and ‘offend’ can be relied upon to ‘pay more attention to our mistakes and our vices’. There is besides no need to shield people from ordinary criticism for, if unjustified,  it can be answered and serve as edification to others, or, if justified, it can be ‘avenged’: “To the man who asked ‘How shall I avenge myself on my enemy’ Diogenes answered ‘By becoming a good and honest man’”

We should not forget about one of the most unsettling phenomena of this age: the rise of cant and the enrolment of fake emotion for nefarious (political) ends. Cant muddles and devalues genuine sympathetic feelings.”We are not the dupes of your canting mummers;/ There are false heroes and false devotees;/ And as true heroes never are the ones/ Who make much noise about their deeds of honour,[8]

An abuse of mimicked values – values most often incongruous with the circumstances or with the persons professing them –  cant is being used more and more frequently as a weapon against other values, as a means of subverting them. It is a means of corrupting the essence while amplifying the appearance. Apart from being so offensive to good taste, when practised in a chorus, as it often is nowadays, cant leaves its opponents too perplexed to do anything, other than run away from any rational confrontation.

Science and Knowledge

As it stands, the proposed legislation will also hamper us from acquiring knowledge of our social environment. Banning ‘offensive’ speech will undoubtedly prevent individuals from sharing their personal negative experiences, judging how common they are, finding the true scale of the problem and the possible ways of solving it. As they say: ‘if you cannot measure it, you cannot improve it’. Censorship will alter our perception of the social environment, depriving us of a large section of reality. It will prevent others from learning how to avoid similar misfortunes and how to protect themselves. ‘Offensive’ speech can be a way of getting access to justice – sometimes, the only one. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that, behind the shield of offence-taking, some may be better able to cause you harm with impunity as your reaction will be forbidden and your allies’ hands will be tied behind their backs. People have articulated and shared their impressions and warned each other about real or perceived dangers since before the invention of pottery.  Sharing one’s experiences – however contentious or crudely expressed they might be—with others is necessary for our survival.

Human knowledge has advanced through confrontation and the clash of different opinions. In a culturally active environment ideas change all the time, and what is today common knowledge may be replaced tomorrow by a better theory. Progress of knowledge has been described as a constant ‘correction of errors’[9]. There is always disagreement even between top experts. Scientific theories are provisional, revisable, incomplete, perspective-dependent and subject to many other contextual biases, and there are circumstances when more than one theory fits our observations. Free exchange of information and debate are therefore essential. “So truth does Fancy’s charm dissolve/ And rising Reason puts to flight/ The fumes that did the mind involve[10]” What scientific advancement can there be in a society where one set of opinions are protected from competition? Secular authorities’ claims to inerrancy and their treatment of lay notions as non-secular dogma amount to a trespass into church territory and usurpation of its role. State authorities are not infallible: they can also deceive and corrupt the public.

If, alternatively, certain topics are banned from exploration and critical debate, on the grounds that they cause emotional upset, this amounts to the introduction of senseless prohibitions in the field of rational and scientific enquiry – an approach which would be neither merciful, nor wise.

It is not beyond the realm of possibility that, one day, scientific discovery might lead to conclusions that offend one social group or another. What is to be done then? Stop the progress?

Wisdom is known only by contrasting it with folly; by shadow only we perceive that all visible objects are not flat.[11]

There are, of course, and there have always been many pseudo-scientific theories swirling around, but this should train one’s logic and make one more careful and more experienced when selecting one’s sources of information and assessing their credentials. “Free speech” was not called in vain “the brain of the Republic[12]

Psychology and Wellbeing

Censorship would also prevent the authors of offensive communications and the pedlars of malicious misinformation from getting proper feedback and from acquiring the necessary rebuke and self-knowledge. The same goes for ‘the offended’, for “oftentimes abuse, suddenly thrust on a man in anger or hatred has cured some disease in his soul which he was ignorant of or neglected.[13] Yes, medicine sometimes tastes bitter. It is through their own efforts and strains that individuals can build their best mental defences against falsehood and vulgarity.

