Death of the Free Internet

Yesterday the EU essentially voted to kill the free internet, although there is one more step to make it valid. Let’s let Robert Tracinski of The Federalist tells us why.

This [Article 13] is ostensibly a measure to enforce copyright protections, but it is drawn so preposterously overbroad that it will catch everybody.

A proposed new European copyright law wants large websites to use ‘content recognition technologies’ to scan for copyrighted videos, music, photos, text, and code in a move that that could impact everyone from the open source software community to remixers, livestreamers, and teenage meme creators.

This law is calculated to destroy the free-wheeling Internet in five ways.

1) It restricts the flow of content on computer networks.

Article 13 reverses one of the key legal doctrines that allowed the Internet to thrive: the idea that computer networks are not “publishers” and are therefore not liable for the actions or statements of their users. This means that you can sue an individual user for libel or copyright infringement, but not the e-mail service or bulletin board or social media platform on which he did it. This immunity made it possible for computer networks to open a floodgate of content produced by independent individuals, without requiring service providers to serve as editors or moderators.

2) It creates an Internet surveillance state.

Article 13 would require big tech companies to establish the infrastructure to monitor and control all communications that go through their networks, which is precisely what they are already doing too much of.

3) It entrenches the big media giants.

The expense of setting up the electronic filters mandated in Article 13 is so great that tiny little startups can’t do it. Only the giants can do it.

But wait, it gets worse. Along with Article 13 is Article 11, dubbed the “link tax,” which requires websites to buy a license from established publications in order to quote, excerpt, or possibly even link to their material. Ostensibly, this is to protect publications from sites that “curate” content by stealing it, providing a link to the original source only after they have excerpted all of its key information and gathered all the Web traffic for themselves. But the egregious abuse of excerpts is already illegal. Article 11 replaces existing laws with something much broader and more vague, whose exact scope hasn’t even been defined yet.

4) It would outlaw legitimate uses of information.

As another opponent explains, “Automated systems just can’t distinguish between commentary, criticism, and parody, and mere copying, nor could the platforms employ a workforce big enough to adjudicate each case to see if a match to a copyrighted work falls within one of copyright’s limitations and exceptions.”

5) It would unleash false and malicious copyright claims.

Article 13 allows for mass uploading of copyright claims but imposes no penalty for making a false claim. This creates an incentive for bad actors to suppress information by targeting it with false copyright claims.

[S]tock-market manipulators could use bots to claim copyright over news about a company, suppressing its sharing on social media; political actors could suppress key articles during referendums or elections; corrupt governments could use arms-length trolls to falsely claim ownership of footage of human rights abuses…. It’s asymmetric warfare:…. Bots will be able to pollute the copyright databases much faster than humans could possibly clear it.

More, and more detail at The Federalist, linked above.

It is a blatant grab for censorship by the elites, for the elites. Not something we are unfamiliar with if you can’t compete with something outlaw it. In theory, it should not affect us here in the US. Yeah right, if you read that privacy notice on this and every article on this site, it is there because the EU mandates it.

Europe is a dying market, but it is a very self-important market, with a very entrenched ruling class, who would much rather you didn’t know what they were up to. Just like HMG with regard to Tommy Robinson, where we got the word on the internet and America and Australia have embarrassed the British government.

It’s doubtful that we would have ever heard about his arrest (or likely even him) if this had been in force. Nor would we have heard about the green revolt in Iran a few years ago.

It is a pernicious measure, which has the power to remove the truth from the public sphere, and ways around it must be found if we cannot kill it. Because this could kill freedom of speech, perhaps only on the internet, but…

What you don’t know, you can’t speak of.

 

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Allies and Protectorates

Carolyn Glick has an article up on her site, comparing how Netanyahu and Trudeau deal with Trump. It’s, as usual for her, factual and thought-provoking.

She starts by debunking the obviously flawed comparison of Kim Jong-un and Trudeau. One is obviously an enemy and the other an ally, however tense at the moment.

A much more apt, and enlightening, analysis would be to consider Trump’s disparate treatment of two allies — for instance, Trudeau and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Both Trudeau and Netanyahu lead U.S. allies. But whereas Trump and his advisors sharply rebuked Trudeau for his angry assault following the G-7 summit last week, Netanyahu and Trump enjoy close, intense, and mutually supportive ties. Far from attacking one another, Trump and Netanyahu consistently back one another up in their public statements.

