Stepping forward?

Step forward

Progressive steps: the regulatory hammer to hand.

Progressives believe they are right. No. Progressives know they are right. And to reinforce that certainty the default position is to make sure they are, by law. First response to impose that ‘rightness’ is to reach for the regulatory hammer.

In Northern Ireland we have had two examples of this in recent years.

First was the collapse of Haass talks in December 2013. The Alliance Party’s illiberal advocacy of flag regulation went too far with the proposal for a Political and Cultural Expression Facilitation Office, which was removed in later drafts, and Alliance led by Naomi Long rejected all that was on the table. Not that that Alliance proposal would have been the only threat to liberties in Haass: thedissenter articles focused on the underlying threat to liberties in Haass; looking at the three key strands here, here, and here.

Some might ask if the proposal for a ‘flags commission’ could be considered is a measured response for the traducing of Alliance following the Belfast City Council flag vote and subsequent street protests? Some might suggest that the Parades Commission has hardly provided a positive model for the improvement of community relations, for addressing accommodation (other than creating no march zones, much to republican delight), or for assuring the triumph of the Rule of Law – a poor record of serving natural justice, for starters.

Few seem to ask where such regulation (the Parades Commission) would exist in Europe (or any other continent) to legally control a culture, a singular culture: because the intent of legislation has a deliberately disproportionate impact on a single culture in Northern Ireland, no matter what is said to the contrary. In Europe, probably no such example since the 1930s.


Elsewhere, North Korea? Watch out for a second attempt at implementing some sort of ‘flags commission’ from the outworking of the ‘Commission on Flags, Identity, Culture and Tradition‘ within the Stormont House Agreement. It featured in Naomi Long’s election interviews: and the Alliance Manifesto.

More recently, the Equality Commission’s case against Asher’s bakery is presented as out-of- date religious fundamentalism standing in the way of progressive advances in LGBT rights. In this, the dominance of ‘civil rights’ trumps individual rights. However, the case for individual rights, including the right to exercise (lawful) discrimination (in the original sense of that word), is regularly shouted down: that case needs to be made, and heard.

The DUP response to the Asher’s bakery case, the attempt to introduce ‘conscience clause’ legislation, is a  poor response in that it identifies ‘Christians’ in a group, in exactly the same way that LGBT is a group – two wrongs making a rights’ mess. ‘Group rights’  subvert the individual to a mere part of the greater whole – dehumanising the argument into a conflict for political dominance, with the Courts as the battlefield. That never ends well. It may result in a legal ruling, where one side wins: but everyone loses as positions retrench.

Nor are the issues at the core of the ‘cake’ debate able to be narrowed to one solely between Christians and LGBT; though in Northern Ireland issues all too often are viewed within our own little fish bowl. Different identities can share similar views, even if each believes it has little in common with the other.

The longer discussion is on Crowder’s podcast here is also available in the UK iTunes store and on SoundCloud. Note that Crowder makes it clear some Muslim bakeries were prepared to take his cake order, but that it only takes one to say no to make a legal case and a political campaign…

Ironically, the politics of group (e.g. Christian v LGBT) identity is exactly the sort of ‘tribal’ politics that progressives rage against: could be as easily race or religious identity; though some might claim it is completely different, it isn’t really. Nick Cohen had a good take on the dangers of conflict arising from identity politics, and the accompanying mantra of political correctness back in 2008:

As the hard times start to bite, the obsession with identity politics will certainly lead to communal groups competing for scarce resources and shouting ‘racist’ every time a grant application is rejected. Jon Cruddas, the left-wing Labour MP, is already fighting the white backlash in his Dagenham constituency. He told me he despaired of an officialdom that unthinkingly played the BNP’s game by seeing ‘everything through the prism of race’. Did it really not guess that working-class voters would reclassify themselves as ‘whites’ and join the identity game?

For “racist’, replace with homophobic, or sectarian, or whatever.

Hate speech laws are an extension of identity politics: a legal means (where might is right) to close down debate, by assigning regulatory force to silence arguments that may well be (most certainly) distasteful and often deeply obnoxious. And offensive, like Charlie HebdoDo laws against ‘hate’ speech, which demonstrate a hatred for others (on whose judgement?) have a place in democratic society?

Rather than make a reasoned and constructive argument that counters and defeats another’s view by being persuasive and positive, the progressive thing to do is to reach for the law:

progressive tweet

In reaching for the hammer of the law, progressives’ language is derogatory, intolerant and, well, just as hate-addled as anything they rail against.

Lacking intellectual honesty or coherent argument, consistency is out the window.











But then, progressives know they are right, because the law says so; if not, they’ll make it so.

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