There is huge benefit in having yourself reflected in others – what has been known as ‘the looking-glass effect’ – in observing in how others respond to you, feeling encouragement or mortification, drawing conclusions and adjusting your opinions and behaviour accordingly[14]. Application of the law, as designed by the government, would make such critical information very scarce and, by replacing edifying public feedback with the inscrutable decisions of online moderators, would lead to much confusion and perplexity.

The ‘online harms’ legislation would therefore make normal people (rather than just politicians) think one thing and say another as the only way of gaining access to online forums; it will motivate many to acquire perverse natures - living the lie, or cause them inner tensions and even the development of split personalities like those wartime prisoners who were victims of psychological conditioning.

Fairness and Inclusion

Finally, the proposed bans on offensive speech and disinformation would discriminate against the silly and the eccentric – a family to which every one of us can belong at one time or another -  and thus deprive us all of some fresh new perspectives or new challenges -”for always the dullness of the fool is the whetstone of the wits”.[15] - or rob us of all that healthy banter and fun that give vitality to online communities and protect against stultifying conformism. Imaginative theories, deemed to belong to the conspiracist genre – unless they are true, which quite often they are – plus a bit of indiscretion and scandal keep curiosity stimulated and keep us all amused between sessions of enforced positive thinking and unsmiling righteousness.

Implementation Difficulties

The proposed online harms legislation would require social media platforms moderators – workers employed by profit-oriented companies – to be omniscient paragons of wisdom and virtue, to be countless in number and have unlimited time. For to show any degree of fairness, companies would need inexhaustible resources to consider all the complaints of offended parties and the merits thereof. They will have to judge the ‘intent’ behind controversial statements and the felicity conditions of each contentious online interaction.

I am Sir Oracle: And I 'ope my lips let no dog bark[16]

What is more, searching and judging our souls should not be their role. Some things are not Caesar’s. 

It is therefore clear that burdened with such tasks, digital platforms will have no choice but to take short-cuts and the safest option, which means erring on the side of stricter censorship.

Ulterior motives

Anybody glancing once over the text of the proposed legislation can see that it bears the toothmarks of ulterior motives. In one word, the real, undeclared, purpose of such legislation is – tyranny. By restricting online speech on such arbitrary criteria, the State and powerful interests aim at taking control over our thoughts (for language modifies thinking), speech and association, and do so covertly and perfidiously, via proxies and anonymous agents. The removal of dissenting views from public discourse, will reduce the clash of opinions and much of the emotional friction that is so necessary to the formation of genuine relationships. It therefore becomes clear that the legislation purposely seeks to undermine the individual’s chances of identifying like-minded fellow creatures, of building trust, friendship and solidarity. The proponents of censorship fear solidarity; they know that the isolated, confused, individual is easier to manipulate and oppress.

Worse still is the long-term effect on the human character and autonomy. People will be passing the responsibility for their choices onto other parties, like children deferring to their parents; others will become dependent on the same parties to protect them from the smallest annoyance, from anything they don’t like to hear. All these will lead to an immature society in need of being told all the time what to think – plasticine in the hands of any tyrannical regime.

One will not be able to know who is in fact behind those who claim to be offended by some online comment or what external pressures social media companies may find themselves under when deciding what content to censure. It is not unreasonable to suspect that the government or some powerful interest groups might pose as individual members of online communities with a view to furthering their own hidden agendas.

This kind of enablement would amount to an incursion of the State deeply into the realm of civil society, which is contrary to the common good.

You give the State and the powerful authority to decide, arbitrarily, what is true and what is offensive, without debate, you give them unlimited power over you.