What accounts for the disparity? More broadly, what does the disparity in treatment tell us about Trump’s expectations from foreign leaders? What does it teach us about his foreign policy outlook more generally? […]

Rather than side with Israel in its war against the Hamas terror regime, as all of his predecessors had done to varying degrees, Obama sided with Hamas and its state sponsors, Qatar and Turkey, against Israel.

Obama insisted that Netanyahu accept Hamas’s ceasefire conditions and walk away with no guarantee that Hamas would end its rocket and missile offensive against Israel.

Obama’s embrace of Iran and effective alliance with Hamas through Turkey and Qatar were the last straws for Israel.

But Obama’s behavior had not come as a surprise. Sensing, earlier on, where the wind was blowing, Netanyahu had already been working to sidestep Obama by developing an alliance with America’s other spurned Middle Eastern allies: Egypt, the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Saudi Arabia. Like Israel, these three regimes were mortally threatened by Iran. Like Israel —  indeed, to an even greater degree than Israel — these regimes viewed the Muslim Brotherhood and its allies and offshoots, including Hamas, as existential threats.

Like many (most probably) Americans I support Israel, which is no surprise to anyone here, nor will anyone here be surprised that his opposition to Israel had a considerable amount to do with my disgust for Obama. My support for KSA and Egypt is not on that level, but they are much preferable to the Moslem Brotherhood and Iran. Continuing:

As Obama insisted Israel accept the Turkish-Qatari ceasefire offer – that is, Hamas’s ceasefire conditions — Egypt, the UAE, and Saudi Arabia all sided with Israel against Hamas – and Obama. They rejected Hamas’s ceasefire conditions and embraced Israel’s positions entirely. Their stunning public support for Israel compelled Obama to walk back his pressure on Israel.

As for Iran, the Israel-Sunni operational alliance was important for two reasons. First, it empowered Netanyahu to defy openly Obama on the Iran nuclear deal. That defiance was expressed most powerfully when Netanyahu detailed the problems with the nuclear deal in an address to a special joint session of Congress in March 2015. Second, the operational ties between Israel and the Sunni Gulf states facilitated Mossad and other operations against Iranian plans and capabilities.

As Entous notes, in Netanyahu’s first meeting with Trump, which took place in September 2016 at the sidelines of the UN General Assembly meeting in New York, Netanyahu and Israeli Ambassador Ron Dermer presented then-candidate Trump with Netanyahu’s vision of a new U.S. regional posture in the Middle East. Such a U.S. posture could be based on the U.S. leading the operational alliance that Netanyahu had developed with the Sunnis.

Entous writes that Trump’s campaign CEO, Steve Bannon, was “blown away” by their presentation. A former Trump advisor told Entous that the two Israelis “had thought this through – this wasn’t half-baked. This was well articulated and it dovetailed exactly with our thinking.”

According to Entous, the “advisor credited Netanyahu and Dermer with inspiring the new administration’s approach to the Middle East.”[…]

Trump’s close relationship with Netanyahu owes, then, to two things. First, by developing Israel’s ties with the Sunni Arab states, Netanyahu demonstrated that he is capable of acting to defend Israel and shared U.S.-Israeli interests, even without U.S. assistance. That showed Trump that Israel is an ally, not a protectorate of the U.S. — and that Netanyahu is a partner, not a burden, for the U.S. in the post-Obama Middle East.

Look what we have here; an American ally, actually several of them, taking the lead on a local problem, committing themselves to a solution, that they think acceptable to America, and asking us to help and perhaps lead while contributing substantially to their solution. And so they present a solution to Trump, which is not free of danger but is clearly thought through, workable, and a reasonable risk for America. That is a good ally.

Then there is Trudeau.

During the 2016 campaign, although Trump made abandoning Obama’s Iran nuclear deal and moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem key foreign policy goals, updating international trade deals was a much more significant campaign issue. And one of Trump’s central pledges to his voters was his vow to improve, or walk away from, the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which President Bill Clinton had signed with Canada and Mexico. […]

Instead of seeking compromises that could advance the interests of both countries, or at a minimum limit the damage that new U.S. trade policies would cause the Canadian economy, Trudeau pretended away the issue — hoping, apparently, that Trump would disappear if Trudeau just ignored him.

