Friday, 10 April 2009

The biter bit; but not bitter.

I have replies to my post of yesterday, about the death of Ian Tomlinson at the G20 summit/protest/partial riots, take your pick.

And very grateful for them I am too.

As I’d hoped to take part in this debate, I’ll post my responses as a main page since my correspondents have put up such a lot of good sense it’s a shame to hide it down in the little Blogger boxes.


Welcome (again?), and thank you for your comments and arguments. I'll take them one by one, respectfully and respectively.

“Well I take heart that we aren't in a police state yet but that's no reason not exercise vigilance.”

Agreed and agreed.

“A lot of foolish people on the right imagine that the machinery of the state is fundamentally good but the wrong people are in charge.”

Maybe I’m being foolish… :-)

I think that the machinery of the State (some of it; that is the traditional functions of law and law creation and enforcement, defence, upholding and circumscribing contracts, and providing public goods – in the economic sense of ‘public goods’) is the State – and without which life would be Hobbesian or at best Hogarthian. So, these institutions are good in a roughly equivalent way to the sense in which air and gravity are good for human life.

“If only we can put our people in charge”

Our people ARE in charge – legitimately and democratically elected British MPs and Metropolitan Police Authority councillors. (You can’t even blame the EU for this one.) Party shouldn’t enter into this. Legislators should uphold the law and oversee its enforcement. Opposition, media and citizenry should hold them to account through the proper channels – and not on the streets in rioting. (Not saying that you support rioting here, but there are those for whom it’s the means and the ends, I think.)

Being ‘Right-wing’; meaning here conservative, does or should contain a strong aspect of respect for legitimate force even when it is distasteful – and when is force not distasteful outside of sport and fiction?

I agree with the general constitutional point that institutions should function irrespective of the party in power, and your point that making some parts of the state lawless or over-mighty is a bad thing even when some of what they might do would be good for ‘our party’, no problem. That’s Limitation Of Powers 101, and Peter Osborn in “The Triumph of the Political Class” points out, as you do, that the erosion of the limited and largely self-limiting Establishment began with the impatience of the Thatcher government.

“… they will make it all good.”

Nah. I’m a conservative, and therefore I don’t think anything in this world will ever make anything all good.

But seriously, no; the State is a rough-and-ready but well-established collective arrangement consisting of weak and fallible people with imperfect knowledge, but what I do believe is that it should be allowed to do its job for the most part. We pay the MPs enough and more than enough to check that it does just that.

Okay, they’re doing a lousy job of it at the moment, but that doesn’t mean we should or could micromanage them or second-guess everything.

“I think that's the root of the difference between say Dumb Jon and libertarians.”

Up to a point, Lord Copper. Dumb Jon is a conservative and therefore takes a view, if I’m reading him right, that some State functions are legitimate to preserve a number of desirable values - and that freedom is only one of them.

Freedom (in the classical liberal, Scottish Enlightenment, American and New Enlightenment sense) to libertarians is both the path and the prize. It may preserve and generate other values, but it’s still top of the list. At least, that’s what I used to think, back when I was a libertarian.

Maybe I’ve just agreed with you, and merely coloured in my version of yours?

“Nice but a bit idealistic. Think Baker bringing in the national curriculum to restore old fashioned teaching. That worked well.”

See the paragraph above for my agreement.

“The point of all this is that the loyalty of the Right to the police must have limits. After all the Stasi were policemen too and this government has done more than any to politicise the force.”

Absolutely! Or, rather, relatively! And in context.

Some ‘police’ forces are or were tyrannical and lawless: Gestapo, KBG, Stasi, etc, and I’m not suggesting tyrannical powers or lawlessness for ours. But they are limited by laws, and there are internal constraints and external complaints procedures, and the officer concerned may be brought to trial – as fair a trial as being posted all over the Internet will allow to him?her?, of course.

Fair trial? Hmm…

Here’s Liberty on privacy:

“The balance between the privacy of the individual and interests such as national security, crime prevention, and freedom of expression, is far from settled.
The extent of a right to privacy in the UK and its weight in relation to competing values is unclear. Current laws protect some aspects of privacy but disregard others.
Liberty are concerned with how the state, the press and others strike the balance between privacy and other interests.”

