Why Lutz Bachmann and the Speakers’ Corner Three are not Martyrs for Free Speech

The detention at the border and subsequent deportation of four far-right activists in the last fortnight – on grounds of their entry into the United Kingdom being assessed not “conducive to the public good” – has been seized on by commentators within the movement to portray it as a defender of free speech. Editor of Breitbart London, Raheem Kassam, continued in this narrative yesterday, describing the latest incident – the deportation of Lutz Bachmann – as “another fascist attack on free speech”.  


Rather than indulging this weaponised sanctanimity, we need to recognise it for the ruse it is.

Firstly, the government are doing precisely what the right have tasked them to do for so long: keep foreign extremists out of the country.

We are constantly hectored from the right that there are British values that must be assimilated into. Such discussion is problematic, but if these values do exist then by any measure the activists concerned run totally against the spirit of them.

We need not set the bar particularly high. Let us agree on a modest definition – the right of British citizens, regardless of ethnicity, to physically live in this country.

This would be a too exacting standard. Martin Sellner advocates for the “remigration” of ethnic minorities from Europe. Not ethnic minorities that are here illegally, as he argues when in more genteel company, but ethnic minorities full stop. How telling that he drops that qualification when interviewed on his girlfriend Brittany Pettibone’s YouTube channel.

He and the group for which he is a leader – Generation Identity – fall unambiguously within the fold of the alt-right. They believe in a national community of blood that cannot be assimilated into.

It was such animus that led GI to charter a boat and harass rescuers of drowning migrants in the Mediterranean last summer. The pretext of the mission was to shine a light on a supposed complicity between people smugglers and rescue patrols. It is difficult to reconcile such a reading with their obstructing and hurling invective at a rescue vessel leaving port. They were detained by Italian authorities for this. As a more candid member stated on a video promoting the event, their goal was to chase down the “enemies of Europe”.

Lauren Southern and Brittany Pettibone have been crucial in providing a non-critical, prettified platform for GI. There have been many laudatory videos posted on their respective YouTube channel without even a fig leaf of journalistic balance. As Martin Sellner says in a video to Lauren: “I think you are much more fierce than other activists…  I think also by making these videos and coming here, actually being here, reporting about it, you’re already helping us a lot. I want to thank you very much for spreading the message and the idea”.

Even just a basic recognition of others’ humanity would be welcome. Not so for Lutz Bachmann – the founder of the German far-right PEGIDA movement – who has railed against refugees, dismissing them as “cattle,” “scumbags,” and “filth”. A German court found him guilty of inciting racial hatred in 2016.

What also makes the far-right’s grab for the halo of free-speech advocacy galling, is its outright hostility to the concept in all other contexts.


Sympathy for the Devil: How Virgin’s Corporate Censorship Imperils the Internet

It is a well-worn adage, in politics as in life, that the enemy of your enemy is your friend. And so it is easy to feel a sense of gratitude at the news that Virgin Trains have decided to cease selling the Daily Mail on its services.

The howls of indignation from the paper are just too ironic, too delicious. After all, what could it be more in favour of than a private company exercising its prerogative to propagate what news it sees fit to. It can be observed that the paper’s advocacy of this moral imperative is particularly pronounced whenever the Leveson Inquiry is brought up. (One is put in mind of the spectacle of hard-core, alt-right libertarians on YouTube who, whenever their videos are hidden by this private company, transmogrify into big state Liberals demanding what they would otherwise consider intolerably intrusive government regulation.)

Here’s the hitch, though: baked into the irony of the situation is the problem that it is by the logic of the right that Virgin is most justified. Essentially, by justifying Virgin’s behaviour we affirm that logic – and that is dangerous.

The right can justify this act of corporate censorship and remain consistent – we cannot.


Despite a Virgin spokesman half-heartedly mentioning “one paper sold for every four trains” when the story broke, this was an ideological decision – that much is clear from the internal memo that began this sordid affair. In it, Drew MacMillan, Head of Colleague Communication and Engagement, wrote that the Daily Mail was “not compatible with the VT brand” and so would be dropped. There was no economic rationalisation on display here.

The very same accusations of corporate censorship would be raised if it was a shibboleth of our own being assailed. Indeed, this is a matter of empirical fact. When suspicions emerged that LGBT content was disproportionately more likely than heteronormative content to have age restrictions placed on it by moderators on YouTube – not even be deleted – there was much talk of censorship. More widely, the concept of corporate censorship has had currency on the left for a while. In Naomi Klein’s seminal No Logo, there is an entire chapter entitled “Corporate Censorship”.