Consequently, rather than engaging seriously with American negotiators — as the Mexicans are — Trudeau has added insult to injury by slapping progressive social engineering provisions regarding indigenous, gender, and worker rights onto Canada’s trade policies. Trudeau is apparently attempting to use bilateral trade to dictate the Trump administration’s social policy.

In other words, Trudeau has embraced posturing over substantive policymaking. Rather than presenting Trump with a deal that could make sense for the U.S. and Canada, Trudeau has presented himself as a progressive hero, standing up to the Left’s greatest enemy.

Given Trudeau’s behavior, it was just a matter of time before trade talks between Washington and Ottowa blew up. Canada’s leader offered Trump no alternative to confrontation.

The disparity between Trump’s treatment of Israel and Canada tells us two important things.

First, when Trump criticizes American allies for expecting the United States to defend them and pay for the privilege, he isn’t doing it to blow off steam. Trump believes that for alliances to be meaningful, they have to be alliances between independent states that come together to pursue common interests.

Yep, and quite a few American allies, including the UK, would be very wise to take heed of what is said here. This is a good read on Trump’s policy, and it is one backed by just about all of red state America. We are practical down-to-earth people. We have built the world’s most powerful economy backed by the world’s most powerful military in about 200 years, and we are proud of both and are unwilling to see our work undone.

I’d guess that if things do not change soon, America’s emphasis in Europe will change to the Visegrad countries and the Balts, to the detriment of western Europe and possibly NATO itself. Americans don’t really believe in the welfare state, still less do we believe we owe Europe much of anything. If anything, we resent that three times in the last hundred years, we’ve had to help save Europe from enemies of their own creation. “The Long War” some (not inaccurately) call it.

As long as the EU and Germany want to posture like world leaders while antagonizing we who pay the bills that allow them to do so, well, they can expect chilly weather in Washington, just like Trudeau can.

We like allies, we’re not that fond of unruly protectorates.

Carolyn sums up with this:

Trump’s actual doctrine is that the U.S. will help its allies and foes when they pursue goals the U.S. shares. And the U.S. will spurn allies – and enemies — who expect America to do their bidding as they mistake posturing for policymaking, and attitude for work.

Yep.

Do read her article at Unlike Netanyahu, Trudeau expects America to work for him. There is much that I didn’t cover.

 

 

Through a Glass Darkly

One of the most reliably astute observers of the world is Victor Davis Hanson, one of those rare people known by their initials: VDH, nearly universally. But even he varies some in the quality of his observations, from excellent to outstanding. This may be as good as anything I’ve read from anyone, anywhere.

The Post-War Order Is Over

Empirically speaking, neo-Ottoman Turkey is a NATO ally in name only. By any standard of behavior — Ankara just withdrew its ambassador from the U.S. — Turkey is a de facto enemy of the United States. It supports radical Islamic movements, is increasingly hostile to U.S. allies such as Greece, the Kurds, and Israel, and opposes almost every foreign-policy initiative that Washington has adopted over the last decade. At some point, some child is going to scream that the emperor has no clothes: Just because Turkey says it is a NATO ally does not mean that it is, much less that it will be one in the future.

Instead, Turkey is analogous to Pakistan, a country whose occasional usefulness to the U.S. does not suggest that it is either an ally or even usually friendly.

And, perhaps, as a new sense of realism invades Washington, the actions of the US may begin to match that reality.

There is nothing much left of the old canard that only by appeasing China’s mercantilism can there be a new affluent Chinese middle class that will then inevitably adopt democracy and then will partner with the West and become a model global nation. China is by design a chronic international trade cheater. Trade violations have been its road to affluence. And it seeks to use its cash as leverage to re-create something like the old imperial Japanese Greater East Asia co-prosperity sphere. U.S. trade appeasement of Beijing over the last decades no more brought stability to Asia than did nodding to Tokyo in the 1930s.

