They want us to be weak and silent


9:20 am - February 24th 2010

by Left Outside    


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Last week Tim Luckhurst was upset that Rod Liddle is not going to be be editor of the Independent. Although I can understand why he is annoyed that something he wants to happen is not going to happen, his ire against the “Liberals” who foiled Liddle is somewhat bizarre.
He wrote:

Rod Liddle will not be editor of the Independent. The screechingly intolerant campaign of hostility directed against him by metropolitan critics has done its job.

They call themselves liberals. If they are right then the word has come to have as little meaning as its common counterpart “progressive”. Sincere liberals do not censor opinion, still less should they caricature it in order to intensify hostility. True liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones.

In his people’s red tunic Sunny Hundal has mounted horseback and set loose the dogs of Facebook to trash Liddle’s chances of editing the Independent.

Tim argues that having an opinion, registering that opinion publicly and taking action to see it realised is illiberal.

This is an opinion you see bandied about quite often: Liberals must be acquiescent, weak and silent. When liberals are not they are quickly denounced as fascists, or for those less inclined to go Godwin, as huge hypocrites.

But this is nonsense.

The facebook group is called If Rod Liddle becomes editor of The Independent, I will not buy it again.

I struggle to think of things more liberal than a boycott. They aren’t threatening violence or trying to co-opt the power of the state to stop him and are not calling in any favours from Russian Oligarchs to knobble him.

They are not coercing anyone or threatening to do so and are not calling for Liddle to be silenced. They are just asking for the paper they buy to not become his soapbox. Because of this Tim’s accusations fall short of anything approaching coherence.

Perhaps Tim is destined to get thing wrong when his main concern is a “tyranny of the liberal metropolitan elite.” It seems he, like many others totally misunderstands what a liberal is.

The idea of “daft liberals” ruining everything suits the simplistic narratives that journalists of Liddle’s meagre stature rely on to fill column inches.

But contrary to lazy journalist’s claims most of Britain is not Broken, even if parts are, and immigrants are not taking over, even if it is simpler to say so, and Labour are not accusing us all of being racists, even if some anti-immigrant rhetoric is racist.

How the ruling classes have had their way in the last few decades is not really debatable but to categorise it as “a tyranny of a liberal metropolitan elite” is blindingly foolish.

The tyranny of the liberal establishment were content to have Liddle edit the Independent, but perhaps Tim can present evidence to the contrary?

Being a liberal does not demand acquiescence as the world around you changes, nor does it mean deferential treatment of those with which you fundamentally disagree. A liberal can fight for what they believe in, where do these people think our hard won and fast eroding liberties came from?

—————
cross-posted from Left Outside

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About the author
Left Outside is a regular contributor to LC. He blogs here and tweets here. From October 2010 to September 2012 he is reading for an MSc in Global History at the London School of Economics and will be one of those metropolitan elite you read so much about.
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Reader comments


Tim argues that having an opinion, registering that opinion publicly and taking action to see it realised is illiberal.

But that isn’t what Tim Luckhurst said.

What he did say was:

Sincere liberals do not censor opinion, still less should they caricature it in order to intensify hostility. True liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones.

Luckhurst’s criticism of Sunny was that Sunny had preferred to caricature (or downright misrepresent) Rod Liddle’s views in order to whip up fear and hostility to his candidacy for the editorship.

A true liberal, Luckhurst argues, would have engaged with Liddle’s real views.

The problem, of course, being that Liddle’s views on substantive issues are probably not that much different from Sunny’s – or many others who comment here. Liddle is left-liberal in his politics. Where he departs from you lot is in having a rebellious bee in his bonnet over political correctness and perhaps a somewhat too-clever-by-half notion of what is supposedly ironic.

2. the a&e charge nurse

“They call themselves liberals. If they are right then the word has come to have as little meaning as its common counterpart “progressive”. Sincere liberals do not censor opinion, still less should they caricature it in order to intensify hostility. True liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones”.

Perhaps that’s worth repeating? – “TRUE liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones”.

While the Liddle affair might not represent a Pyrrhic victory exactly, the issue of illiberal liberals is certainly a common theme returned to time and time again on these threads.

Now some might dismiss such accusations as a smokescreen created by the right, or perhaps, more generously, an unfortunate byproduct of authoratarian socialists, obsessed with central control and command?

The doctrinal nature of the moral high ground seems to have the effect of making a variety of commentators feel distinctly uncomfortable, not least because freedom of expression, even when unpalatable views are expressed, is an important feature of liberal tradition – Monkeygate is but a small facet of the much more important liberal/illiberal dividing line.

3. the a&e charge nurse

“The problem, of course, being that Liddle’s views on substantive issues are probably not that much different from Sunny’s – or many others who comment here. Liddle is left-liberal in his politics. Where he departs from you lot is in having a rebellious bee in his bonnet over political correctness and perhaps a somewhat too-clever-by-half notion of what is supposedly ironic”.

