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Posts Tagged ‘Civil Liberties

The British Lockdown

George Orwell set his dystopian story, Nineteen Eighty-Four, in Britain for the simple reason that it was the place and people he knew best.

But while other nations actually did suffer something close to that horror story I’ve always thought that the particular nature of the British people was better suited to the tale than most others around the world. The buttoned-down conformity, the in-built Class structure and its forelock tugging, the Boxer-like attitude towards enduring while being screwed over by higher powers.

For all of Simon Schama’s lofty talk about the long history of the British people’s fight that “tied together social justice with bloody-minded liberty“, and some recent evidence of the latter in the Brexit vote, the response to their government’s lockdown of the nation to deal with the Wuhan Flu has been sad to see.

In a superb piece at Spiked Online, editor Brendan O’Neill explores aspects of the damage this has done to Airstrip One

Covid Britain feels like a one-party state. Normal political life has been suspended. Political protest and industrial action have been banned. Even small gatherings that question the ruling ideology of this strange new nation – the ideology of lockdown – are violently broken up. Witness the police brutality that was visited upon lockdown sceptics in Hyde Park a few days ago. You dissent at your peril. 

The role of the citizen in the Covid dystopia is to applaud the state, not question it. Every Thursday night, on your doorsteps or your balconies, you must clap for the benevolent state and its gracious health service. Big Brother loves you and you must love it back. Vast propaganda billboards remind us of this duty.

But he points out the degree to which blaming the government or the Police is diverting responsibility:

Snitching is the only thriving business. By the end of April, British police forces had received 214,000 calls from Covid Britain’s willing army of spies. ‘Always the eyes watching you’, as Winston Smith put it.

There will be no hugging of people from outside your household until autumn at the earliest, says Matt Hancock, the secretary of state for human touch. A survey found that some people (possibly as high as one in five) are breaking lockdown to have sexual intercourse. Sex is an illicit activity in Covid Britain, as in Nineteen Eighty-Four. Hancock is our one-man Junior Anti-Sex League keeping a watchful eye over citizens and their wandering hands. In Orwell’s dystopia, ‘the sexual act, successfully performed, was rebellion’. Same here. Just ask Neil Ferguson.

To be fair to the British I’d bet there’s been a lot of booty calls going on that breeched the lockdown rules. The old instincts never run far below the surface of civility.

But O’Neill points out that, aside from instinctive desires, there’s been almost no thinking opposition:

Public debate has disintegrated. Do not for one minute be fooled by the noisy media discussions of the government’s failures or the pantomime yelling matches between TV presenters

All of this takes place within the lockdown ideology. The only ‘dissenting’ view you may hold in Covid Britain is that the lockdown didn’t come early enough / wasn’t severe enough / is being eased too early. The media-government spats over the Covid crisis are the narcissism of small differences.

In lockdown Britain, there’s one way to think and one way to behave. You must accept the lockdown or risk being demonised as a hateful individual and possibly being beaten by the police.

Sounds familar, even from our comments section. And as Public debate collapses so too does Political debate:

Every clash and row takes place within the parameters of acceptable thought. Genuinely demurring voices are notable by their absence. Lockdown scepticism is staggeringly absent. Jacob Rees-Mogg is right to say that MPs must get off their Zoom calls and physically return to the Commons. 

But it isn’t their physical absence that’s the problem – it’s their intellectual absence. Where are the voices for reason and liberty and a return to work and production? The speed and thoroughness with which our allegedly conflictual political system was bent to a singular, myopic cause raises profound questions about the health of our democracy.

He points out that the lockdown long ago achieved its objective of “flattening the curve” so that hospitals were not overwhelmed, and that people cooperated with that. But the cases never came in the numbers predicted, hospitals are now half-empty, and lockdown has now become something else entirely:

…lockdown has become a political, ideological cause, not a medical one, on to which so many of the elite’s prejudices – about the harmfulness of economic growth, the undesirability of mass society, the unimportance of liberty, the need for mass compliance to expert advice – have been projected. The lockdown is now separate from the pandemic. It has its own logic. It is the ruling ideology of our age.

As with other societies that have gone down this route, it has been enabled through fear multiplied far beyond what science said:

Government adviser Professor Robert Dingwall is right to say that officials have ‘effectively terrorised’ people into believing that coronavirus will kill them. We have been incited to fear not only a disease, but each other. Misanthropy is the fuel of the lockdown ideology. Steer clear of people. Do not touch them. Do not sit next to them. They might be diseased. And you might be diseased.

And similarly the result may end up backfiring on the conservative government because such terror has worked too well.

Polls show that many people are now reluctant to go back to normal life. Many want schools to remain closed. There is fear about returning to work. Things are so bad that the government is having to redirect its resources, away from terrorising us to stay indoors towards trying to coax us to come out again.