There is also nothing sacred about the European Union. It certainly is not the blueprint for any continental-wide democratic civilization — any more than Bonaparte’s rigged “continental system” (to which the EU is on occasion strangely and favorably compared to by its proponents). The often-crude imposition of a democratic socialism, pacifism, and multiculturalism, under the auspices of anti-democratic elites, from the Atlantic to the Russian border, is spreading, not curbing, chaos. The EU utopian mindset has altered European demography, immigration policy, energy production, and defense. The result is that there are already four sorts of antithetical EUs: a renegade and departing United Kingdom, an estranged Eastern European bloc worried over open borders, an insolvent South bitter over front-line illegal immigration and fiscal austerity, and the old core of Western Europe (a euphemism now for German hegemony).

Interesting to watch the EU, isn’t it? The original conception was indeed a United States of Europe, consisting mostly of (The New) Germany and France, with England fully allied to the United States (not a vassal state by any means, a partner). If I understand what I read, that was Churchill’s conception. But!

As for Germany, it is no longer the “new” model West Germany of the post-war order, but a familiar old Germany that now pushes around its neighbors on matters of illegal immigration, financial bailouts, Brexit, Russian energy, and NATO contributions, much as it used to seek to expand Prussia and the Sudetenland. German unification now channels more the spirit of 1871 than of 1989. Call the new German attitude “Prussian postmodernism” — a sort of green and politically correct intimidation. Likewise, in terms of the treatment of German Jews, Germany seems more back in the pre-war than in the post-war world.

As far as the U.S., Germany has redefined its post-war relationship with the America on something like the following three assumptions: 1) Germany’ right to renege on its promise to spend 2 percent of its GDP on defense in order to meet its NATO promises is not negotiable; 2) its annual $65 billion surplus with the U.S. is not negotiable; 3) its world-record-busting account surplus of $280 billion is not negotiable. Corollaries to the above assumptions are Germany’s insistence that NATO in its traditional form is immutable and that the present “free” trade system is inviolable.

Soon, some naïf is going to reexamine German–American relations and exclaim “there is no there.”

I think some naif just did, and in his exclamation was the words, It is unfair for the United States to subsidize the welfare state of these Prussians, and so tariffs to export to the United States will increase until they are equitable.

And that’s important, the Germans need to export that steel, and be defended by the US (and British) Army far more than either country needs to import Mercedes. There is only one outcome for Europe, the only declining market in the world, in a trade war with the United States: They lose, probably badly.

The West Bank’s rich Arab patrons now fear Iran more than they do Israel. The next Middle East war will be between Israel and Iran, not the Palestinians and their Arab sponsors and Tel Aviv — and the Sunni Arab world will be rooting for Israel to defeat Islamic Iran.

And I notice that in the last week, Russia is starting to tell Iran to pull back from the Israeli border, before Russia gets engulfed as well. Iran’s economy is essentially as bad as Venezuela’s, and sanctions haven’t even been reapplied yet. The Iranian truckers, taxi drivers, teachers and probably others are on strikes, the nationwide protest continues, and calls for a revolution have started.

Finally, we’re seeing the end of the old truism that the U.S. was either psychologically or economically so strong that it could easily take on the burdens of global leadership — taking trade hits for newly ascendant capitalist nations that ignored trade rules, subsidizing the Continental defense of an affluent Europe, rubber-stamping international institutions on the premise that they adhered to Western liberalism and tolerance, and opening its borders either to assuage guilt or to recalibrate a supposedly culpable demography.

Historic forces have made post-war thinking obsolete and thereby left many reactionary “experts” wedded to the past and in denial about the often-dangerous reality before their eyes. Worse is the autopilot railing for the nth time that Donald Trump threatens the post-war order, undermines NATO, is clueless about the EU, or ignores the sophisticated institutions that hold the world together.

About the only metaphor that works is that Trump threw a pebble at a global glass house. But that is not a morality tale about the power of pebbles, but rather about the easy shattering of cracked glass.

There’s quite a lot more at the link above, you should read it.

That is pretty much what I see as well. All is in flux as it hasn’t been since 1940, where it ends is hard to see, maybe impossible. But you know, I’m inclined to think that the American people, in electing Trump, have found the leader who sees a way to lead his people into the next epoch, whatever it brings, successfully.