Setting aside the matter of ideological consistency, we must consider the practical implications of this normalisation of corporate censorship at a time when net-neutrality hangs perilously in abeyance. While the decision in December of the FCC (Federal Communications Commission) to kill off net-neutrality does not overwrite it in the UK, it is a poor portent for it. The affirmation of net-neutrality in the UK is predicated on the EU’s Regulation on Open Internet Access. Despite the government’s commitment to transfer all EU regulations into the statute book with its Great Repeal Bill, it will become eminently repeatable where once it was not. We remain under a Conservative government, with all the disdain for “red-tape” and unthinking emulation of the United States that this entails.

We should be especially concerned when it is Liam Fox who is entrusted with negotiating future trade deals for this country in his capacity as Secretary of State for International Trade. This is a man who set up a forum to bring Conservatives and Republicans closer together, the Atlantic Bridge, and thought it such socially useful work to claim for it the status of a charity – a move so egregious the Charity Commission had to eventually withdraw it. Could you count on such a man to stand up for the regulatory vouchsafe of net-neutrality as the United States demands entry into the UK market on favourable terms for their corporate paymasters? An isolated post-Brexit Britain has little leverage to begin with and the Trumpist United States even less inclination to go easy.

It is not just the death of net-neutrality as a prelude to outright corporate censorship that should concern us, but also the way it would facilitate digital monopolisation – both, after all, would have the effect of silencing new or dissenting voices. It is in the nature of organisations such as Virgin to synergise across its divisions, cut-out competitors and create what Naomi Klein describes as a “self-sustaining lifestyle web”. Sir Richard Branson imagined not so much customers as branded serfs who would “cross the Atlantic on a Virgin plane, listen to Virgin records and keep their money with a Virgin bank”. Note how Virgin operated in the 1990s. Both record label and retailer, it used its Megastore to push its talent over that of other labels and mould consumer choice. This endeavour was ill-fated, however how successful would it have been if Virgin had controlled the means by which you consumed all media? Given that the Virgin brand now operates as an ISP (Internet Service Provider), we may be about to find out.

Virgin Media is itself a subsidiary of Liberty Global, the international telecommunications giant. Also owned by Global is ITV. In other words, Liberty Global controls both a sources of news and what is for many the principal means of consuming it. Absent any enforcement of data-neutrality, Liberty Global and Virgin could put new sources of mews into slow-lanes, if not cut them out completely, and promote its own concerns.

Virgin already practises a form of data-interference. As a mobile phone network, it privileges some services – such as Twitter, WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger – over others by allowing them to be streamed by subscribers on smartphones without taking up mobile data. Ominously, it is far from the only mobile phone network to engage in this kind of practice.

Given the opportunity to properly breach data-neutrality, Virgin would eagerly oblige. As former Virgin CEO. Neil Berkett, remarked in 2008, “this net-neutrality thing is a load of bollocks.”

The prosaic reality is that it would not take a conspiracy of corporate censorship to stymie alternative, left-wing news sources. A system of incentives and favours that could deny it the room to cultivate a following would be enough. By allowing Virgin to censor without censure, we normalise data interference and make such a system more likely. We are like peasants appealing to an enlightened despot to put right the depredations of an inconvenient bourgeoisie with little regard for the long duree. Are we so pathetic that we cannot organise independently?

So smile now left-friends, but when the corporate brownshirts knock at our door at the dead of night we will wonder why we did not say anything when they came for the Daily Mail.

Why Corbyn was Right to Enforce the Whip on Leaving the Single Market

Corbyn was right. As a purely political calculation Labour had to snuff out, or been seen to snuff out, any attempts to keep Britain in the single market. There was simply nothing to gain from it and everything to lose.


It was clear what the Brexit vote signified: the wish for controls on immigration. The very same liberal left who depict Brexit as evidence of monstrous racism and xenophobia cannot then turn around and baldly proclaim it had nothing to do with concerns over immigration. You can have many arguments about whether Brexit strictly speaking meant leaving the single market and getting to self-determine on matters of immigration but doing so is an exercise in semantics when the meaning is clear as far as the British public are concerned, and that is the political reality that Corbyn has to deal with.