Like buoys that never sink into the flood,

On learning surface we but lie and nod[17]



[3]Hugh Cecil


[5]Philipa Foot

[6]Plato, Protagoras

[7]Plutarch, Moralia

[8]Molière, Tartuffe

[9]G. Bachelard

[10]Based on Milton and Shakespeare’s verses from The Tempest

[11]Ambrose Pierce

[12]G. Ingersoll


[14]Social Comparison Theory

[15]Shakespeare, As You Like It

[16]Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice

[17]A. Pope, The Dunciad

Friday, July 03, 2020

Friday, January 24, 2020

Populism and whatever comes after

All power comes from the people. But where does it go?Bertold Brecht 

"CLEON: Dear People, come out here! [...] Come, dearest Peopley, and I'll tell you how I'm insulted." Aristopanes, the Knights

“Thus liberty, getting out of all order and reason, passes into the harshest and bitterest form of slaveryPlato

Populism has no precise definition. It is not an ideology per se, but has been viewed more often as a “folkloric style of politics”[1], a “ruse” employed by both the political Left and Right in order to manipulate the public will and gain political advantage. It typically rests on the conflict (real or exaggerated) between a monolithic group of individuals, “the pure people”, versus “the corrupt elite”. In this context, a charismatic leader, claiming to embody la volonté générale, comes to the fore to stand with ‘the people’ and, paradoxically, mobilise them against political pluralism.
Political scientist Cas Mudde called the recent rise of populism worldwide an “illiberal democratic response to undemocratic liberalism.”

There is no doubt that representative democracy has gone astray and that serious measures are needed to correct its present deviations and inabilities. In this context, political philosopher Jan-Werner Müller wrote, “populism is seen as a threat, but also as a potential corrective for a politics that has somehow become too distant from “the people”. Populism, practised either whole-heartedly or in solemn mockery[2], can, therefore, be also seen as a means of “re-introducing conflict into politics and fostering mobilisation of excluded sectors of society with the aim of changing the status quo”[3].
Yet, playing the populist card in order to reform the way the system[4] operates can be also a hazardous project as there is no certainty about what it would, eventually, usher in, once irrationality has been introduced into politics. The big question that arises is therefore: how populism might end or what it might mutate into.

In the UK, for instance, populists (having united, Peron-style, both the hard right and the socialist left of politics) have successfully shot down, not our rigged politics and the causes of widespread institutional corruption, but the credibility of the liberal principles of representative democracy, thus setting their mini-revolution on a perilous course.

What is happening nowadays may be, however, a turning point: will popular discontent be used to repair the way we do politics and re-build a truly liberal democracy from the ashes of a decadent State, or will it be used to replace it with an openly authoritarian regime? What comes next after the current wave of right-wing populism?
Political risk consultant, Sam Wilkins, in one of his speeches, suggested an answer when he said that a populist regime could end with the arrival of a new populist from the opposite side, or, preferably in his view (in consideration of the reasons that turned people against representative democracy and made them turn to populists), with the introduction of more direct democracy, with people getting more motivated and engaged in politics[5].

Does a switch to left-wing populism or the alternative of more direct democracy, however, amount to moving forward in any way?

Socialists, just like the hard-right authoritarians, don’t believe in liberating the individual through beneficial changes to his/her environment, but in fashioning and shaping a new type of human – a creation of the mighty State. Both these political factions fear – though for entirely different reasons - a social order based on meritocracy, individual freedom and autonomy.
Unlike the Left’s and the Right’s codes of belief, liberalism - when not turned on its head - worked because it understood and respected the nature of man. Authoritarianism, practiced either in the name of the masses or for the benefit of an elite group, on the other hand, espouses an artificial conception of human nature and of how humans should lead their lives, and holds that what is good for us should be prescribed by the State.

Direct democracy (itself a species of populism) aims at bypassing representative democracy because its mediators have been deemed to be ineffectual or corrupt. Without properly addressing the question why representative democracy and democratic institutions are no longer under our control and no longer fulfil a beneficial role for us, a new, more direct style of democracy will be hampered by the same degrading forces, and perhaps even more so, since its feasibility would be even more dependent on a climate of free speech, free press and transparency that is, currently, vanishing. Hence, the participants in direct democracy would be more vulnerable to influences from well-resourced interest groups, State-funded/backed initiatives and mainstream media propaganda.[6] What is worse, direct democracy based on communitarianism often conceals some very oppressive, levelling tendencies, no better than those advocated by far-right authoritarians.
(Direct democracy – community involvement and all that - is nothing like civil society-driven reform and advocacy - civil society understood as a network of people established on the basis of ethical and political ideals and aspirations*, rather than on the basis of micro-geographic criteria and agendas driven by local government-controlled community organisers.)

