Saturday 1 June 2024

How far we are from hurling insults and dead cats: the conservative war against free speech


Ten or fifteen years ago very few people seemed to be talking about the real world, apart from Ron Paul and Patrick Buchanan on the right and Patrick Cockburn on the left. 

From around the time it became obvious that the Anglo-American invasion of Iraq was a blunder and a crime, and then when Donald Trump happened, people started to do so. 

This is is why Ursula von der Leyan says free speech on the internet is the biggest danger the European Union faces. 

She is right.

It's why the US Congress wants to suppress TikTok. 

People with big audiences now say what I was saying here. People like Peter Hitchens, Ed West, the writers on Unherd and Douglas Murray, when he is not talking about Israel.  

The most insightful might be John Mearsheimer and Glenn Greenwald, two American Democrats who teach a vast audience thanks to social media. 

I strongly recommend you watch John Mearsheimer discussing very lucidly with Glenn Greenwald why American politicians support Israel (you recall Congresswoman Ilhan Omar was vilified for saying 'It's all about the Benjamins, baby') and how student activists may undermine Israel as students helped undermine white rule in South Africa.  

The strength of the ANC fighters but more importantly the end of Communism were what led the whites to abdicate in South Africa. All South Africans should be grateful that the National Party retained power long enough that the country escaped becoming Communist. But the opinion of university students and the elites in the West and in South Africa was crucial too. 

Universities are where the zeitgeist is transmitted and adapted. 

The internet is the most hopeful thing in a world that often seems hopeless.

Unfortunately we have learnt especially since October 7 that so called conservatives are as keen on censorship and cancel culture as the left. 

A small example: today the Daily Telegraph is worried about an AI generated picture of a sprawling mass of refugee tents spelling out the slogan “All eyes on Rafah”. 

The writer thinks the reader will be shocked that it is not a real photograph and by another image of Benjamin Netanyahu in a blood-spattered prison uniform, overlaid with the words “war criminal”, “child killer” and “Satanyahu”.

How far we have come from Gilray, free speech and dead cats hurled at election hustings.


  1. TicToc is controlled by the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship. There is no "right wing war on Freedom of speech" - unless you count Hamas and other genocidal groups (who kill those who speak against Muhammed and Islam) as "right wing". As for Iraq - the blunder was to assume that removing the brutal dictator would lead to a decent society, this assumption ignored the beliefs of the population - but any effort to explain this was shouted down as "Islamophobia" or "racism" and so the war (a war of the centre left - not the right, George Walker Bush was very much a "compassionate", i.e. Big Government, "conservative" - i.e. not a conservative at all) proceeded. By the way - most of the opponents of the war also assumed that the people of Iraq had good beliefs (part of the idea that everyone, everywhere is the same - which they are not), unaware that their assumption would make that the removal of the dictator a good thing to do.

  2. The headline here says there is a “right-wing war against free speech”, but the blog only mentions “so called conservatives”, and they are leftists. No doubt there are a few on the right of politics who want to put an end to the first amendment in the US, and always were some, but not many, and so far as there is a war on free speech now it comes from the left.

    1. By right-wing I meant pseudo conservative but I wanted to attract clicks. I have amended the title.

  3. Was this barely hanging together post just a ruse to justify showing that Netanyahu ai generated picture? That's what it feels like.

  4. I admit it is very rambling, like an essay of Leigh Hunt. It began as a one sentence post to recommend the Mearsheimer clip, but like Topsy it grewed and grewed. The picture of Netanyahu was an afterthought after I read and wrote about that extraordinary and infuriating article about it in the Daily Telegraph.

  5. I don't need to find an excuse to justify the pictures except the Gilray sodomy. That is not for maiden aunts.


  6. What's so infuriating in The Telegraph article?

    1. It seemed to suggest that the pictures were somehow bad and that the Rafah one was somehow an attempt to look like a photograph of something real rather than a political point. The Telegraph didn't use to take sides in the Arab Israeli dispute but now is much more pro Israel than the Israeli press.

  7. Would you take Iran's or Israel's side?

    1. In what circumstances? I imagine I'd not take either. I want the Iranian regime to go. I very certainly don't want Netanyahu to persuade America to go to war with Iran.

  8. Hi Paul,
    Thank you for an interesting article.
    Free speech has certainly been criticized of late, and of course the abuse of the same has been going on for some time.
    Further to this, what goes out from university platforms clearly needs to be monitored and challenged, and so too what is often found on the internet and social media. Both are equally influential and both are abused in equal measure.
    Looking into the not too distant future of 'what may be', I am hesitant to condone censorship outright without placing clear specifications on its extent. This because there is a good chance that the future will see the far left entrench its hold on the zeitgeist and the media, and therefore its own unacceptable 'woke' brand of censorship.
    One problem is that the rift between left and right has of late become so pronounced that it will take a great deal to 'mend' it - or at least bring it back to more acceptable parameters.
    What should be noted here is that the real issue is not so much 'left vs right', as it is 'far-left vs right' - in that woke does not represent classic liberalism, but a form of leftist extremism. Here there are many classic liberals who are equally critical of all things woke, and rightfully see it as extreme leftism that has hijacked and passes itself off for mainstream leftism. It is this that may gain the hegemony in the not too distant future, for which reason I am hesitant to condone censorship without strict parameters.