If I’m right, it’s a good time to be a friend of America, if I’m wrong, there is likely a new dark age approaching. Yeah, its a time for Churchillian terms.

Secularism and Religion

Many here are aware that the basis of western civilization is in our Judeo-Christian heritage. Often we merely assert this, since we have known it all our lives, but it can be examined fruitfully.

I admire Melanie Phillips greatly because not only is she a very good writer and speaker, she is fully capable of thinking through things. And she does so here. Yes, this is a long read, but I think you’ll find it valuable to read the whole thing.

It has become the orthodoxy in the West that freedom, human rights and reason all derive from secularism and that the greatest threat to all these good things is religion.

I want to suggest that the opposite is true. In the service of this orthodoxy, the West is undermining and destroying the very values which it holds most dear as the defining characteristics of a civilised society.

In truth, in the United States, we don’t hear it explicitly very often, but in Britain, it is quite common in my experience. Not to mention very strident, not only from the secularists, but from Randians, and other assorted libertine groups.

Some of this hostility is being driven by the perceived threat from Islamic terrorism and the Islamisation of Western culture. However, this animus against religion has far deeper roots and can be traced back to what is considered the birthplace of Western reason, the 18th-century Enlightenment.

Actually, it goes back specifically to the French Enlightenment. In England and Scotland, the Enlightenment developed reason and political liberty within the framework of Biblical belief. In France, by contrast, anti-clericalism morphed into fundamental hostility to Christianity and to religion itself.

“Ecrasez l’infame,” said Voltaire (crush infamy) — the infamy to which he referred being not just the Church but Christianity, which he wanted to replace with the religion of reason, virtue and liberty, “drawn from the bosom of nature”.

[…] Instead of God producing heaven on earth, it would be mankind which would bring that about. Reason would create the perfect society and “progress” was the process by which utopia would be attained.

Far from utopia, however, this thinking resulted in something more akin to hell on earth. For the worship of man through reason led straight to totalitarianism. It was reason that would redeem religious superstition and bring about the kingdom of Man on earth. And just like medieval apocalyptic Christian belief, this secular doctrine would also be unchallengeable and heretics would be punished. This kind of fanaticism infused the three great tyrannical movements that were spun out of Enlightenment thinking: the French Revolution, Communism and Fascism. […]

In the Sixties, the baby-boomer generation bought heavily into the idea propounded by Herbert Marcuse and other Marxist radicals that the way to transform the West lay not through the seizure of political or economic control but through the transformation of the culture. This has been achieved over the past half century through what has been called a “long march through the institutions”, the infiltration into all the institutions of the culture — the universities, media, professions, politics, civil service, churches — of ideas that would then become the orthodoxy.

From multiculturalism to environmentalism, from post-nationalism to “human rights” doctrine, Western progressives have fixated upon universalising ideas which reject values anchored in the particulars of religion or culture. All that matters is a theoretical future in which war, want and prejudice will be abolished: the return of fallen humanity to a lost Eden. And like all utopian projects, which are by definition impossible and unattainable, these dogmas are enforced through coercion: bullying, intimidation, character assassination, professional and social exclusion.

The core doctrine is equality. Not the Biblical doctrine that every human being is owed equal respect because they are formed in the image of God: equality has been redefined as identicality, the insistence that there can be no hierarchy of values of lifestyles or cultures. There can no longer be different outcomes depending on different circumstances or how people behave. To differentiate at all is to be bigoted and on a fast track back to fascism and war.

So the married family was kicked off its perch. Sexual restraint was abolished. The formerly transgressive became normative. Education could no longer transmit a culture down through the generations but had to teach that the Western nation was innately racist and exploitative.

Subjective trumped objective. There was no longer any absolute truth. Everyone could arbitrate their own truth. That way bigotry and prejudice would be excised from the human heart, the oppressed of the developing world would be freed from their Western oppressors and instead of the Western nation there would be the brotherhood of man.

All this was done in name of freedom, reason and enlightenment and in opposition to religion, the supposed source of oppression, irrationality and obscurantism.

At the heart of it was an onslaught against the moral codes of Christianity. Those moral codes are actually the Mosaic laws of the Hebrew Bible.

