Almost immediately after the terrorist attack in London, Donald Trump took to Twitter, and (as so often) none too wisely.
One of his tweets read:
“At least 7 dead and 48 wounded in terror attack and Mayor of London says there is ‘no reason to be alarmed!’”
I’m no great fan of London’s mayor Sadiq Khan, but what he had said (my emphasis added) was this:
“Londoners will see an increased police presence today and over the course of the next few days. There’s no reason to be alarmed.”
That conveys a rather different message than the president had suggested, and even had it not done, this morning was not the time to be making that sort of point.
Meanwhile Alastair Campbell, Tony Blair’s former spokesman (and much more besides) responded to Prime Minister Theresa May’s comment that Britain had been “too tolerant of extremism” by tweeting that ‘Mrs May is happy enough to tolerate the extremism of the Brextremist Lie Machine newspapers spewing hate day after day,’ a message that appeared to equate pro-Brexit media with Jihadists.
Campbell has since withdrawn the tweet.
But it is worth paying attention to what May also had to say about policing the Internet.
”We cannot allow this ideology the safe space it needs to breed – yet that is precisely what the internet, and the big companies that provide internet-based services provide,” Ms May said. “We need to work with allied democratic governments to reach international agreements to regulate cyberspace to prevent the spread of extremist and terrorism planning.
In a Corner post a week or so ago, I referred to a report in The Independent (my emphasis added) on what the Conservatives had said about their plans to police the Internet in their manifesto:
While much of the internet is currently controlled by private businesses like Google and Facebook, Theresa May intends to allow government to decide what is and isn’t published, the manifesto suggests. The new rules would include laws that make it harder than ever to access pornographic and other websites. The government will be able to place restrictions on seeing adult content and any exceptions would have to be justified to ministers, the manifesto suggests. The manifesto even suggests that the government might stop search engines like Google from directing people to pornographic websites. “We will put a responsibility on industry not to direct users – even unintentionally – to hate speech, pornography, or other sources of harm,” the Conservatives write….
But perhaps most unusually [technology companies] would be forced to help controversial government schemes like its Prevent strategy, by promoting counter-extremist narratives…
The Conservatives will also seek to regulate the kind of news that is posted online and how companies are paid for it. If elected, Theresa May will “take steps to protect the reliability and objectivity of information that is essential to our democracy.”
But who is going to decide what “extremism” is and for that matter judge “the reliability and objectivity of information”?
To her credit, May was honest enough today to blame the attack on Islamic extremism (hard to do otherwise when the murderers shouted “this is for Allah” as they stabbed their victims). Nevertheless it’s easy to suspect that any crackdown on Internet extremism, ‘hate speech’ and inaccuracy will also be directed against those who comment a little too accurately about what is really going on.
And on the subject of ‘hate speech’, ‘Islamophobia’ and all the rest, this piece by Brendan O’Neill makes the necessary point that the reluctance to criticize Islam may well be making matters worse:
[I]t is becoming increasingly clear that one of the major problems we face today is not that our society is too mean about Islam, but that it flatters Islam too much. Islam now enjoys the same kind of moral protection from blasphemy and ridicule that Christianity once (wrongly) enjoyed….
This is incredibly dangerous. This censorious flattery of Islam is, in my view, a key contributor to the violence we have seen in recent years. Because when you constantly tell people that any mockery of their religion is tantamount to a crime, is vile and racist and unacceptable, you actively invite them, encourage them in fact, to become intolerant. You license their intolerance. You inflame their violent contempt for anyone who questions their dogmas. You provide a moral justification for their desire to punish those who insult their religion….
There are no quick fixes to the terror problem, but here is a good start: oppose all censorship and all clampdowns on offence and blasphemy and so-called ‘Islamophobia’…This will at least start the process of unravelling the Islamist victimhood narrative and its bizarre, violent and officially sanctioned sensitivity to criticism. And if anyone says this is ‘punching down’ — another intellectual weapon in the armoury of Islam-protecting censorship, designed to demonise awkward questions about certain religious and ideological beliefs — tell them that it is in fact punching up: up against a political class and legal system that has foolishly and outrageously sought to police criticism of a religion.
What this means is that the supposedly correct response to terror attacks — ‘Don’t criticise Islam’ — is absolutely the worst response. It pours petrol on fire. It inflames the violent religious narcissism and self-pity that motors many of these attacks. Making criticism of Islam as commonplace and acceptable as criticism of any other religion or ideology is the first step to denuding Islamist terrorism of its warped moral programme, and it will also demonstrate that our society prizes freedom of speech over everything else — including your religion, your God, your prophets, your holy book and your feelings.