And here’s lovely Liberty again on this aspect of how “the state, the press and others strike the balance between privacy and other interests” –

Shami Chakrabarti, of the human rights organisation Liberty, said: "Clear images of an armoured policeman assaulting an innocent bystander from behind impugn the whole attitude to policing protests by the Metropolitan police. The IPCC failed its first major test in the [Jean Charles de] Menezes case. If the commission is to regain a shred of public confidence it must do far better in terms of speed, sanction and transparency."

Tried and convicted in a single sentence. And the custards ipses likewise. Good old Liberty; always on the side of the individual and the little guy – and never the mob or the powerful.

Back to Anonymous

“It'll take more than electing Mr Cameron to undo the harm done by two or three generations of PC educated elites to this countries institutions.”

Agreed. The upper reaches of the public sector will need to be disciplined, perhaps purged, and certainly there will have to be retraining , ie de-programming from Tony’s Crony’s victim-generating world-view.

Also, I don’t know if you’ve looked elsewhere on this blog, but I don’t hold out much hope that Mister Cameron and his intimates will be able to solve as much as the Telegraph cryptic crossword (even on Thursdays); let alone any one of our country’s problems.

“My view of the death is that it is too soon to judge. On face value the force of the push did seem excessive given the video evidence but I'm inclined to give the policeman some leeway on the basis of "heat of the moment". It's unreasonable to expect the adrenaline to flow one minute and not the next. But that has to be demonstrated.”

Agreed again.

It’s not that what you’ve said is wrong – far from it in most cases – but that said and given the time we have and the lives we lead, comments can only contain so much information, can’t they?

So where do we go now?

Well, I want to add what I subsequently added [rather hastily draughted yet again, perhaps] to the ATW post, is that permanent and institutionalised opposition to the police – and you can be sure that there were plenty of such people amongst the legitimate protesters – can be as hurtful to life and liberty, if not more so, than meek public compliance with our non-existent Gestapo.

It went …after decades of crying wolf over 'police brutality,' when they finally get what seems at first sight to be a genuine example of it - or at least of roughness which preceded death by a heart attack - then the left and the libbies are up in arms.

Now OK, every man's death diminishes me and all that, but the civil rights lot are so up their own... I mean, are so specialized and one-sided in their concerns that they persecute and deride the police and the other security forces when they seek to protect all our lives from the jihadists.

Their arguments are usually one or more of:

A] There is no jihad - there's just a few unrelated Muslim reactions to local conditions - thus 9/11 was truly and only a reaction to US troops being stationed on Saudi territory (Al Q's main bug bear), and not a continuation of Koranic instructions to al the faithful in perpetuity,

B] there is no jihad, and anyway look at how the West stole all the oil, so that's alright then.

C] even if there is a little tiny jihad - or even quite a big one - it can never merit police raiding homes of probably innocent Muslims and thus marking them out as suspects and shaming them in the communidee,

D] the Nu Labour neoconzionists are using a few isolated incidents to set up domestic dictatorships and reinforce neocolonial power overseas.

In each and every case, it is the institutions of legitimate government that are under attack from the civil rights crowd and not the actual bombers and other terrorists and their internet cheerleaders that are threatened with the full force of liberal and libertarian opinion.

Field officers and detectives may in future feel intimidated as a result of the flak handed down from on high as a result of this tunnel-visioned civil libertarianism, and this poor man's heart attack and the political furore that it might result in could cause some armed response copper to hesitate.

And so the next police fugitive on the Tube might turn out not to be an innocent illegally-resident off the books foreign electrician after all, but a home-grown 'suicide bomber' from Leicester or Drewsbury who presses the detonator and liquefies a carriage full of London commuters whilst Plod tries to remember the Portuguese for ' Which was the greater goal scorer - Pele or Shakira?'

The poor chap's dead but not as a result of deliberate 'hit anyone on G20 day' policy by HMG or ultra-Right-wing police training or culture.