When we understand the Geist of Brexit it becomes apparent that arguing to keep Britain in the single market would be seen as a negation of the referendum – and we all know at this point how negation of the referendum will be dealt with. I am alluding to the Lib Dems, of course. This does not seem to me to be the formula for political dynamite, unless you mean to explode your party’s electoral prospects.

In any case, whatever gains can be made by appealing to such obstructionist sentiment have already been tapped into by the Lib Dems. How much could be gained by fine grain tinkering, remains – if you pardon the pun – to be seen.

Not only is it generally unappealing to the country, but it is specifically so to the northern Brexit constituencies which also form Labour’s traditional – and increasingly estranged – base. It was only by enforcing the whip to enact Article 50 that he made sure that Labour held on to the north; it was one of the few things he got correct. Make no mistake: Brexit mattered for the working class, hence the Tories with their more explicit Brexit-means-Brexit platform winning among it, the socioeconomic groups C2DE, by 12 points. Even with this pandering Labour still managed to lose the Leave seats of Derbyshire North East, Mansfield, Middleborough South and Cleveland East, Stoke-on-Trent South and Walsall North to the Tories attesting to the absolute massacre averted by taking into account Leave sensibilities.

What is more, the seats that swung to Labour had little to do with a Remain rebellion. Excluding Scotland where the predominant issue pertained to another referendum, 27 out of the 29 seats gained came from the pro-Brexit Conservatives. But of these seats, just 11 were in Remain constituencies. It is a mainstream media myth that these gains were just in university towns and cities – a confection if I were more cynical I would attribute to a wish to co-opt the General Election result for the Remain camp. The lion share of swung seats then, such as Lincoln and High Peak, would see little reason to rebel against Labour protection of the Brexit mandate.

These are the real, tangible gains that Labour has to protect. Most of the middle class votes would have been piled up in safe, less numerous metropolitan seats – very much analogous to Hillary Clinton’s problems with the Electoral College during the 2016 Presidential Election – and had little effect on wining seats in places like Derby North and Ipswich. As such Labour could easily weather the loss of muddle-headed, middle-class airheads who did not bother to read the Labour manifesto – or else they would have known about the commitment to end freedom of movement.

Of the paltry two that swung over from the Liberal Democrats, it is safe to conclude that these would have had little to do with the anti-Brexit proclivities of their constituents otherwise they would have remained Lib Dem.

When Labour risks losing so many of its seats it had better do so for a sure thing. Lame duck, paper tiger, constipated snake – call it what you want, but the anti-Brexit vote is not that.

Trump, Regan, Nixon: What to Expect Next From Trump and Russia

It is happening again.

No, I am not referring to the (blessed) return of Twin Peaks to television. What is the subject of this missive, however is no less sinister and seemingly opaque.

What is happening again is that the American people are being betrayed by a Republican President who was colluding with a foreign power before they were even in office – and in fact owe their election to this.

TP Meme

It is very frustrating reading coverage President Trump’s obstructing the FBI investigation into his campaign’s – surely indisputable now – relations with Russia if for no other reason than that such commentary lacks historical perspective. Simply put, Republican Presidents conspiring against their country for electoral gain is a very common and important occurrence.

The quintessential parallel reached for in the Age of Trump is Watergate. And of course it would be. By firing the special prosecutor Archibold Cox – and getting through two Attorney Generals to do it – President Nixon fundamentally and egregiously breached the separation of powers so key to the American constitution. This is the same principle President Trump fell foul of when he asked FBI director James Comey to cease the ongoing investigation into his campaign’s possible collusion with Russia – and dismissed him when he demurred.

In the rush to devour this low hanging fruit another arguably more pertinent example from the Nixon administration gets overlooked: the sabotaging of the Paris Peace Accords of 1968. Rather than allow the administration of Lyndon Johnson to claim the political victory of a negotiated settlement between South and North Vietnam, strengthening the Presidential campaign of fellow Democrat Hubert Humphrey, the Nixon campaign team plotted to derail negotiations. Nixon campaign manager John Mitchell, his future National Security Advisor Henry Kissinger, and Republican socialite Anna Chennault all encouraged the South Vietnamese to double down with the promise of better terms under a Nixon administration and to avoid any Democrat-brokered settlement in the meantime. The FBI would identify this strategy as both having played out and of being integral to why the South Vietnamese did not go to the table. 

A week after LBJ ordered a cessation of in American operations in the hope of concomitant commitment from Ho Chi Minh which did not come, Nixon, who ran on the promise of “peace with honour”, beat Humphrey by just one point in the popular vote.