[…] What they [Western “progressives” and the Islamists] also have in common is hostility to Judaism, Israel or the Jewish people. The genocidal hatred of Israel and the Jews that drives the Islamic jihad against the West is not acknowledged or countered by the West because its most high-minded citizens share at least some of that prejudice. Both Western liberals and Islamists believe in utopias to which the Jews are an obstacle. The State of Israel is an obstacle to both the rule of Islam over the earth and a world where there are no divisions based on religion or creed. The Jews are an obstacle to the unconstrained individualism of Western libertines and to the onslaught against individual human dignity and freedom by the Islamists. Both the liberal utopias of a world without prejudice, divisions or war and the Islamist utopia of a world without unbelievers are universalist ideologies. The people who are always in the way of universalising utopias are the Jews.

Do read it all, and there is a deal more than I have given you. The full title is: Secularism and religion: the onslaught against the West’s moral codes. It is simply a superb examination of where our basic morality came from, and how it has allowed us to exceed former civilizations by orders of magnitude, and how it has come to be endangered.

Crossposted from All along the Watchtower.

Feckless Tories and Brexit Negotiations

I don’t feature Dan Mitchell here all that much, although I do read him most every day. Why? Because like economics itself, his writing isn’t as exciting as some. But he is nearly always right. Yesterday, he wrote about the strong hand that the Tories hold in the Brexit negotiations, and here too he is right, although I fear that the Tories are just as good as the GOPe at snatching defeat from the jaws of victory™. Here’s a bit of what he wrote.

If I was a citizen of the United Kingdom, I would have voted to leave the European Union for the simple reason that even a rickety lifeboat is better than a slowly sinking ship.

More specifically, demographic changes and statist policies are a crippling combination for continental Europe, almost surely guaranteeing a grim future, and British voters wisely decided to escape. Indeed, I listed Brexit as one of the best things that happened in 2016.

This doesn’t mean the U.K. has ideal policies, but Brexit was a good idea precisely because politicians in London will now have more leeway and incentive to liberalize their economy.

Though I wonder whether Prime Minister May and the bumbling Tories will take advantage of the situation.

The Financial Times has a report that captures the real issue driving Brexit discussions. Simply stated, the European Union is scared that an independent U.K. will become more market-friendly and thus put competitive pressure on E.U. welfare states.

The EU is threatening sanctions to stop Britain undercutting the continent’s economy after Brexit…the bloc wants unprecedented safeguards after the UK leaves to preserve a “level playing field” and counter the “clear risks” of Britain slashing taxes or relaxing regulation. Brussels…wants…to enforce restrictions on taxation…and employment rights. …the EU negotiators highlight the risk of Britain ‘undermining Europe as an area of high social protection’…the UK is “likely to use tax to gain competitiveness” and note it is already a low-tax economy with a “large number of offshore entities”. …On employment and environmental standards, the EU negotiators highlight the risk of Britain “undermining Europe as an area of high social protection”.

In case you don’t have a handy statism-to-English dictionary handy, you need to realize that “level playing field” means harmonizing taxes and regulations at very high level.

Keep reading here.

And that is pretty much true. Europe is scared, in losing the UK, they lose a good chunk of their Danegeld, while the UK gets rid of the Dane, for as Kipling wrote

IT IS always a temptation to an armed and agile nation
To call upon a neighbour and to say: –
“We invaded you last night – we are quite prepared to fight,
 Unless you pay us cash to go away.”

And that is called asking for Dane-geld,
And the people who ask it explain
That you’ve only to pay ’em the Dane-geld
And then you’ll get rid of the Dane!

It is always a temptation for a rich and lazy nation,
To puff and look important and to say: –
“Though we know we should defeat you,
we have not the time to meet you.
We will therefore pay you cash to go away.”

And that is called paying the Dane-geld;
 But we’ve proved it again and again,
That if once you have paid him the Dane-geld
 You never get rid of the Dane.

It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
 For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say: —

“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
 No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
 And the nation that plays it is lost!”

Sadly though, I am having increasing trouble seeing Theresa May as King Alfred, but perhaps the people will find a way to inject a bit of Sheffield steel into her spine. Although GK Chesterton’s vision is doubtlessly beyond her.