But the atmosphere: the stink and the cultural idiom that the civil libertarians will add to in this next bout of 'all coppers are bastards' may threaten innocent lives.

It's an atmosphere in which worse crimes are more likely to be committed against the innocent, and that's wrong.

Cherry Pie, yes, context does matter, we are told. I’d be interested to know how you felt the policing was on that day, however close or distant you were from these events? Not necessarily on my blog to boost my word-count, but maybe on yours?

You were there, trying to make the world better and, I guess from this, largely in sympathy with the main burden of the protests which I have typified as Left-wing. Were you the cherished heir to all those who lost life or loved ones from freedom and democracy, protected by your government’s police, or did it feel like you were there on sufferance? Was there the oft-described dichotomy of peaceful majority and violent minority? And you’re a photographer, and the picture-taker’s opinion of the film and the stills of mister Tomlinson’s push and fall ( or his assault and battery?) might be a good thing to know?

Just a thought.

BloggerJulia M thanks for the inspiration once more.

“who exactly is this 'our people'? Call-Me-Dave's bunch? Unlikely...”

It sometimes amazes me how everyone but we ourselves the less-than-anarcho-capitalist Right seems to think we’re so all up the Tory Party’s historic brain pan. They need to read you more.



DJ said...

I actually think the National Curriculum is a good example of the difference between conservatives and libertarians.

I was there when it happened. The supposed Golden Age was a bust. Lazy and unmotivated teachers took lessons that were little more than stream of conciousness drivel and off-topic rants about Fatcha!

Faced with the near-total disintegration of British education, the Tories had to introduce legislation to force these loons to teach the yoof to read and write.

To be sure, the NC was a crude measure, but it's hard to see what else could have been done. To the point, libertarians might despise the 'authoritarian' nature of the NC, but what would they have done when faced with an educational establishment dominated by people who didn't actually want to educate anyone? I mean, in terms of actual policies, not stuff about what will happen when the libertarian revolution comes?

'If only we can put our people in charge' might be a lousy ideology, but it sure beats claiming the lion will lie down with the lamb, just as soon as we get the state out of the way.

North Northwester said...

"I mean, in terms of actual policies, not stuff about what will happen when the libertarian revolution comes?"

And that's what the years have added to my readings of Hayek, von Mises, Rothbard at al.

We aren't getting there any time soon, so where are we and what can we do?

A purge of the teaching profession would not do - there were too many people looking like my family ready to go on TV and show my starving cousins in their neat suburban homes; and few of the pot-smoking beardies like the one who studied for his A-level German whilst we, his classs, read through the O-level German he's introduced us to for five minutes would make it on-screen.
None at all would make it, now.

So, yes, the NC was a nice try and readily subvertable, but that's why we call it a culture war, and not a culture game of cricket.

But the best of it comes out most clearly in foreign policy.

I like Devil's Kitchen and I use him as a measure of how much of my libertarianism is left.
Not much, as it turns out.

Aside from the silly notion of 'illegal wars'...Sovereignty anyone? You want WHICH international organization to legislate and WHICH one to judge the legality? Really? You taken your tablets today?
There's the idea he mooted of isolationist, navy-only defence with a few squaddies around to handle any parachutists or successful enemy marines.

One might suggest measuring our coastline and dividing it by the maximum effective range of an SA-80, or dividing the square mileage of the UK by, say 40,000 infantrymen?

This navy was to defend convoys supporting British trade - you know: oil from the Middle East; food from America; raw materials from Africa.

And all this at least ten years(?) after the West went isolationist and took its troops out of the Middle East?

I wonder what ten years of Western isolationism would make the Middle East look like?

I'd suspect there'd be rather fewer countries than now, a lot fewer oil companies, and it would probably extend down to the Congo.

And it would be Judenfrei.

Still, no more Gitmos and dead Brazilians for us! Morally pure unto the grave.

Not until someone came a-knocking.
So, what with one thing and another, and various stuff in various holes in the ground, the minimal state is beginning to look like a madrassa.

CherryPie said...

I don't mind sharing my opinion openly.