People’s grievances, directed at what is often misleadingly called the ‘liberal Establishment’, are real. The dogma of economic liberalism – as some of us understand it – is inextricably linked to the moral philosophy of tolerance, civil liberties and equality before the law. When you split one away from the other, what you get is no longer a liberal democratic society - it is something else, it is its opposite using the liberal label as a flag of convenience. In such circumstances, one cannot complain about the wholesale failure of liberalism.

Perhaps, it’s time to consider that, in this country at least, what has, in fact, failed is not so much the liberal political ideology, but the requisite for its existence – the Rule of Law. The failure to maintain checks on institutional and corporate dominance and misbehaviour[7] and to keep their powers within bounds by defending the citizens’ essential rights and liberties, the fairness and justice owed to them, is the failure of the Law[8]. Without freedom from authoritarian, oligarchic rule, as well as freedom from the intolerant, self-undermining tendencies of unmediated democracy, which the Law[9] in a truly liberal society was meant to defend, we are rendered unable to investigate, think for ourselves, see how things really are and thus gain knowledge of how best to improve our lives through peaceful collaboration or politics. Only a free society has the ability to react to the excesses and abusive impositions of free market capitalism and find the optimal balance between forces. The Law[10], alas, has failed in its duty to guarantee that society remained free to express its opinions and respond to the varied challenges of the present.

Whether today’s populism will lead to a more representative and more liberal system or to a more authoritarian and unfairer regime depends, first of all, on how much freedom we manage to reclaim in the meantime.


[1] Cas Mudde
[2] As it sometimes seems to be the case in the UK
[3] Cas Mudde, Cristobal Rovira Kaltwasser
[4] President Trump assured his voters that “Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it
[6] When we think about e-democracy the problems are expanded by how easily Internet information and communications can be manipulated nowadays. Direct democracy also presents problems associated with the people’s enthusiasm for participation flagging over time, the risk of their missing the points of larger-scale issues and of being used as cover by governments who want to evade accountability.
[7]The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself, That in essence is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” Franklin D Roosevelt
[8]The law perverted! The law – and, in its wake, all the collective forces of the nation – the law, say, not only diverted from its proper direction, but made to pursue one entirely contrary! The law become the tool of every kind of avarice, instead of being its check! The law guilty of that very iniquity which it was its mission to punish!” The Law, Frederic Bastiat
[9] That is in its formulation, interpretation as well as application
[10]The end of law is not to abolish, but to preserve and enlarge freedom” John Locke

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Means, Ends and Dirty Hands

During the first 2019 election debate, the ITV moderator asked the leaders of the two main political parties whether the truth mattered in this election. The UK Prime Minister, somewhat flustered, answered that, of course, it did. He was right: truth matters in that politicians and the media do whatever they can to manipulate it.
Mahatma Ghandi once said that “truth never damages a cause that is just”. You have to wonder why, in their pursuit of political advantage, politicians so often ignore this.

Inspired by Machiavelli, “let the prince win and maintain his State; the means will always be judged honourable, and will be praised by everyone”, the trend today is towards the expedient destruction of norms and ethics and the advancement of narrow political interest masquerading as public good.
All that happens nowadays - the perversion of democratic processes, brazen political lying, authoritarian governance, the extra-judicial punishment of regime critics and whistleblowers as a means to deter others, the gagging of free speech, is countenanced on utilitarian grounds. “Exitus acta probat”![1]

The ”ends justify the means” strategy of our rulers, or doing bad things for “the greater good”, has serious problems though: what a ‘good end’ is is quite subjective and can hide very selfish ulterior motives. Who decides what is ‘good’ [2]- and whether that has not been judged on the basis of flawed logic or from a partisan standpoint - how it is measured and at what time scale that ‘good’ was perceived? Could you have taken everything into account? Are ends arrived at by unethical means, really an achievement? Presuming your wish for the ‘good end’ is based on some moral notions of what constitutes goodness, how then can the immoral acts, committed in its pursuit, be justified without rendering all your assessments fallible?[3].

