Does the right really value freedom? The acid test.

I’m trying to sum up how I feel having watched the video on the Guardian website of Ian Tomlinson being bit by a policeman with a baton while he had his hands in his pockets and was walking away from them. I’d say anger, but I think the honest answer is: panic.

I watched it about 20 minutes ago and my heart is still racing. More than anything, it frightens me. That could have been me, minding my own business. If I had been tripped over in that way by a mob of coppers, however angry I might have been I would have been shitting myself. I think my heart could have taken it, but I don’t know. I have absolutely no interest of putting it to the test – and absolutely no way of preventing it from happening if I ever get unlucky. This is what it feels like to be afraid of the state.

I never did believe the initial police account, but it just seems to get worse and worse. What is clear from the video is the level of contempt at least some of the police regarded the demonstrators (and in this case, even innocent bystanders). And when it blows up in their faces? They invoke the law of the playground: however much you might be in the wrong, never snitch. Even worse, they use their considerable PR machine to spread lies about the conduct of the protestors. This has happened again and again in the past; we know what they’re like. And yet, with the honourable exception of the Guardian, the silence from most of the media has been deafening.

But parts of the blogosphere has been notably silent as well. I’ve just scanned the rightwing/libertarian blogs I could think of off the top of my head: Iain Dale, Guido, Coffee House, Comment Central, Dizzy Thinks, Conservative Home, Libertarian Party UK, Is there more to life than shoes, Telegraph Blogs, the Adam Smith Institue blog, Douglas Carswell, Nadine Dorries…* The top story on the Freedom Association blog at the moment is about the police handling of the G20 protests, complaining at the ignomious treatment of… the Adam Smith Institute Director who was questioned by police (numerous other of the aforementioned blogs have singled this incident out too – this is the martyr of 1/4 as far as they are concerned).

I’m not for a second suggesting that if you don’t blog about this you don’t care, but taken as a whole this is quite striking. These blogs obsessively complain about every possible infringement of the liberties of the affluent and articulate middle classes, yet when a blameless man in a dirty t-shirt dies not a single one of them has asked a question. Four hours since the Guardian released that video, not a single one has mentioned it. Daniel Finklestein, who chose to single out the Lib Dem MPs who were acting as monitors atthe protests, has been keeping mum.

When they’ve shouted about Damien Green or David Davis, I have tended to their side, and not been afraid to argue with lefties who can be eye-wateringly tribalist. Damien Green’s treatment was unacceptable. David Davis’ stance was honourable. But it is clearer than ever now that I could never expect an ounce of solidarity in return. Over the last few days, I’ve been given a salient demonstration of quite what the right really thinks about freedom in this country.

* In the interests of fairness, it should be pointed out that LabourList has been resolutely silent on this topic as well, but it is very much not representative of the left in that respect (indeed in any respects – can it even legitimately be defined as leftwing?).

23 thoughts on “Does the right really value freedom? The acid test.

  1. I have been through pretty much the exact same thought curve over the last 24 hours. This piece ought to be emailed to every right wing blogger in the land. Or possibly, as my original version read, nailed.

    They’re *still* at it as well – Newmania this very morning (and I know he’s on the fringe, but still) put up some grumbly comment on LDV about people being made to be late for work on Wednesday, as if this was by far the most significant thing that happened that day.

  2. David Farrar is treasurer of the Libertarian Alliance. “John Maturin” is one of the more prominent Austrian bloggers, and “Mummylonglegs” is one of the more prominent authors on the Libertarian Alliance blog, here writing on her own blog and where I picked it up first.

    I rather suspect that few read the Guardian assiduously to pick up on something terribly quickly and though it has now, as Mummylonglegs pointed out, been picked up by the Mail and the Telegraph, that was well into the evening last night.

  3. I forgot Old Holborn whose post albeit short got 70+ comments, and that Mummylonglegs posted her piece also on the Libertarian Alliance blog as well. Oh well, it was a nice theory perhaps, James, but it seems you perhaps just don’t watch the right libertarian blogs or something…:)

  4. Alix: The full quote deserves an airing, especially in light of what Iain was doing at the time; It was roughly 11pm, hours after this story had reached most papers, and he was scanning those papers for important stories so he could appear on telly to talk about them and twittered this;

    “Not a lot in tomorrow’s papers. Oh well, I suppose it’ll be Jacqui Smith’s turn for a battering again. Tune in to Sky News at 11.30pm”

    I’ve asked him about it, but he’s deleted my comment, which is to be expected.

  5. I wouldn’t necessarily expect the right to care, just as I don’t expect much of the non-liberal left to care…

    Libertarians on the other hand should care deeply, otherwise they can’t really be called libertarian in any meaningful sense. I suspect the vulgar libertarians will ignore it, but they are more concerned with using the language of liberty to defend the economic status quo.

    It will be interesting to see how people like Guido fall on this issue.

    The question for me is far more do they see this as a regrettable incident whilst accepting the police, an outcome of the Labour law & order regime or do they view it as an inevitable outcome of having a state controlled police force.
    The first is more likely to be popular, the second party political, historically ignorant and nonsense.
    The latter is the more consistent libertarian view (and more in accord with many of the original radical Whiggs/liberals).

  6. Here we go, start complaining about right-wing bloggers rather than addressing the reality of the situation which, sadly for the Left, doesn’t fit with our hyped-up cries of police brutality – as I explained on my blog this morning.