Return to your tasks subjects! The economy needs your enterprise and labour. The Welfare State needs your taxes.

Johnson himself is quoted as joking that “I’ve learnt that it is much easier to take people’s freedoms away than give them back.”, to which O’Neill responds pungently:

That isn’t funny. The use of terror to cow much of the public, decimate economic life and suspend everyday liberty is not a joking matter. Terror has consequences, especially in a situation where any form of meaningful dissent from the terror was demonised and even criminalised.

One of the most pathetic aspects of the old communist regimes was that their leaders always ended up wondering why The People slowly turned away from their slogans and exhortations and turned to drink and apathy. They seemed surprised that decades of fear and terror and repression and ugliness should induce such behaviour.

It would be ironic if the same thing happened to the victors of the Cold War, and it would be richly deserved.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 24, 2020 at 11:17 pm

Three stories of courage

There are many different types of courage but in peaceful times it’s usually only seen with people in services such as Fire Fighting, Police, search and rescue and so forth.

But with the rise of the new strategy of “lockdown” exercised by governments around the world, there has been a chance to see glimpses of a different type of courage; the courage needed to face down the overwhelming power of the state and taking the consequences: the ultimate test of whether one really does believe in civil disobedience.

I’ll start with the best one. Shelley Luther is a hairdresser in Texas and she finally opened her salon when it was obvious that their was no pandemic erupting in Texas and that the rules of social distancing were’nt actually based on any solid science. Even so, she made it clear that she’d follow some of the dictates around internal gatherings; masks and so forth. It didn’t matter. She got arrested anyhow and appeared in front of a judge.

But it’s what happened next that’s interesting. The judge told her that if she admitted to her wrongdoing and that she’d been “selfish” and groveled out an apology she’d be released with only a fine. That demand and her answer, polite and respectful, can be seen here, starting at 1:14.

 

“I have much respect for this court and laws. I have never been in this position before and it’s not someplace that I want to be. But I have to disagree with you sir, when you say that I’m selfish because feeding my kids is not selfish. I have hair stylists that are going hungry because they’d rather feed their kids. So sir, if you think the law is more important than kids getting fed, then please go ahead with your decision but I am not going to shut the salon.”

What a profoundly powerful way to say “NO”. The answer of an ordinary person, a layperson, probably not a particularly well-educated person. A worker. A deplorable.

So off to jail she went, as well as paying $500 per day in fines. But not for long as Texas exploded, starting with the Governor himself:

Compliance with executive orders during this pandemic is important to ensure public safety; however, surely there are less restrictive means to achieving that goal than jailing a Texas mother.”

And the Texas Attorney General:

“I find it outrageous and out of touch that during this national pandemic, a judge, in a county that actually released hardened criminals for fear of contracting COVID-19, would jail a mother for operating her hair salon in an attempt to put food on her family’s table.

The trial judge did not need to lock up Shelley Luther. His order is a shameful abuse of judicial discretion, which seems like another political stunt in Dallas.”

It will no doubt surprise people who know of Texas as a Republican state that there are patches of it – like Dallas – ruled by Democrats, and that they were keen to follow the extreme lockdown policies of their Democrat brethren across the USA.

The Texas Supreme Court did not mess around, ordering her release. When she was let out of jail two days later there were crowds greeting her and GoFundMe campaign that was already well on its way to raising $500,000 for her appeals to get this charge off her history. Personally I think she should just leave it there as a badge of pride.

POS Keith Ellison

Next up is something similar from the state of Minnesota, where a few days ago a small businessman named Kris Schiffler, who owns six restaurants across central Minnesota as they suffer under one of the worst lockdowns in the USA. Two weeks ago Schiffler publically announced he would re-open his restaurants  and this led to threats of $25,000 fines and so forth.

The great irony here is that these threats were leveled by the state’s Attorney General, one Keith Ellison, who two years ago endorsed the fascist Antifa movement in the state. Yeah – BIG double standards, as is usual for the Left.


They went ahead and opened the restaurants anyway at noon. A crowd of hundreds of ordinary people (note no Antifa masks, black garb or weapons) assembled outside one of the restaurants. Luckily for the maintenance of law and order the cops turned up just in time, driven by a restraining order obtained by Ellison.

As with Schuller a GoFundMe page was set up to fight the fascists. Their goal was $100,000: inside 48 hours they had raised $200,000.

The final story comes from the other side of all this: law enforcement.

From Seattle comes an impassioned plea from police officer and military veteran, Greg Anderson:

 
A cop who thinks about Civil Liberties?

“I’m seeing people arrested or cited for going to church, for traveling on the roadways, for going surfing, opening their businesses, going to the park with their families, or doing nails out of their own house — using their house as a place of business. And having undercover agents go there and arrest them. And charge ’em with — with what? With a crime?

