Thursday, February 19, 2009

On civil liberty

It's interesting to see the waves of hyperbolic indignation that are currently sweeping sections of the Western liberal media in connection with the banning from the United Kingdom of Dutch MP Geert Wilders. In the Guardian, Timothy Garton Ash compares the UK to East Germany and Burma, and writes that in Britain civil liberty is facing "death by a thousand cuts". In the FT, Larry Siedentop argues that for civil liberty to work in the UK, it must be extended universally, as an absolute principle, for otherwise the Muslim migrants will see themselves as discriminated against.

These are blind and wrongheaded arguments, which above all make the victim into the culprit. For it's precisely the aim of demagogues like Wilders to undermine civil liberty and increase social and inter-ethnic tension. The British authorities were therefore quite justified in excluding him. A central tenet of our Western democracy is that free speech is not an absolute and universal right, but a privilege that must be earned by responsible speech and behaviour. Critics of the Home Secretary's decision refer to a "moral decline" in British political life which they claim is evidenced by the Wilders banning, and they particularly point to what they say is a similar "decline" in the United States.

The fact that the United States and United Kingdom are conducting a courageous and difficult fight against a surge of international terrorism sponsored at least in part by despotic rogue states that include Iran, Syria and Russia seems to escape the advocates of this spurious notion of liberty. Personally, I see the moral decline in those critics of the U.S. and Israel who are currently generating dangerous currents of Western public opinion that are redolent of the 1930s.

See also in this blog: Wilders in Moscow

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