  7. Jock – I wasn’t offering a theory, merely an observation. Is your argument that I’ve cherry picked a handful of obscure bloggers to make my point? As for only commenting once the Daily Mail has deigned to cover the story, well that does rather back my point about incuriosity on the issue.

    But I will hold my hands up and admit I may have been a little harsh on libertarians here. Some of the blogs aforementioned are libertarian, but they are all rightwing. That was my target.

    LFAT – I’ll comment on your latest blog post (which I assume is a spoof, albeit a deeply witty one) later.

  8. I think you have hit the nail on the head James with your “Panic” comment. I too could imagine myself getting caught up in this sort of thing despite me being about as law abiding as you can get.

    It is very disturbing to see an apparently unprovoked assault on a defenceless man from behind by the very people who are supposed to be upholding the law and protecting us.

    I agree that this may well become a watershed moment. Hopefully the police will learn from this and it will make it less likely to happen in future.

    I have made my contribution to this debate here.

  9. Tristan, had I been blogging at the moment (I don’t want to break radio silence while I am working so hard to get my asset partnership mortgage and business rescue proposal worked up) I was thinking of blogging this incident under a title such as “The Monopoly of Force – working for us?”

  10. James Graham :
    Jock – I wasn’t offering a theory, merely an observation. Is your argument that I’ve cherry picked a handful of obscure bloggers to make my point? As for only commenting once the Daily Mail has deigned to cover the story, well that does rather back my point about incuriosity on the issue.
    But I will hold my hands up and admit I may have been a little harsh on libertarians here. Some of the blogs aforementioned are libertarian, but they are all rightwing. That was my target.
    LFAT – I’ll comment on your latest blog post (which I assume is a spoof, albeit a deeply witty one) later.

    Well I was going to make a comment when Alix mentioned Iain Dale that I wondered whether you had mostaken Dale for a Libertarian…:) As to incuriosity, Mummylonglegs clearly posted while it was only the Giardian covering the story. I know I do not have the Mail and Express and several other papers in my feeds, the Guardian produces so much in its feeds and frankly, on things like economics, it has been largely crap for ages and especially in the credit crunch. It’s hardly much of a shock to find that the “right” might not avidly watch its RSS feeds. And it was, after all, their scoop.

    As to the bigger point, this is a result of having a monopoly on the legitimate use of force which allows the state to create laws, hire enforcers who are really unaccountable and judge themselves. Whatever happens in this case, as in the De Menezes case, individuals may have to account for themselves, but the systemn will get off scot free, you wait and see. Not just scot free, but strengthened. More “kettling” more surveillance and so on in the name of preventing these sort of “unfortunate misunderstandings”.

    If this were Greece, we would be holding a month of riots to commemmorate Mr Tomlinson and the way he appears to have died at the hands of an institution whose founding principle was once to protect people.

  11. ConHome had at least two threads on it yesterday.
    Iain Dale had a thread on it.
    Tory Bear had a thread on it.
    Dizzy Thinks had a thread on it.

    I mean, I could go on…

    The right wing blogosphere’s “almost total silence” is astonishingly noisy, perhaps because it’s a lie and a pointless, easily and verifiably false one at that.

    Must try harder.

  12. “If this were Greece, we would be holding a month of riots to commemmorate Mr Tomlinson and the way he appears to have died at the hands of an institution whose founding principle was once to protect people.”

    Well, thank god this isn’t Greece then, and the vast majority of us don’t feel that the best way of dealing with a possible injustice is to go on the rampage and smash the place up.

    Why, it’s almost as if we felt that it’s better to have the rule of law in this country, and hold investigations, followed by any necessary disciplinary or criminal proceedings, rather than react to what a video seems to show, isn’t it? How quaint! How terribly old-fashioned!

    Far better to react like two year olds, and indulge ourselves in a public temper tantrum. Viva the emotionally-incontinent….!

  13. As someone who is for some reason considered a right-wing blogger, I don’t think I need to be ashamed that I didn’t blog about the latest police atrocity. I am quite happy with my track record of describing the police as a nasty, corrupt bunch who are far too close to the government and far too distant from the people who pay their salaries.

    Mind you, I don’t really care what a fence-sitting, rizla-paper-thickness-different-from-the-Tories-and-Labour LibDem thinks of me anyway. ;o)

  14. You might not have believed the initial police account, but other people might have waited to comment on something more than what was hearsay until the video was released.

    Are you really going to slate people who you describe as right-wing bloggers for not reading the Guardian when you did? Or for waiting until more information was in the public domain before commenting when they could get to their blogs? I don’t understand your need to try to validate yourself by trying to look superior because your comments were made sooner than other people’s.

    What matters is what the comments said when they were made. If timing is your bugbear then you could have explained that in far fewer self indulgent words.

  15. Martin Coxall :

    ConHome had at least two threads on it yesterday.
    Iain Dale had a thread on it.
    Tory Bear had a thread on it.
    Dizzy Thinks had a thread on it.

    I mean, I could go on…

    The right wing blogosphere’s “almost total silence” is astonishingly noisy, perhaps because it’s a lie and a pointless, easily and verifiably false one at that.

    Must try harder.

    Well, claiming it is a lie is a lie in itself (all those blog posts were posted after my article was written).

    Oh, and LFAT? Here is my reply.

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