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The Rights of Englishmen


Britain having already neutered its citizens’s ability to protect themselves by abrogating their right to keep and bear arms, Prime Minister David Cameron now contemplates abridging freedom of speech in reaction to the widespread riots:

The government is exploring whether to turn off social networks or stop people texting during times of social unrest.

David Cameron said the intelligence services and the police were exploring whether it was “right and possible” to cut off those plotting violence.

Texting and Blackberry Messenger are said to have been used by some during this week’s riots.

Rights groups said such a measure would be abused and hit the civil liberties of people who have done nothing wrong.

The prime minister told MPs the government was exploring the turn-off in a statement made to the House of Commons during an emergency recall of Parliament.

Mr Cameron said anyone watching the riots would be “struck by how they were organised via social media”.

What I’m really struck by, actually, is the utter fecklessness of his government. It took–what?–five days for him to agree to let the police use water cannons to quell the violence? And then they weren’t even going to be available for another 24 hours. And that was after it took him three days to come home from vacation. President Obama must be grateful a “leader” of a major power would go so far out of his way to make him look good by comparison.

Blackstone is spinning in his grave so fast it must surely be affecting the axial tilt of the planet. But, after a couple of generations (at least) of allowing their government to steadily erode their natural rights, there can be little doubt the British have the government they deserve. The only real question is, have they now had enough of it to demand that their rights be restored or will they just accept this, too?

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About Dodd
Dodd, who used to run a blog named ipse dixit, is an attorney, a veteran of the United States Navy, and a fairly good poker player. He can kill a mime using only his thumb. He joined the staff at OTB in May 2007. Follow Dodd on Twitter.

Comments

  1. ponce says:

    The right-wing politicians currently running Britain aren’t that different than America’s right-wingers.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 3 Thumb down 4

  2. WR says:

    Wow, a right-wing government that’s devoted itself to slashing social services for the poor and middle class to benefit billionaire bankers turns out to be authoritarian. This is truly a surprise.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 9 Thumb down 4

  3. Ben Wolf says:

    @ Dodd

    Overall I agreed with you until the natural rights foolishness. Still, you’re roughly on the mark.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  4. Ron Beasley says:

    It’s the hypocrisy stupid. These same people were singing the praises of social networking during the Arab spring but during the English summer it’s a threat.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  5. Trumwill says:

    Most likely, NATO would not send in airstrikes to take down 10 Downey, either. Hypocritical bastards. Or…

    Egyptian/Libyan government =! British government. Rebellion against the governments and societies, therefore, are not equivalent.

    (I say this as someone that was somewhat uneasy about the uprising against the Mubarak government and what would likely follow it.)

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  6. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Blackstone is spinning in his grave so fast it must surely be affecting the axial tilt of the planet. But, after a couple of generations (at least) of allowing their government to steadily erode their natural rights, there can be little doubt the British have the government they deserve. The only real question is, have they now had enough of it to demand that their rights be restored or will they just accept this, too?

    Dodd, in all truth, just exactly what are you arguing for?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  7. Drew says:

    Dodd is the best poster on OTB. He has hit the heart of the matter.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  8. john personna says:

    @Drew:

    I was just laughing about the “Dood filter.” That is, the net he uses to catch the odd bit of news that he can use to scaffold a position.

    President Obama must be grateful a “leader” of a major power would go so far out of his way to make him look good by comparison.

    lol

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  9. PJ says:

    @ponce:

    The right-wing politicians currently running Britain aren’t that different than America’s right-wingers.

    It did take 45 days from 9/11 to Bush signing the Patriot Act.
    British right-wingers sure are more effective…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 1

  10. Franklin says:

    David Cameron said the intelligence services and the police were exploring whether it was “right and possible” to cut off those plotting violence.

