The nightmare is happening in real life, while we are asleep.
The media stranglehold
Let’s summarise. Boris Johnson has appointed a rich Tory donor as the head of the BBC. One of the first actions of the new BBC boss, Richard Sharp, is the cancellation of a successful and popular satire show. Sharp said The Mash Report was axed because it was “too left wing”.
All of this is a sinister indicator: Cancelling a comdedy TV show might seem a minor thing, but there is deep concern about the person who did it, why they did it, and who appointed them to do it, and what the action symbolises: Not mere censorship, but a creeping agenda toward the absolute elimination of opposition views among the public.
Anyone who values basic expressive liberties should be very concerned that a right wing prime minister is putting a political stranglehold upon a mainstream public service broadcaster.
No more speaking out
Meanwhile Priti Patel, the home secretary, found guilty of bullying her own department (obviously unpunished), now appears hell bent on bullying the public themselves by stamping out their right to peaceful protest. She is introducing sweeping new police powers to stop protests. This, to be clear, is not Coronavirus related; she intends to make it illegal to protest peacefully even as a single individual, long after the pandemic into the forseeable future.
Even to be seen as “annoying” will be worthy of arrest.
By way of example, people like Steve Bray (who stood alone shouting “Stop Brexit!” every day in the run up to that foul event), will effectively be criminalised. In future one may be arrested for simply standing alone, holding a flag or a piece of cardboard with a slogan on it (for example), because it may annoy someone.
That’s me in the picture. On 1st November of 2019 I walked alone trough my town with an EU flag to celebrate the fact we didn’t leave on October 31st. This action, I can well imagine, if attempted in November 2021, would result in my arrest and conviction under Patel’s new laws. At least half of the reactions I got were from annoyed people, that’s for sure.
(I should note, I’m not an activist or campaigner, not a rioter, just an ordinary law abiding working dad who pays taxes and generally minds his own business).
And then there was the People’s Vote march in London, in which I was one of a million others protesting very loudly with placcards and megaphones. Criminal behaviour!
Burning books, the modern equivalent
Where does this madness end? Do we eventually criminalise those who tweet or post things which jar against government policy? Will this blog and others like it become crime scenes? Will the authorities hunt down all the pro Europeans on Twitter and Facebook? Will it become a public order offence to utter a word against the government? Where the hell is Britain going?
The Nazis burned books whose content or views or ideas were at odds with their fascist ideology. (I’m sure if Twitter were around in the 1930’s and 40’s they would have hunted down all the anti-Nazi users, and probably shot dead those who operated the platform!). This may sound far fetched as a path for modern Britain, but the trajectory is clear: There is a ‘cleansing’ of left wing / liberal voices from the institutions at the top of the UK; moderate Tories were surgically removed from the party in the run up to Brexit, and the Conservatives have blatantly positioned themselves as patriots, abusing the union flag, implying to oppose them is to be unpatriotic.
And now we see this elimination of opposition outside of parliament, in public service bodies like the BBC, and in policing, or in the rule of law itself. They are overstepping their remit by a long way.
We have also seen Johnson follow the Trump tactic of simply denying facts, refusing to accept or acknowlege what has happened, despite the public record – effectively “burning” the reality using blunt denial of it.
And it seems to work.
We have seen this time and again with Johnson, who stands in parliament and speaks pure fiction, (on those occasions where it’s coherant), which always goes unchallenged by parliamentary authorities. You might as well “burn” the Patel bullying report, the Russia report, the Tory Election Manifesto itself, the news reports of corrupt PPE contracts…. because they effectively don’t exist if the PM doesn’t acknowledge their findings.
It seems logical that a newly empowered Poice State begins its crackdown with the easiest of targets. Not an angry mass of agressive anti-fascists, but something softer, perhaps a group of upset ladies holding candles and flowers. It is my understanding that the organisers tried to engage with police beforehand and keep it socially distanced and safe with their help, but the police decided to refuse to allow it. So they went ahead anyway. Voices will not and should not be silenced.
What I am referring to here is the vigil for a murdered London woman which turned violent when police tried to stop it. Flowers trampled, ladies brutally handcuffed and pushed to the floor. For what? Saying in public, as a collective, that they are upset about something (what that something was, isn’t the point of this post).
Think about the wider implications. Think about the values this police action flies against. Those women would have gone home an hour later, if left alone to make their point. Instead an opportunity was taken to send a clear message to the public that nobody can defy a police order, and those who dare are subject to criminal treatment.
A horrifying truth is emerging here: Regardless of the issue being protested, the government doesn’t want us protesting. At all. About anything. Something like a candle lit vigil is an easy, soft target for the authorities to use to make this abundantly clear. That message is, quite simply, shut up, don’t speak out, step in line with government thinking or be criminalised.
Is free speech itself under threat now?
Patel, who on the one hand vowed to protect women, has also set in place the harsh legal setup to criminalise people who wish to make a point, including those women who stood up together against violent men in London’s recent demo. Patel is a hypocrite. She wants a brutal crackdown on peaceful protests of any kind, yet attempts to position herself in support of hand picked causes where political gain is to be made. It won’t work. She may find this isn’t as simple as she envisaged. Human nature has an inbuilt urge to express one’s self. To speak out, to belong, to be part of a collective voice. Patel should perhaps respect that.
People want to be heard. To deny that, is to deny the very society we have built. And that never ends well.
And then we have Johnson himself, apparently untouchable by the laws over which he presides, or the rules of the institution in which he serves. Breaking ministerial code and lying to parliament, misusing public money, misleading the people… All of this goes unpunished and unquestioned. He gets away with everything. And then he makes sure no civillian can raise a voice without arrest.
It is perhaps the selectivity of this new oppression that bothers me the most: One wonders if the UK’s new law against public gatherings will apply, long after Covid, to pro-Brexit rallies or Tory Party Conferences for example, or whether the Festival of Brexit will be affected. (Clue: No, it won’t apply).
More worrying signs
The right to live, love and work in a community of 27 countries is officially gone. Now, our right to protest that fact? Also gone. The freedoms we have all grown up with are evaporating.
Science and the Arts are being undermined and discouraged by a government who exhibit clear disdain for both. (Recognised signs of fascism). Erasmus, taken from us. Musicians, unable to tour. Theatre, facing ruin. All deliberate.
Fascism: The sinister indicators of its presence in the UK are mounting up daily. By the time we reach another election, the deck will be heavily stacked; there is already talk of photo ID being required to vote – a blatant attempt to lower the turnout. (Voter suppression). The timing is also looking suspicious, with rumours of a 2023 general election suggesting a cynical timing to avoid the worst of the Brexit damage.
We are sleepwalking into all of this, diverted and distracted. Some of us knew things would be this bad when Boris Johnson got elected with an 80 seat majority. Some of us warned against what would be unleashed. And things are indeed as bad as feared. But people wanted it. People voted for it. People have their wish. The man with the bad haircut has spoken, so don’t complain, don’t protest, don’t speak out against what’s happening. It’s against the law.
The nightmare is happening in real life, while we are asleep.
I think the liberal, open and sane parts of Britain simply have to hold on for dear life now. It is all going to get so much worse before it gets better.
In 2030 we trust.