Nicely put Flowerpower.
Liddle is the eternal schoolboy – when did that become a crime?

The idea that the right don’t do political correctness is utter nonsense. When the Cons talk about political correctness, what they actually mean is denying one’s opponents the right to publicly disseminate certain opinions. Yet Clause28 was a classic example of such a denial by the Tories of the right for teachers to even mention homosexuality. Cameron’s recent attack on Lily Allen shows the Cons are still keen to use legislation to silence their opponents, again using phoney child protection arguments as an excuse. They are utter hypocrites, co-opting political correctness on their own terms.

Re: 2

Surely a boycott opposed to ‘Making Liddle editor’ would be directly and definitively demonstrating the greater value of ‘Not making Liddle editor’ given that the Indy is marketed towards the liberal-left.

Also, I’m not sure when the definition of ‘liberal’ started including an inability to flatly dismiss misleading nonsense when it doesn’t qualify for debate. Leave that for student debating societies.

6. the a&e charge nurse

[5] “Also, I’m not sure when the definition of ‘liberal’ started including an inability to flatly dismiss misleading nonsense when it doesn’t qualify for debate”.

If it’s all ‘nonsense’ why has there been post after post about it? – clearly these issues have been IMPORTANT to a number of commentators.

“Surely a boycott opposed to ‘Making Liddle editor’ would be directly and definitively demonstrating the greater value of ‘Not making Liddle editor’ given that the Indy is marketed towards the liberal-left” – I assume your prejudgement about his ability to the job is based on a few daft blogging comments?

Sounds crazy, I know, but personally I think it would have been fairer to judge Liddle on his actual performance (as editor) – now we’ll never know if the politically incorrect utterance attributed to the monkey would have affected his ability to rescue a newspaper that has been struggling lately?

Spot on LO.

I noticed this the other day re abuse of the word “liberal”, but didn’t get time to write the blog. You’ve done it for me, so good stuff.

Although there’s also a tendency in the Liddle apologists to claim that a grass roots movement organised voluntarily and powered forward by volunteers to use their right of association to bring about an outcome that they opposed, but without using the power of the state, was somehow “undemocratic”.

Which is, obviously, a crock of shit.

This is an opinion you see bandied about quite often: Liberals must be acquiescent, weak and silent. When liberals are not they are quickly denounced as fascists, or for those less inclined to go Godwin, as huge hypocrites.

Exceptionally well put, but this goes for the Left as a whole, not just liberals. It also goes for any group exercising its (liberal democratic) rights for purposes not commensurable with right-wing ends: trade unionists on strike, peace campaigners engaged in non-violent civil disobedience, Muslim MPs protesting against government policy. Everyone’s a fascist, these days, except for the actual fascists.

9. the a&e charge nurse

[8] nothing to do with fascism – more to do with opinions that do not conform.

I assume Liddle is just one of the many names on the list?
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0V3SqxUomwk&feature=PlayList&p=2699B97704CD9D2D&playnext=1&playnext_from=PL&index=100

Hasn’t Sunny always said – when challenged that many of his views aren’t really liberal – that the title of this blog is meant to be ironic?!

Though of course there’s nothing illiberal about a boycott.

Cameron’s recent attack on Lily Allen shows the Cons are still keen to use legislation to silence their opponents, again using phoney child protection arguments as an excuse

What? He just said that he didn’t think his six year old daughter should be listening to songs like ‘Fuck you’ and the one about how her boyfriend suffers from premature ejaculation. I think Lily Allen’s great – especially her preference for the more nuanced atmosphere of test match cricket over 20/20 – but I’d be quite keen for my daughter to stick to Nellie the Elephant for the next few years too.

Liddle not very different to me in his views? Hah. What a joke. I can’t remember the last time I agreed with him.

Imnsick of right-whingers getting on their high horse when lefties try and do something they dint like democratically.

But what annoys me more perhaps are lefties/liberals who keep saying I shouldn’t be so partisan or attack the opposition because it’s not very nice or drives ppl away.

Apols for typos.
Also, I was most amused when Liddle tried heavily to play the class card across blogs and BBC radio. Tryin to portray himself as this maligned, rural, working class lad who wasn’t part of the cosy media establishment – being attacked by metropolitan ‘elite’ fascists, was most hilarious to watch.

14. DisgustedOfTunbridgeWells

Perhaps Tim is destined to get thing wrong when his main concern is a “tyranny of the liberal metropolitan elite.” It seems he, like many others totally misunderstands what a liberal is.

Liddle is about as ‘metropolitan elite’ as it gets.

Brilliant point. The Right are like playground bullies ,they can dish it out but don’t like being on the receiving end. To a right winger a liberal should be a punching bag,soaking up abuse and insults,when you give them a taste of their own medicine,they bleat like sheep.

“TRUE liberals oppose arguments they despise by demonstrating the greater value of better ones”.