    Stopping everybody from using social media is one thing, targeting only those who are plotting violence is another. Whether the government has the ability to target is an entirely different question, one that they may ask for from Facebook/Twitter/G+/etc. in the near future.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  11. ponce says:

    It did take 45 days from 9/11 to Bush signing the Patriot Act.
    British right-wingers sure are more effective…

    But, but Jonah Goldbrick told me only liberals are fascists.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

  12. JKB says:

    @Ron Beasley:

    No doubt Cameron has invited the Iranian ambassador over to discuss the suppression of people in the street communicating.

    Question: Would any reasonable degree of critical thinking have revealed that this idea of suppressing communications is just what totalitarian regimes would love to be able to do?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  13. @Franklin:

    Stopping everybody from using social media is one thing, targeting only those who are plotting violence is another.

    What’s the due process to determine whether someone actually is plotting violence before their account is ordered shut? If it’s just “anyone the government names without needing to provide proof”, then this will quickly go beyond it original mandate to being used to shutdown anyone criticizing the government under some bullshit rhetoric like “even though so and so was not directly involved in the violence, they are contibuting toward a feeling of cyncism and distrust toward her majesty’s government, and thus fuelling the violence indirectly”.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 4 Thumb down 0

  14. Trumwill says:

    What’s the due process to determine whether someone actually is plotting violence before their account is ordered shut?

    In some ways I am actually more comfortable with shutting it down for everybody. When everybody is affected, you *know* it’s going to be used sparingly.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  15. There’s also the question of how to determine intent, particularly on something like Twitter where the messages are necessarily brief. If someone tweets “rioting at Main Street and 3rd Avenue”, how do you tell whether they’re trying to get more rioters to show up or trying to warn their associates to stay away from the area?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  16. A voice from another precinct says:

    @JKB: Well yeah, but in the same way as one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter, on man’s totalitarian suppression of communication is another’s reasonable and correct response to anarchy breaking out in his country.

    This is why only people from the Middle East and Asia will ever be targets of “the war on terror.” Our allies and friends simply aren’t terrorists–no matter what they do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  17. superdestroyer says:

    So what would be the politically-correct, progressive response to put an end in the short-term to rioting without violating the rights of Englishmen?

    I doubt that anyone here can provide a non-snarky response on what the government should be doing.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  18. Barry says:

    Dodd: “President Obama must be grateful a “leader” of a major power would go so far out of his way to make him look good by comparison.”

    WTF?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 1

  19. Ben Wolf says:

    Can’t we all just be glad British society has shown itself to be way more dysfunctional than ours?

    I’m for a new bumper sticker: “America: It Sure As Hell Ain’t That Bad”

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  20. Franklin says:

    What’s the due process to determine whether someone actually is plotting violence before their account is ordered shut?

    Should be the same as if I was walking down the street telling everybody to loot the electronics store on the corner. Presumably the police would have a problem with that, and rightfully so.

    I’m not saying the power won’t or can’t be abused, it always is. But unlike Trumwill, I think I’d be more comfortable if the government only had the power to shut individual accounts which would take some time and effort. That’s versus the power to shut everything down, which I believe the President of the United States already has some ability and power to do.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  21. Boyd says:

    …there can be little doubt the British have the government they deserve.

    – Dodd Harris
     

    Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.

    – H.L. Mencken

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  22. Dodd says:

    @Boyd:

    Yes. That was the very notion I was riffing on. Good eye.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  23. WR says:

    @superdestroyer: You first.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  24. Jay Tea says:

    England has no Bill of Rights, and several years ago pretty much stripped away the right to self-defense. Home owners who have fought off home invaders have been prosecuted. Burglars injured while breaking and entering have successfully sued. And they completely banned handguns several years ago.

    And now, we’re seeing these riots…

    J.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  25. @Franklin:

    Should be the same as if I was walking down the street telling everybody to loot the electronics store on the corner. Presumably the police would have a problem with that, and rightfully so.

    In the US, they would have to arrest you and go through a full criminal trial. And even then, they’d have a very high bar to prove their case because in most cases, advocating criminal activity is protected speech (c.f. Brandenburg v. Ohio). They have to prove the speaker intended to cause criminal activity that was both imminent AND likely. And even if they win, they can only punish you after the fact for that specific utterance, not precipitate a blanket ban on your saying anything else in the future.

