In Defence of Baroness Tonge….
We are becoming an increasingly authoritarian society. A intellectual tyranny is being exercised against any view deemed ‘beyond the pale’. If you don’t believe me ask Baroness Tonge who has been forced to resign for merely stating Israel may not ‘last forever‘. This is an opinion and you can agree with her or disagree with her but you cannot possibly argue that expressing that opinion in and of itself is in any way justifying or calling for attacks on Israel itself. Earlier, Len McCluskey suffered similar treatment for suggesting the possibility of protests during the Olympic Games and opponents of the governments workfare shambles have variously slandered as ‘Trotskyites’, and extremists of various kinds. Some are but some aren’t and this wild generalisation is designed to do one thing; quash dissent and marginalise it as intolerable and therefore there smashing is legitimised.
You cant help but feel Tonge’s real crime is to be critical of the Health and Social Care Bill. This is the point – the political right especially is manipulating and distorting what people say to suit its own agenda. It carefully dresses its attacks on free speech however, if you say something that is likely to even mildly offend somebody else then woe betide you. Resign and do not pass ‘Go’ and certainly do not collect £200 (unless your Chris Huhne, in which case you can stand accused of perjury, a very serious offence, and still collect £17k in severance payments). Supporters of the Israeli state are particularly adept at deploying these disgraceful smear tactics against critics. It’s dishonest, manipulative and is a serious attack on the very essence of democracy and freedom. David Cameron is doing the same right here in Britain, criminalising dissent against the austerity agenda and to my eternal shame the leadership of the Labour Party is aiding and abetting him in this.
We do need to remember that criticising a country, in this case Israel, doesn’t make you an anti-semite or a ‘racist’ of any kind. Some people seem to forget that some anti-semites, like Nick Griffin, actually are loud supporters of the actions of the Israeli state. The point is that rather than expose genuine prejudice many on the right, and indeed the left, are too busy chasing shadows to defeat it the proper way. The way to defeat prejudice is not through the ban and prescription but the good old fashioned intellectual smackdown and exposure of the complete uselessness of its ideas. Even if Jenny Tonge is an anti-semite, something I have yet to see seriously proved (the sole ‘proof’ seems to be that she criticises the Israeli state), witch-hunting her isnt the right way to deal with her views.
The ban and the prescription only legitimises prejudice in many peoples eyes. It belies intellectual weakness and rallies the dispossessed and disaffected around the very notions of prejudice that we are supposed to be trying to defeat because they automatically identify with those the establishment alienates from itself. This is why I oppose ‘No Platforming the British National Party and indeed the rest of the intellectually illiterate far-right. A serious and frank debate will only expose their stupidity and the utter irrelevance of their ideas. If the left thinks this is the way forward then it has totally lost touch with the spirit and meaning of what democracy and free speech are; all too often on the left, we support the ‘politically correct’ right in dealing with its opponents through this kind of covert political assassination. It’s time for the left to stand-up and be counted and rediscover its true purpose as the leader in the struggle for democracy and freedom, not aid and abet this disgraceful, covert, tyranny that far too many people are becoming unwittingly complicit in building.