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Homechevron_rightOpinionchevron_rightDeep Readchevron_rightDissent in danger: In...

Dissent in danger: In defence of extremism

Dissent in danger: In defence of extremism

So often these days we are told of the danger of extremism. This loosely defined concept is said to be pernicious.

Every advance for human rights is at first branded extreme. Every expansion of human rights is dubbed extreme. The abolition of slavery, racial equality, sex equality, the decriminalisation of homosexuality, democracy, the right to free expression, the right to freedom of conscience, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to strike – every single one of them was once said to be extreme. To say that something is extreme is not an argument. It is a cop-out. It is labelling. It is a thought-terminating cliché.

In India, people are now routinely incarcerated for sedition. The definition of this is ever-broadening. It encompasses most oppositional activities. The Republic of India is in danger of returning to the mid-1970s when Mrs Gandhi held the constitution in abeyance and people were imprisoned by her fiat. Surely people have rights in India - that is Bharat!

In Kazakhstan, in 2021 a man said that he believed that the country should unite with Russia. This man was awarded five years in prison for vocalizing his belief! The Leader of the Nation at that time was Nursultan Nazarbayev. What did Nazarbayev say in 1989? That the country should remain united with Russia. An innocent man was thrown in the slammer for expressing the Leader of the Nation’s former view. Go back to the 1980s and in the USSR suggesting even autonomy for a union republic was called extremist.

In Russia, people are imprisoned for calling a war ‘’a war.’’ People are imprisoned for showing correct maps. This is all called extremism. Putin himself in 2003 recognised Crimea as Ukrainian. To say that is now a crime in Russia.

In Hong Kong to say that the region ought to be independent is punishable by life imprisonment. This is a sentence that some countries do not impose even for willful murder.

In 1989 two Danish men became the first same-sex couple to have a civil partnership. It was a move that revolted 99% of the world. Now in dozens of countries, it is unremarkable. Within a generation the extreme became mainstream.

So-called extremists are to be barred from various professions including teaching in the United Kingdom. People with unpopular beliefs will not be allowed in the army. The navy, the air force, the police, the prison service or the civil service. This unlawful discrimination. It flies in the face of human rights instruments that the United Kingdom has signed and ratified. This is McCarthyism. What do they call themselves these people who wish to discriminate against others and deprive others of their entitlements? They call themselves moderates.

The endeavour to delegitimize dissent by calling it extreme is truly Orwellian. The word is much overused. But in this case, it is the opposite. Anti-extremism is vaguely worded. It has a most chilling effect on free speech, freedom of assembly and freedom of conscience.

I put it to a moderate that everyone has the right to hold and express opinions and quoted a human rights instrument which contained the word ‘everyone’. I said, ‘everyone is everyone, isn’t it?’ She crimsoned and exhaled sharply through flaring nostrils. She looked at me sourly and came up with a ‘yes but…’ response. She is a solicitor but claims not to understand plain English. She does not comprehend the word ‘everyone.’

It is a crime in certain parts of the United Kingdom to try to save children from abortion. People who stand outside slaughterhouses asking mothers to show mercy to their children are criminalized. Murdering the child is legalized. Indeed the state does it at taxpayers’ expense. Even silently praying outside a murder clinic is a crime in the UK – it is literally a thought crime!

In the UK, people should express views only within certain ever-narrowing parameters. Perhaps they should only hold views within them. There is a cartel in politics. Anyone outside the Labour-Liberal Democrat-Tory sphere is to be cast into the outer darkness. There is far less difference between the major parties than they would have us believe. They want to deprive people of real choices. The real problem is what Tariq Ali dubbed the extreme centre.

There is a bogus notion abroad that people in the middle of politics are automatically reasonable, sane and intelligent. It supposedly follows that people on the extreme are the opposite. Moderation is hailed as the supreme virtue.

The demonization of ‘extremism’ is an assault on freedom of expression and even freedom of conscience. It is a witch hunt against dissidents.

The notion that extremism is evil is in itself an extreme position to take. Michael Gove is preparing legislation to criminalise people for believing things that he does not. This is incipient totalitarianism. It is sickening that this former journalist should seek to take away the right to free expression.

Gove said that people whose views conflict with British values are extreme. But Britain is not the originator of these values. Nor has he always abided by them. Nor are they exclusive to the United Kingdom. Further, British values are not the law in the whole of the UK but only in England.

Gove and those of his ilk are striving to strip people of their rights. This attempt at the deprivation of democratic rights is said to be anti-extremism. But in fact, it is extremism and not of the good kind.

Indoctrinating children into so-called British values is a totalitarian policy. One of these values is tolerance. The anti-extremism drive is extremely intolerant. Freedom of expression is another one of these values. Freedom of expression is precisely what the ‘anti-extremists’ hate!

The United Kingdom is going down the same road as Russia and China. Their dissenters are regularly branded extremists and imprisoned for years for expressing their opinions.

The anti-extremism campaign is very one-sided. It is only against right-wingers. Members of the Communist Party were allowed to be heads of Oxford colleges.

So-called extremists are often called violent. That is despite them opposing the genocide that the self-styled moderates commit every single day. It is the moderates who indulge in hate speech.

Some of the people who are called extreme really are extreme. Some of them subscribe to rebarbative views. But to hold and vocalise repellent views is an inalienable right.

You may think that criminalizing people for their noisome beliefs is permissible and necessary for a happy society. But where does it end? First, you criminalise this group and then the next and then the less – till you are criminalizing people who are less and less extreme and indeed more and more moderate until you are criminalising yourself for daring to say something that the establishment finds uncongenial.

In a democracy, one has the right to oppose democracy. Some people want a dictatorship. Let them campaign for it.

If these self-styled moderates are confident then they would welcome extremists to the debate. Surely the moderates are so clever and people are so reasonable that they will be convinced by the moderates’ logical arguments. It proves how pathetically feeble they argue that they do not allow them to be tested.

Barry Goldwater said, ‘’Moderation in defence of liberty is no virtue and extremism in pursuit of justice is no vice.’’ Sometimes it is right to be extreme: extremely just, extremely courageous, extremely moral, extremely free, extremely right, extremely clever and in response to this modern McCarthyism – extremely furious.

The campaign against extremism is self-defeating. If Alfred’s view is extreme concerning Bob then Bob’s view must necessarily be extreme in relation to Alfred’s.

I call to mind what John Milton wrote in Areopagitica – we can only know what good ideas are if bad ones are published too. We must be allowed to compare and contrast.

Let a thousand schools of thought contend.

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TAGS:Freedom of expressionPress freedomHuman Rights
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