    Somehow I don’t think that’s anywhere close to what Cameron has in mind. He probably wants something more like ASBO’s, where the government can place arbitrary restrictions on people withot even having to accuse them of breaking a law, much less proving they actually have.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  26. anjin-san says:

    And now, we’re seeing these riots…

    Must be cause and effect, right? Because there have never been riots in England before this.

    Thank you Glenn Beck…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 2

  27. anjin-san says:

    Dodd: “President Obama must be grateful a “leader” of a major power would go so far out of his way to make him look good by comparison.”

    WTF?

    It’s just Dodd’s way of saying “I am a tool”…

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 1

  28. Ben Wolf says:

    @Jay Tea: The riots weren’t the result of calculated opportunity, although I agree people should be able to acquire at least minimal armament to defend themselves and their property.

    Riots are an expression of power. People who (rightly or wrongly) have for some time felt powerless suddenly came to the conclusion that together they were powerful, and could not be stopped. There should have been a much more rapid and active response by police, but even quelling the riots quickly would have done nothing for the long-term. Without a serious effort to make the British underclass feel like they’re invested in the system, this will happen again.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 2 Thumb down 0

  29. WR says:

    @anjin-san: But then, what among his writings isn’t?

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 2

  30. Steve Verdon says:

    The only real question is, have they now had enough of it to demand that their rights be restored or will they just accept this, too?

    Ohhh, ooohhhh…I know this on, its easy!

    Accept it too.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 1 Thumb down 0

  31. Catfish says:

    The solution is clear: give the law abiding citizens the right to own guns and there won’t be any more riots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  32. WR says:

    @Catfish: You do realize that most of the rioters were “law abiding citizens” before the riots. Which means that the rioters would also have the right to own guns.

    Of course, if everyone is dead, no more riots.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  33. superdestroyer says:

    @WR:

    I think it is up to people who are screaming authoritarian and facism to describe a system that would control and stop riots without being what they considered authoritarian.

    I suspect that you are actually enjoying the idea that law abiding small business owners are losing their life savings and that the most corrupt, morally bankrupt individuals are saving their way.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  34. Boyd says:

    @WR: I was just going to let this discussion wind down without my participation until you decided to throw that out there, WR. I really find it hard to understand how you and others can continue to believe this utterly indefensible prediction that society will go to hell in a handbasket if people have guns. This has been claimed by folks like you time, and time, and time, and time, and time, and time, and time, and time again, and it has never happened. Not once. Never. How can you possibly continue to believe that guns freely available to and in the hands of law-abiding citizens will cause blood to run in the streets, since the prediction has never, ever come true?

    Let me ask you Joe Huffman’s One Question:

    Can you demonstrate one time or place, throughout all history, where the average person was made safer by restricting access to handheld weapons?

    There are three possible answers to this question.

    1. “I don’t know.” In which case my response is, “Come back to the debate when you can answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’.”
    2. “No.” In which case my response is, “Then you should be advocating the repeal of ALL gun control laws and I don’t want to hear a single anti-freedom word from you on this topic again.”
    3. “Yes and here is my demonstration.”

    If you can’t answer with response #3 above, including the demonstration, then you’ve got no business advocating gun control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  35. WR says:

    @Boyd: Thank you for explaining what I am allowed and not allowed to advocate. It has been my experience that those who worship the gun do so because they are so afraid of the world getting out of their control that they need to feel sure they can start killing people when they feel threatened. The need to stop all discussion of the subject, as you have just demanded, is only a part of that desperate need for control.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0

  36. Boyd says:

    @WR: You mischaracterize my response. I don’t mean to stop discussion. I just wanted you to point out you have no idea what you’re talking about when it comes to guns.

    Thank you for accomplishing that.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 0 Thumb down 0