Are there no alternatives? Every one of our actions triggers a multitude of possibilities, each of them a cause for further actions, each of them with their own series of contingencies, none of them perfectly predictable, and so on[4]. Along these endless event chains there is the chance of doing the right thing at every step as you come across it. As the future cannot be forecast with complete certainty, how can you say that the ‘end’ – a probable end - justifies the immorality of your current actions? One can be much more certain of the immediate harm than of the more distant goal since means are always easier to control than the ends that one only hopes for.[5] Furthermore, as the ‘end’ that you envision is not likely to be the end, but just an intermediary point, there is no guarantee that you will not require more unethical means to reach your goals further down the line. To claim otherwise is a very narrow view of the world, a view in which there is no chance of random events or the risk of the present evils snowballing into the future.
A philosopher once said that typical of utopian thinking is the simplification of the world, the removal of its contradictions, and thus also the removal of the means that help society to deal with contradictions – a condition of all progress*.
The consequentialist approach in today’s politics thus fails on both ethical[6] and pragmatic grounds.

The rulers of our State are cutting bigger and bigger corners and in doing so they are treating individuals (I refer here, in particular, to dissidents and whistleblowers) as “superfluous appendages”[7], fair game in the field of political warfare or mere instruments that exist only for the benefit of their political schemes, which they label as the ‘greater good’.
The UK needs reminding that sacrificing innocent people for ‘good’ political ends is the ideology of terrorists; it was the pretext used by communists and fascists to justify their slaughter of millions of innocents; it was the barbarous practice of primitive societies trying to placate their gods. It was the thinking of slave masters.

The State’s obligation not to treat people as a means to an end is based on the sanctity of human life and each person’s right to dignity[8], which is an absolute human right and not subject to utilitarian considerations[9]. Any action that injures human dignity is therefore an abuse of power.
What is more, as others have already argued, the breach of this obligation damages the great principle of justice which demands the punishment of the criminal, not of the innocent, a principle that has been affirmed since ancient times: “the harm-doing must be directed at the wrongdoer, not at the innocent”[10] Breaching the right of one person[11] to be treated fairly damages the rights of everyone in society[12]. Then there are also the long-term losses relating to the weakening of our trust in justice and democracy upon which everybody’s ‘good’ depends[13].

The manner in which the UK, for political reasons, denies some whistleblowers[14] the dignity due to persons as ‘ends in themselves’ - impermissible in any circumstances - is especially wicked when there are more appropriate alternative ways of satisfying those reasons, albeit some that would require more effort, less self-interest and less cowardice on the part of our ruling elite. They, who impose sacrifices upon others, never seem willing to make sacrifices themselves.

Without respect for the individual we don’t live in a liberal democracy and, to maximise happiness, humanity has not devised a better system. Without the protection of individual rights, freedoms and liberties, we slide towards authoritarian extremes[15], where human beings become expendable.

In an age when the gratification of most comforts comes at the click of a button, there is growing impatience with the circuitous routes, marked-out by reasonableness and convention, toward the achievement of political goals. Yet, the shortcuts are more taxing still…and, most often, irreversible. As John Milton once wrote, “darkness, once gazed upon, can never be lost.”

[1] Ovid, Heroides
[2]The end cannot justify the means for the simple and obvious reason that the means employed determine the nature of the ends produced”, Aldous Huxley
[3] Nagel, War and massacre
[4]There is no single end to our actions, plural effects flow from every action” John Dewey
[5] V.V. Kokko
[6] Moral principles themselves can be justified pragmatically
[7] Theodor W. Adorno
[8] Breaches of an individual’s right to dignity are acts that are intrinsically evil and, as such, they are always wrong.
[9] An inalienable human right even in times of war, which cannot be removed by another man or even by a majority
[10] See Socrates and Leon of Salamis
[11] In sociology, Karl Popper wrote that individuals constitute the basic unit of analysis
[12]Basic rights should not be regarded as constraints on the pursuit of collective interests. Violating such rights always damages the common good.” Robert P George
[13]If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law, it invites every man to become law onto himself, it invites anarchy” R.M.B, Senanayake
[14] John Locke, the founder of classical liberalism wrote: “no one ought to harm another in his life, liberty, or possessions.
[15] Under the despotism of one or under the tyranny of many

Monday, October 07, 2019

Civil society and the State

“BERANGER: And you consider all this natural?
DUDARD: What could be more normal than a rhinoceros?
BERANGER: Yes, but for a man to turn into a rhinoceros is abnormal beyond question.”