The crime of being selfish I guess.

“Fourth Amendment violations — illegal traffic stops to check for papers? What are you, the Gestapo? Is this 1930’s Nazi Germany? You don’t get to stop people unless you have reasonable suspicion or probable cause that they have committed a crime. And I know people that have personally been stopped, saying, ‘We wanna see papers showing that you are essential.’ That is not how our job works…”

Papers please! Showing that you are ….”essential”. Officer Anderson has been suspended pending an “inquiry”. Of course.

“…we need to start looking at ourselves as officers and thinking, ‘Is what I’m doing right?’ I wanna remind you that regardless of where you stand on the coronavirus, we don’t have the authority to do those things to people just because a mayor or a governor tells you otherwise. I don’t care if it’s your sergeant of your chief of police, we don’t get to violate people’s constitutional rights because somebody in our chain of command tells us otherwise. It’s not how this country works.”

Heh. It’s how many parts of the USA have worked in recent weeks, and it’s how all of New Zealand has worked, aside from those gangs who have never obeyed the law and laugh at the cops every day.

You will never see anything like this from a NZ Police Officer of course. But then the population from which they are drawn from would never dream of doing anything like what Shelley Luther or Kris Schiffler did.

And here’s Luther giving haircuts just a few days after this kerfuffle. You’ll note all the safety precautions, just as medical advisors are asking for in internal spaces, and exactly as she said she would do. No need to shut down such places.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 24, 2020 at 8:35 am

What’s a lawful order?

A few days ago the spiralling rise of protests in California against the ongoing lockdown ordered by Democrat Governor Newsom, finally washed up against the State capitol building itself.

There was nothing violent about it at all. Hundreds of ordinary looking people, with their kids in many cases, dressed for a nice day.

And what was the government response?

Stay out of trouble

Sure, it’s all standard dress – following orders and protocol shit – but that’s stuff clearly designed for dealing with neo-Nazis and Antifa.

After a handful of arrests, also following protocol with bodies pushed to the ground for handcuffing and so forth, Marine Corps veteran Cordie Lee Williams decided that he’d seen enough and began talking to the cops via a bullhorn and with a message they’re not likely to hear from the usual suspects.

Two key quotes:

I’d rather lose my job than lose my soul. Cuz what are you going to tell your little boy or your little girl tonight? That you took your baton and you crushed somebody’s skull, who was a mom? Is that what a tough guy does? That’s not what honor, courage, and commitment means in the Marine Corps.”

In the military we are trained to ask, ‘What’s a lawful order?’ You’ve got to check your nutsack when you’re given an order and you’ve got to say, ‘Is this a lawful order or is this a bullshit order?’ And when something’s a bullshit order and it doesn’t pass the sniff test, that’s when you say, ‘Sergeant,’ that’s when you say, ‘Colonel,’ that’s when you say ‘General,’ that’s when you say, ‘Governor’, I’m not doing that. I didn’t sign up for that.

Now is the time for you to decide. What side of history do you want to be on?

 

Amazingly, the police begin to disperse, seemingly without being ordered to, so perhaps the shaming worked.

You can rest assured that nothing like this would ever happen in New Zealand. We don’t have a Bill of Rights worthy of the name, that has embedded itself into our psyche. Any law that Parliament passes is lawful, especially when there’s an emergency, so there’s no worries of our Police having to think about obeying an unlawful order. And there’s no tradition of the NZ Police having much care for civil liberties anyhow, so no shaming and dispersal would be possible.

But the key difference is that New Zealanders would never think of protesting the lockdown or appealing to the better angels of our government and its paramilitary wing anyway. This is one time that the Left are deeply grateful for “New Zealand’s deeply conformist society“, that they otherwise snark and sniff at.

Written by Tom Hunter

May 11, 2020 at 12:01 am

Another Chinese Virus invades the West

Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under the omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber barons cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.”

California is a so-called “Deep Blue” state in US politics. That means more than voting Democrat for President, as it has done in every such election cycle since 1988. It means that both Federal Senators are Democrats and have been for decades, and of 53 members of Congress only six are Republican. It means that the Democrat Party controls both the State Senate and House, and with so-called super-majorities that can override a Governor’s veto. Not that that’s been an issue either since the last GOP Governor was the giant squish, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who left office in 2011 after eight years of having implemented no GOP policies at all while knuckling under to the Democrats on all manner of issues.

Sounds familiar. As a result the GOP is basically dead in the state, and deservedly so.

In mid-March, state and local officials produced the now familiar doomsday scenario, telling Californians to “shelter in place” or else 5 million of them would have to be hospitalised while only 90,000 hospital beds were available. You would therefore expect that a population that has voted for all this would be eager to obey the commands of their leaders during the great Chinese Lung Rot crisis.