I tell you naught for your comfort,
Yea, naught for your desire,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher

The lines are repeated in a different context toward the end as Alfred gathers the Saxons for what will prove the last and successful battle

“And this is the word of Mary,
The word of the world’s desire
`No more of comfort shall ye get,
Save that the sky grows darker yet
And the sea rises higher.’ 

Now it proves the flint against which the iron of resolve is sharpened, and the Saxons rally and they win, even though all had seemed lost. Alfred was not the most charismatic or dramatic of leaders, but he won, and this is why:

And this was the might of Alfred,
At the ending of the way;
That of such smiters, wise or wild,
He was least distant from the child,
Piling the stones all day.

Alfred has faith and he had patience, and he had resilience; he lacked the capacity to despair. In short, he possessed all the Christian virtues. He listened to Our Lady and he understood her advice, and so, at the height of the battle:

The King looked up, and what he saw
Was a great light like death,
For Our Lady stood on the standards rent,
As lonely and as innocent
As when between white walls she went
And the lilies of Nazareth.

And so, through many a sorrow and woe, the steadfast faith of Alfred proved victorious where the charismatic personalities of men with less character failed.

Here there is a lesson for us all – if we will read it.

Thanks to Jessica for teaching me that poem, and that paragraph.

Freedom, Bought and Sold

It always interests me to see what our readers are reading here. Yesterday, close to 20% of you were reading a fairly old article of Jessica’s, entitled The Exhausted West?.  In it, she spoke about Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s 1978 Harvard Commencement address. It is, I think quite appropriate to today’s subject, especially one of the paragraphs she quoted from the speech.

Destructive and irresponsible freedom has been granted boundless space. Society appears to have little defense against the abyss of human decadence, such as, for example, the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror. It is considered to be part of freedom and theoretically counterbalanced by the young people’s right not to look or not to accept. Life organized legalistically has thus shown its inability to defend itself against the corrosion of evil. 

Indeed, we have lost here, and even more in Europe, the key fact that freedom imposes responsibility, and that there is much more to life than material possessions.

Today, we are going to speak of the late/current demonstrations in Iran, and even more the reaction to them in the west. The source of today’s is Douglass Murray in The Spectator (UK) article entitled The Iranian revolution the world wants to ignore.

If there is one lesson the world should have learned from Iran’s ‘Green Revolution’ of 2009 and the so-called Arab Spring that followed, it is this: the worst regimes stay. Rulers who are only averagely appalling (Tunisia’s Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali, Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak) can be toppled by uprisings. Those who are willing to kill every one of their countrymen stay. So it is that after almost half a million dead we enter 2018 with Bashar al-Assad still President of Syria and with Iran’s mullahs approaching the 40th anniversary of their seizure of power in 1979. […]

Yep, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and quite a few more died peacefully in bed, few of their opponents did.

Yet anyone who expects these demonstrations to lead to swift change in the nature of the Iranian government remembers no history. Shortly after the latest protests began, the country’s security forces, including the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, were seen photographing the events. In Iran, a regime camera is as deadly as a sniper’s sights. Only more delayed. As in 2009, the photographs will be used by the police to arrest demonstrators and also family members unconnected with the protests. This will be followed by the torture and rape of men and women in prison by the theocratic regime’s frontmen. As after the Green Revolution, there will in due course be show trials, forced recantations and executions. This is how a police state with four decades of experience goes about its business. In 1979, the behaviour of the Shah’s dreaded Savak secret police was one of the spurs for revolution. The Ayatollahs have superseded the Savak, fine-tuned their brutality and learned from their mistakes.

Anyone in doubt about the capacity of the Supreme Leader to hang on to power need only watch the footage of crowds in the city of Rasht advancing down the street on one of the first nights of protest. You can see the exact moment when the regime’s Revolutionary Guard starts attacking the protesters. The crowd that is marching one way down the street suddenly finds an organised army running towards them. These are trained killers being unleashed on angry but peaceful civilians. Six hundred people have already been arrested and dozens already killed. The civilians don’t stand a chance. […]

None whatsoever, the Supreme Leaders people are not fully trained troops, probably, although they are inured to killing, which is all it really takes, plus a modicum of organization to easily defeat a mob in the street. Not much different than murder on an industrial scale, but it is effective.