(Rhinoceros, Eugene Ionesco)


“If a rhinoceros were to enter this restaurant now, there is no denying that he would have great power here. But I should be the first to rise and assure him that he had no authority whatever.

(Gilbert K. Chesterton)

1. When the institutions of the state no longer embody the ‘ethical will of the people’, when they no longer live up to the standards they were designed to uphold and when their actions become malign, uncontrollable and against the interests of the people they were meant to serve[1], it is not politics that can be relied upon to solve the crisis, but civil society itself.
A civic/intellectual forum/movement, detached from party politics, with its inabilities, temptations and corrupting mechanisms of success, is called upon to raise the questions that transcend or have been abandoned by politics – questions relating to the very existence of the human society, which are not political problems, but problems of life itself – and lead to a new relationship between the State and its citizens.[4]
The reduction of everything to mainstream party politics nowadays has made us subject to its ineptitudes, limitations and corruption; it has replaced what is right with what is expedient (and useful to a smaller and smaller part of society). Today’s political parties are too inwardly interconnected with the State’s power structures – while, outwardly, they maintain the pretence of being separate from and thus unable to reform them.
Transcending politics and its divisions, civil society needs to move from particular effects to general causes, it needs to go back to the level of concepts and ideals, to re-habilitate, update and re-establish the principles and values that underpin a true liberal democracy which, with time, through neglect and subversion, has become undone.[6]

2. An authentic liberal democracy requires an engaged and enlightened demos.  Misinformation and lack of knowledge usher in tyranny. Yet, more and more people live in fear of expressing free thought and taking ethical positions that challenge the official narrative. With the abdication of the mainstream media from its vital role[2], intellectuals must step in to inform, inspire and serve as the moral compass and conscience for the whole of society. Whatever mainstream media and politics touch turns to slime. We need a dissident elite, different from the growing class of pseudo-intellectuals[3] who are in the service of power or intimidated by it, a peaceful “extra-parliamentary opposition operating outside the rules created by the system itself”[4], with its own communication channels; we need a forum of public-dedicated parrhesiastes, to teach or remind citizens how to be free and why freedom is necessary in order to achieve ‘complete humanness’. [5] [6] [*]

The difficulties lie, of course, in the mobilisation of such a corps of veritable intellectuals[7] who cannot be isolated, infiltrated or corrupted, prepared to serve “the truth consistently, purposefully and organise this service”[8], in the circumstances in which we’ve got such a crisis of integrity and courage, and in which all communications and social interactions are controlled and manipulated by a increasingly authoritarian State trespassing more and more into civil society territory[9]. A few whistleblowers, at great personal cost, have drawn our attention to the unchecked proliferation of state surveillance that has reached dystopian levels and now looks to be heading into the paranormal. When more is revealed, we are going to be very shocked at how deep and how far the depravity goes.

3. We need a new Age of Reason, not to stand up against superstition, but against the disintegration of humanity, under pressure from the abusive forces of the State and its covert network of power, abetted by the passivity of a more and more fearful and distracted citizenry. Referring to the government’s Prevent[10] programme, Gracie Bradley, Liberty policy and campaigns manager, said, “It is utterly chilling that potentially thousands of people, including children, are on a secret government database because of what they’re perceived to think or believe.” We need to be constantly reminded of these dangers and that “our careless indifference to grand causes has its counterpart in abdication in the face of force”[11].