My original thought about the video was that we weren't seeing the full picture. Ian was behaving in a very odd way for someone who supposed to be just making his way back home from work. From the latest developments it seems I was right in my thinking there. But it still seems like excessive force for the situation, why didn't they just move him to one side out of the way and ignore him?

The protest where this incident happened was not authorised in advance. I would never have taken part in such an event - it is so easy to arrange a peaceful protest in London and work in conjunction with the police. The peaceful statement/protest took part on the Saturday (sadly I couldn't be there). My friends/colleagues have told me how the police dealt with the 200 anarchists who turned up to spoil the event. The police dealt with the situation admirably. Nothing violent happened.

Personally I am not in sympathy with all the protests portrayed in the media.

it's either banned or compulsory said...

A lot of foolish people on the right imagine that the machinery of the state is fundamentally good but the wrong people are in charge.
"We serfy folk believe that our King be a Good Man surrounded by evil and corrupt advisers."

Having watched the Ian Tomlinson vid a few times I took a second look at " Spooks ", series 5 episode 2, the one with the riot, which might have been the Police training video, spooky indeed.

North Northwester said...

Hi Cherry Pie, and thanks.
"it is so easy to arrange a peaceful protest in London and work in conjunction with the police. "

I'm glad to hear this - what with OH and the Penguin and all, I was beginning to wonder if it really was as control-freaky as they describe.
I agree - the pictures look bad, but I, and others 'way better used to this kind of thing might easily come up with context or clarification, and it's being investigated, so that's something.

I'm glad to hear the police protected your event against the anarchists.
There's a lot of freedom left, it seems.

Makes winning the Cold War seem worthwhile somehow, doesn't it? ;-)

North Northwester said...

it's either banned or compulsory

Hi - I never watched Spooks. Some things you can tell without watching, and others, you've got to try.

Like the first episode of the BBC's magnificent 9/11 truther Robin Hood beaulieux, complete with introduction to the 1848 Italian edition...

Lord T said...

Big post where I am only going to make a point about one statement which seems to be lost in the noise.

'On face value the force of the push did seem excessive given the video evidence but I'm inclined to give the policeman some leeway on the basis of "heat of the moment"'

Now if you had stuck your finger in plods face in the 'heat of the moment' what would happen to you now? Someone breaks into your house and you defend yourself in the 'heat of the moment' and what would happen to you?

Why should plod be considered above the law?

North Northwester said...

Hi Lord T; welcome, and thanks for your comment.

"Why should plod be considered above the law?"

Plod should not be treated as above the law. To allow ever-greater violence from police (if anyone was foolish enough to do so) would be to invite Gestapo/KGB policing.

I do not want that to happen, and the incident and officer concerned are being investigated.

But to treat this incident as anything but what it seems to be - an isolated case, and one shown out of context - is to slander and to risk demoralizing the police force who [most of us] need for protection.

It's a bit like stating that the publication and use of a vast amount of pornography on the Internet will inevitably cause many or most men to become rapists, and calling for the recording of all internet porn use or censorship as a result. A sense of proportion might come in handy here to the civil libertarians - none of whom I have yet noticed (but put me right, please)complaining about the damage to property or the wide-scale disturbance of everyday life in London over the days of the G 20 protests.

Some things are more important than others, it seems, and to hell with the individuals concerned. I don't say that that's your opinion, but it's part of the same overall 'civil rights' augment.

And no-one on the Left, and amongst libertarian bloggers [correct me if I'm wrong] seems to consider that the protesters who turned up in tens of thousands, some in frightening masks or other uniforms, chanting and shouting and calling for all that 'eat the rich' stuff, are in any way responsible for the febrile and intimidating atmosphere in some parts of the 'march.'

As I've said elsewhere, if mass demonstrations are called and the protesters insist on all that 'our arrows will blot out the sun' stuff, then it's going to get shady, and someone is very likely to get hurt.

The police are always outnumbered in cases like this, and so such situations are always going to be fraught with danger.

Perhaps the demonstrators should conduct themselves more like Cherry Pie and her friends, rather than as the grand army of the anarchists.


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