I was under the impression that contemplating the world as a means of changing it went out with the Enlightenment. LIfe has moved on, nowadays it is pretty much accepted to put one’s ideas in practice you need to act. Hence we have political parties, campaigning groups, media, and so on. The struggle of ideas takes place in the real world of people, action; sensuous activity I believe was the 19th century phrase.

Anyway surely campaigning against Liddle as an editor of the Indie (he has plenty of outlets as it is) is expressing the left’s right to be offensive.

Which shows that the right’s view about freedom of speech and right to be offensive has more to do worth telling us semi-literate brutes to shut up and keep in the corner of the room.

Re: 6

My point is that my liberal stances aren’t contradicted or compromised by my opinion that Liddle is an arch-controversialist who gets paid handsomely to generate heat without light. The issues are certainly important to you and I, but if they were important to Liddle I’m sure he’d treat them with more respect.

Regarding the boycott – when money talks, proprietors listen. Regrettably in this context it’s inappropriate to use the word ‘value’ to mean anything other than sales – I otherwise agree that the Liddependent could have been a stimulating and worthy paper, but Mr. Lebedev must have felt there was too much at stake.

I said this over at your gaff LO but great piece, it is as if anyone on the left spectrum has to have their hands tied by invisible rules on how to behave, with those on the right waiting eagerly for anything they can cry ILLIBERAL too.

“Where, other than in some kind of Swiftian dystopia, would it be considered right that universities offer places to candidates with inferior grades simply because they fall into some kind of arbitrary demographic?”

Ah, I do love this myth. You know someone’s losing an argument about equality or fairness or racism or whatnot because they just pull out this bloody line, straight out of shitthatneverhappened.txt.

Anyway. ‘There are some imperfections in this change therefore we should not bother to try’ is not an argument, especially when that change is something you strawmanned. No system will ever be entirely fair and equal and perfect, but to say that because we cannot achieve utopia we must stay at dystopia is just ridiculous. If what we do is an improvement, then that is enough, surely?

On your specific point on ‘you can’t legislate for fairness/equality’, well, yes, you can. Here’s one way in which we legislate for equality – and this one doesn’t create any sort of inequality at all, not even a justifiable one. Let’s say we make it so employers don’t get their applicants’ personal details (such as name, ethnicity, etc.) before they decide to interview. Congratulations, you just put legislation in place that makes the system fairer.

Hell, even in cases like quota-based affirmative action, while there may be individuals who lose out on the wider level you’re making the situation more equal by weighing for the ethnic and culture-based advantage some have in, say, exams. I wouldn’t agree with quota-based affirmative action, mind, but it can be in fact an improvement still.

Disproving generalisations aside, government has to play a role in reducing inequality, because without some sort of intervention it won’t happen. Maybe figures such as Harman and bills such as the Equality Bill through their action won’t eliminate inequality, but what’s better; taking some action, or just letting inequality and social division grow because of some childish utterings about how life isn’t fair and how you shouldn’t have to spend your money on the workshy lumpenproles.

But, of course, that article pulls a Godwin’s variant in the fucking first picture subtitle, so I really shouldn’t be reading too far into this. You know, because it’s just fucking stupid and whatnot.

(delete above comment, wrong article. doy.)

I like the idea that Millwall fans could become the next metropolitan elite…something in that

22. the a&e charge nurse

[19] “Let’s say we make it so employers don’t get their applicants’ personal details (such as name, ethnicity, etc.) before they decide to interview. Congratulations, you just put legislation in place that makes the system fairer” – how would this work for a footie team, say?

It sounds like head hunting would become illegal?

Who cares what Tim Luckhurst thinks.

24. Col. Richard Hindrance (Mrs), VC, DSO & Bar Six, KitKat

Tim Fuckhurst, more like.

Liddle is apparently a “Patron” of an Independent candidacy in Durham NW:

http://davidaslindsay.blogspot.com/2010/02/every-liddle-helps.html


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Richard Wilson

    RT @libcon: They want us to be weak and silent http://bit.ly/bHUCPA

  2. Tank the Tories

    RT @libcon : They want us to be weak and silent http://bit.ly/bHUCPA

  3. Liberal Conspiracy

    They want us to be weak and silent http://bit.ly/bHUCPA

  4. links for 2010-02-24 « Embololalia

    […] Liberal Conspiracy >> They want us to be weak and silent This is an opinion you see bandied about quite often: Liberals must be acquiescent, weak and silent. When liberals are not they are quickly denounced as fascists, or for those less inclined to go Godwin, as huge hypocrites. […]

  5. Neil Couper

    I hate wet liberals almost as much as the mad, foaming right-wingers hate the determined, principled and active kind. http://bit.ly/csQCV6

  6. uberVU - social comments

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    This post was mentioned on Twitter by libcon: They want us to be weak and silent http://bit.ly/bHUCPA





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