Unless, that is, the outside world takes any interest in their plight. In the early hours of the demonstrations, the US President took to Twitter to warn the Iranian authorities that ‘The USA is watching very closely for human rights violations!’ But such is the obsession with Donald Trump and the parochialism of all our politics that Trump’s critics immediately took to the media to condemn his condemnation of human rights abuses. Again on Twitter, the most powerful man on the planet — determined not to replay the actions of his predecessor in office, who was highly reluctant to speak out during the crushing of the Green Revolution — warned that ‘The world is watching.’ He may be right. But the world may watch in silence.

This is one of those occasions where, whatever you think of Donald Trump, he is correct, the west invented human rights, and are the only guarantor. And yet, many, maybe most around the world for whatever reason decided to side with the Ayatollah against the west, personified by Donald Trump. Speaking for myself, I found it sickening.

Some international caution is justified. People have their reasons. Our own Foreign Secretary, Boris Johnson, has expressed ‘concern’ over events, but has been careful not to go further. Fresh back from a visit to Tehran, the Foreign Secretary has been working to obtain the release of the British–Iranian dual citizen, Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, who has been imprisoned in Iran for the last 18 months. Thanks to a campaign by Labour MPs, the issue of Zaghari-Ratcliffe’s release has been turned into an issue of the Foreign Secretary’s personal competence (at times as though it is Boris Johnson, and not the mullahs, who imprisoned the woman). Johnson’s Iranian counterparts know that he has a lot riding on his efforts to release her and have used this advantage well. So a campaign for one woman’s freedom has hindered a Foreign Secretary from campaigning for a nation’s freedom.

Other silences have been less defensible. The leader of the opposition is not normally silent when there is an opportunity to talk about unfairness or injustice. Yet after days of protests in Iran, Jeremy Corbyn said nothing.

One reason may be that the leader of Her Majesty’s opposition was until recently in the pay of the Iranian regime. For presenting programmes on its propaganda wing, Press TV (before becoming Labour party leader), Corbyn received up to £20,000. Damningly — or it would be damning if more people cared — he appeared on Press TV even after the channel lost its broadcasting licence. It lost that licence not because of its always clear political support for a sectarian, gay-hanging, women-oppressing dictatorship. It lost it because during the channel’s campaign to delegitimise the 2009 protests, Press TV broadcast a forced confession from a journalist who had been abducted by the regime and was being held in prison. Ofcom thought this crossed a line. Jeremy Corbyn did not and was happy to continue to take his apple-juice money from Tehran.

Elsewhere the silence indicates the dream-puncturing of an entire political class. In 2015 the UN security council agreed a deal with Iran to limit elements of its nuclear programme for a period. Iran’s incentives included a freeing up of trade and a delivery of billions of dollars in cash. For their part, companies and governments across Europe hoped to get their own cash bonanzas in the wake of that deal. Such deals always compromise the people who make them. One of the chief defenders of the 2015 deal, the EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, has spent recent days being studiously silent on the uprisings in Iran. When President Trump recognised Jerusalem as Israel’s capital she couldn’t tweet enough condemnations of his action. Yet five days into the protests in Iran, she hadn’t even said that she is watching events closely. Europe’s leading foreign affairs ideologue needs Iran’s governing status quo to stay in place so that nothing about her own deal, future cash prize or putative Nobel award is in any way disturbed.

We’ve said speaking of the election that Donald Trump has F**k you money. He has enough that he can do what he thinks is right without regard to his next paycheck. It’s a major advantage. It applies here, as well. The US, seemingly alone in the west has F**k you money, too. Not that we do, but we have a historical record of trying to do the harder right instead of the easier wrong. Do we always succeed? Of course not. But maybe that is the reason why we, of all the nations of the west, still will go out into the world to fight evil.

But I suspect the day is coming when we will come to the conclusion that if the people of Europe amongst others value money above all things, especially above their own freedom, well, why should we care. That will be the day that Europe falls. Of its own volition, bribed by its own money. It will be a sad day, but it begins to appear inevitable.

 

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