On Trolls, Liberty, Debate and Damian Green

There’s a recently concluded debate over at the Liberal Conspiracy about ‘feeding the trolls’, that is, engaging with commenters on the blog who are just there to provoke an argument. I think there is a distinction between proper trolls, who are actively seeking to waste their own time in order to waste others’, and other people who simply have a wildly differing worldview. In the case of the former, it is rarely worth engaging. But in the case of the latter, debate can sometimes be helpful. It all depends on what kind of conversation you want to have, and on the Liberal Conspiracy, it is often impossible to talk about something at the level of detail you desire, if you are arguing first principles with someone else (be it a troll, or bona fide member of the seething classes).

Sometimes, I wonder if the mainstream media aren’t trolling. Today I spotted this headline from the Daily Mail, and feel confident that it has been written to waste my time.

Human Rights: Straw To Get Tough

Exclusive – Minister tells Mail how he’ll reform ‘Villiain’s Charter

Its not that I do not disagree with the idea of labelling the Human Right’s Act a “villiain’s charter”.  Its just that attempting to engage with it – especially on a blog – is a bit pointless. Its not as if they are making some kind of technical or categorical error that a plucky blogger might tease out and add to the debate. This article is speaking a genuinely different language. I have been silent on the ‘Baby P’ issue, because the debate was of this highly toxic, divisive type. Others gamely engaged with the trolls, so to speak, but there comes a point where its down to someone with a little more profile that bloggers to take up the political fight. This is why people often end up criticising political allies, for relatively trivial reasons, apparently missing the wood for the trees. Its not that we’ve lost our moral compass, just that we’re angry that other people are not speaking up for us in the places that matter.

As to the substance of the article, I’ll merely note again that it is the hated and the vulnerable who have their Human Rights violated first. The Declaration of Human Rights was created precisely to guard against populist tendencies in governments. They’re inconvenient, but then so is the task of retaining our humanity in the face of violence and antagonism.

For those with a fatigue for this sort of thing, I highly recommend a visit to the ‘Taking Liberties‘ Exhibition (no, not that Taking Liberties) at the British Library. It has the Magna Carta and other declarations of Rights and Freedoms penned by various men and women from around these isles.

The exhibition set me thinking about the Damian Green affair (something else that seems so divisive that there is so little common ground between the warring parties that debate seems futile). Whilst I personally don’t believe that Jacqui Smith ordered the police into Mr Green’s office, and I do not believe that the Speaker, Michael Martin, colluded in the warrantless searching of the Tory MP’s office, the outcry itself seems like a healthy thing to me. It is good that there is an ‘awkward squad’ barrage of questions every time there is any hint of impropriety. Far from us living in a Stalinist State, as some alledge, it is the indignant calls to account which prevent us sliding into one.

Update

Heh – I wrote:

its down to someone with a little more profile that bloggers to take up the political fight

Ask and it shall be delivered unto you.

One thought on “On Trolls, Liberty, Debate and Damian Green

  1. “I personally don’t believe that Jacqui Smith ordered the police into Mr Green’s office, and I do not believe that the Speaker, Michael Martin, colluded in the warrantless searching of the Tory MP’s office, “

    Neither do I. Whilst this puts this more into the “cock-up” rather than the “conspiracy” bucket, it is the act of putting it into the “cock-up” bucket that still raises lots of awkward questions.

    In particular, though in no particular order:
    Can you imagine, even for one second, the Speaker allowing the Police to search a cabinet member’s parliamentary office without some very very fierce objections? I can’t. It is his abject failure to protect ALL members without regard to their party affiliation that is the issue. It is that which is shown up. It is that that is the real problem at the heart here. Whenever this is raised, there is always some moron class warrior wheeled out to suggest that all the complaints about Speaker Martin are motivated entirely by snobbery. No attempt is ever made to address the actual complaint. This will not do, even if it is a separate issue.

    There may be some other questions to raise about the politicisation of variously the Police and the civil service at the root of this also. Both of these issues are a direct result of the way the Labour party has conducted itself in Government.

    Separately, but relatedly, is the manner in which the leaks were used by Damian Green. Had he elicited this material and used it first in the HoC, then he would be on very firm ground. But he didn’t. The thing that I find troubling is that if he had, no-one would have noticed because:
    – the Labour Government has more or less complete contempt for Parliament so he would not have achieved his objective of holding the Govt to account if he had
    – the MSM has more or less complete contempt for Parliament so he would not have achieved his objective of holding the Govt to account if he had.

    [/Rant]

    “Far from us living in a Stalinist State, as some alledge, it is the indignant calls to account which prevent us sliding into one.”

    Up to a point, Lord Copper. But this is only really true if the Govt recognised the awkward questions above. Even if Labour is thrown out at the next election, I have little confidence that Cameron’s lot would do much to correct much of this either.

    :-(

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