It is the duty of dissident voices to foster civic engagement[12] - indignant, critical and discerning. Membership of a political party and mobilisation in the causes of party agenda are ineffective[13], and so is mere local community involvement (within those anaerobic organisations where the very word ‘community’ has been banalised by over-use, syntheticity and the nauseating mushiness of their scope[14]).
A coherent, unified dissident class of thinkers and decent people, when animated enough, can bring about profound changes. Because, we are where we are and, “to paraphrase Heidegger, only dissidents can save us now”[15].


[1] Society is no longer, other than theoretically, yielding the power behind politics, hence dismissing a bad government by popular vote – the so-called ultimate source of power in a democracy –only brings in another bad government.
[2] Mainstream media today is not free speech – it is manipulation – falsehoods, distorted semantics, or dead silence. Many journalists are in fact working directly or indirectly for intelligence agencies and write articles on their orders, no matter how untruthful the subject is.
[3] Long time ago, Julian Benda spoke of a “cataclysm in the moral notions of those who educate the world” – very relevant today.
[4] Vaclav Havel
[5] It is very worrying to hear of the targeting and the arbitrary, extra-judicial punishments of whistleblowers and regime critics conducted in secret and with extreme cruelty by the repressive arms of the state. The Western governments’ habit of compiling secret watchlists of thousands and thousand of innocent people, marked as enemies of the state, and targeted for surveillance and persecution - and in some cases torture - is also slowly coming to light. []. Constant defined absolute despotism as "where liberty can be taken away from citizens without the authorities deigning to explain their motives, and without the citizens having the right to know them.". 
[6] Roger Kimball, The treason of the Intellectuals and the Undoing of Thought
[7] That is in addition to those brave souls who are already engaged in public discourse on various particular subjects and have already made their mark
[8] Vaclav Havel
[9] As Benjamin Constant wrote, “the art of governments that oppress citizens is to keep them apart and to make communication difficult and meetings dangerous.”
[10] A UK government’s anti-radicalisation programme which collects details of people who haven’t yet committed a crime
[11] Alain Finkielkraut
[12] What author Dana R Villa calls dissident citizenship or Socratic citizenship, practiced in an “alternative public sphere” beyond the boundaries of the official public realm.
[13] “Ideologies separate us. Dreams and anguish bring us together” Eugene Ionesco
[14] That is when they are not used by local authorities to serve nefarious roles, such as snooping on and harassing their neighbours
[*] Julien Benda, La Trahison des clercs

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

'National Interest' as convenient cover for abuses

On the 22nd of October, we sent a message to the leader of the Opposition, Mr Jeremy Corbyn, to which, so far, we haven't got any reply:

"Dear Sir/Madam

[*******] is a naval architect who used to work for the UK Department of Transport during the time of the last Labour governments (Blair and Brown). In his professional capacity he was involved in the technical aspects related to the public inquiries held into three major maritime tragedies and had access to relevant government documents. These public investigations manipulated the evidence and hid the truth from the public in order to prevent the families of the victims from getting full compensation.
[*******] blew the whistle about the criminal actions perpetrated during these formal proceedings.
In the set up and conduct of these inquiries, in the cover-up that followed, as well as in the harassment and persecution of our family were involved ministers and officials in Tony Blair’s government (such as John Prescott et al), public servants and other Labour affiliates. The scandal caused by their actions and our revelations are an open secret amongst politicians and civil servants.
I can understand that the rise of Jeremy Corbyn to the leadership of the Labour party is deemed to be a matter of national interest which rests on the level of support and unity in his party. What we don’t understand, though, is how such a principled politician as Mr Corby purports to be can deem acceptable procuring the backing of other Labour politicians with assurances of protection from exposure and criminal prosecution. Mr Corbyn condones not only fraudulent past actions by former Labour ministers, but also turns a blind eye to (if he does not actually enables) their current criminal actions taken in retaliation against whistleblowers like us.
If Mr Corbyn and the Labour Party cannot address these matters, we shall be obliged to resort to legal action.
Yours sincerely,


If Mr Corbyn is not who he has portrayed himself to be, people should know about it.

Update (9 November 2018) _ Still no reply from Mr Corbyn's office, the retaliatory criminal actions though (including theft and burglary) have intensified since the publication of this post. Mr Corbyn and his gang act like the Mafia.