And they have. Until now.


As of April 18 there were 30,333 confirmed cases of COVID-19, 4,731 hospitalised (1/3 of those in ICU), making those projections as absurdly inaccurate as they have been everywhere else.

At the same time, the number of Californians filing for unemployment is approaching 2 million.

There were small protests to reopen the economy in several parts of the State the other day, from which the photo here was taken. I’m amused at the woman holding the sign, which is certainly the old Patrick Henry classic from 1775:

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death.

I think she’s a bit late for that in California, as shown by LA Mayor, Eric Garcetti’s bald statement that “in this case, snitches get rewards.”.


So naturally these protests attracted a bunch of online scolds mocking them, including labeling them as “white supremacists”. Fortunately at least one member of the CA medical community had a bit more compassion:  Dr. Eugene Gu, an MD and the CEO of a California-based telemedicine firm, reminded the mockers (many of whom probably have a stable paycheck) that economic suffering is a legitimate reason for people to lash out.

It’s easy to dismiss the Huntington Beach protestors as crazy white supremacists endangering themselves and others in the middle of a pandemic. But it aint that simple. More than 22 million Americans lost their jobs. Suffering people lash out and we must address their grievances.

Meanwhile on the other Left Coast the bumbling mayor of NYC also tried to bring a taste of the Cuban Police State to his city, and received much the same response from people that Californian leaders have.

However, there is a nasty, unfunny side to all this, and it was captured well by a recent National Review article that listed some of the recent Police State bullshit in certain states of the USA:

The criminalization of movement ends with ten Philly cops dragging a passenger off a bus for not wearing a face mask.

“Unlawful activity which places us all at risk during a global pandemic” 

It ends with local Brighton, Colorado, cops handcuffing a father in front of his family for playing T-ball with his daughter in an empty park.

“Unlawful activity which places us all at risk during a global pandemic”

It ends with three Massachusetts men being arrested, and facing the possibility of 90 days in jail, for crossing state lines and golfing — a sport built for social distancing — in Rhode Island.

“Unlawful activity which places us all at risk during a global pandemic”

It’s an especially sleazy and disgusting argument to equate such “unlawfulness” with that of traditional unlawful acts like theft, rape and murder. Taken to its logical conclusion it would mean bowing our heads to any law the government passed, and there’s no point saying that such is an argumentum ad absurdum when we’re living in a country where the Police will watch you to make sure you’re two metres away from other people, and possibly arrest and fine you for breaching that rule.

Then there’s the actions of private citizens, which in some ways is even scarier than having the organs of the State come after you, the California social media Stasi being the least of it, as with the example below of Snowflake neighbours.

“Unlawful activity which places us all at risk
during a global pandemic”

These are all State organs or citizens who together have apparently little understanding of Civil Liberties or care about them.

And of course they apparently have even less understanding of the shades of grey that exist around the connection between “unlawful activity” defined by moronic leaders and the question of whether these activities actually do anything to contribute to spreading the virus.

Much worse is to find ignorant and uncaring leaders like Mayor de Blasio and Mayor Garcetti.

But my favourite example is the Governor of New Jersey, who sent his cops after the mourners at a Jewish funeral, arresting some of them.

You may have read of something like this in history books.

When questioned, he said he never considered the Bill of Rights in giving his order.

Because Science – at least according to some epidemiologists.

What all these policies have in common is that they are calculated to impress upon you that your ability to move, to shop, to travel, to work, to wear what you wish, to engage in legal activities, to congregate, to worship or just to fuck off a bit, are all dependent upon some level of government deciding that no emergency exists.

We’ve eliminated a good chunk of our civil liberties with barely a whisper from the citizenry – in fact with the thrilled cooperation of thousands of informers – and with the total cooperation of the MSM, ostensibly to protect us all from this virus.

Right now we are in a perfect storm of fear, cowardice and stupidity. The modelers who drove this frenzy desperately need to not be exposed as having screwed up. Politicians and the media who have fanned the flames need a body count to justify their abuse of power and the great thing for them is that whether that body count is high or low it can be used to justify what they did.

The Spanish Flu was long regarded as literally a once-in-a-century event, but in our interconnected world of SARS and MERS and Swine Flu and so forth, there is going to be a COVID-25 or some such again.

Is this how we’re going to react the next time? Do we really think that our governments, having learned this lesson, are going to stop using this power again in the near future? It’ll be like a man-eating lion deciding to forgo the pleasures of human flesh.

And the Snowflakes will be ready to once again aid them in this by becoming the informers they’ve always wanted to be. If you know somebody like this, make sure that in future you maintain a social distance from them. Preferable a vast one.

Written by Tom Hunter

April 21, 2020 at 1:19 am