For an administration awarded for its duplicity from the outset, it should be no surprise that Watergate followed, nor the clandestine bombing of Cambodia. The attempt to conceal the latter from the American public and Congress was considered so egregious that Congress moved to circumscribe the power of the executive branch to wage war without its express permission under the 1973 War Powers Act.

Just as these treasonous tricks worked for Nixon, so they did for another Republican President: one Ronald Regan. It would appear then that Trump and Regan have more in common than being geriatric celebrities in the all too palpable throes of a nascent dementia.

It was unfortunate for Jimmy Carter that the 1979 Iranian Revolution occurred during his administration. In the course of it, 52 American embassy staff were seized as hostages by radical Islamist students. The Carter administration was gravely wounded as it tried and failed to secure their release before a Presidential election it would go on to lose to Regan in 1980. It was during this negotiation between the Carter administration and the new Iranian regime that members from the Regan campaign team allegedly ensured that the release of the hostages would not occur in Carter’s administration. Both NSA council member under the Ford and Carter administration, Gary Sick, and Iranian president at the time, Abolhassan Bansidar, have drawn on their experience of events to advance this theory.

And so it passed that mere minutes after Regan became President on January 20th 1981, the hostages were released. The measure of debt that the Regan administration thus felt towards the Iranians explains the great lengths he would go to give arms to the new regime and conceal this, the most notable example being, of course, the Iran-Contra affair.

The rewards were reaped in a country where the political culture strongly favours the incumbent in presidential elections. Nixon would go on to win another term before being brought down by his hubris and incompetence, and after Regan’s victory the GOP would hold on to the presidency until 1994. Insofar as this helped to give the edge of their candidate, the ends seemingly justified the means. 

What is particularly concerning with the parallels of Nixon and Regan, is how emboldened by their initial intrigues they would go on to mislead the American public again. In what ways then, can we expect to be misled by Trump? Does it have something to do with Jared Kushner’s request to the Russian ambassador to set up a back channel hidden from American intelligence agencies, I wonder? And why have Mike Flynn and Jeff Sessions been caught out lying about their relations with the Russian state?

Maybe these historical instances are side-lined because it lessens the hyperbole than can be applied to this story. This has simply happened far too often, and with far too little consequence that it becomes hard to remain excited with a perspective going further back than the latest 24 hour news cycle.


Trump vs Sweden

As much as I would love to discuss the pros and cons of different compilations of Swedish crime statistics, I think people are in danger of not seeing the woods for the trees here.

Even if immigration of certain groups leads to more crime – and this is not at all straightforward – this does not necessarily render it a non-starter. There is a principle of compassion at stake here, which does not just stop at some border.

At the very least against any putative increase in crime there must be a consideration of the suffering which has been alleviated. This seems an astoundingly bold thing to say, and I am well aware it goes against the grain, but it is just the basic principle of utilitarianism taken to its logical end point. You may well wish to weigh the interests of your compatriots higher than those of outsiders. There are certain moral imperatives of community, as people understand it. The point is you can factor in for these and still see both sides of the equation.

At the moment we have this myopic focus on just one side. To take one instance, Donald Trump made an executive order on his fifth day tasking his Secretary for Homeland Security to weekly “make public a comprehensive list of criminal actions committed by aliens”. Can we detect the hand of Steve Bannon, whose Breibart website maintains a whole section called “black crime”?

We also have to be realistic that doing the right thing can often bring its own set of difficulties. Principles are like that. What we should not do is what I saw Don Lemon do in his interview with the film maker who inspired President Trump’s “last night in Sweden” comments this week. When confronted with very inconvenient data and asked to make very straightforward inferences on the upward trend of at least of some crime according to some statistics, he shamefully prevaricated in such a way as to play into the hands of those who doubt the sincerity of advocates for refugees. You can disavow the providence of certain statistics, but you cannot disavow statistics.


And before anyone rebukes me for a presumption to accept risk and difficulty on others’ behalf who may not ask for it, right wingers ask us to tolerate harm all of the time in favour of their principles.

Compare an America where we have sensible – read: any – gun control to the America we have now. But we put up with the America we have now because of the (ridiculous and anachronistic) principle of the Second Amendment. Far more people die from loose gun laws that allow mentally ill people or people on no fly lists to buy guns than from immigration. There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.) We lose a tremendous amount of life, and we receive no boon in the alleviation of suffering to offset this. In other words it is a massive and unambiguous net suffering, which you cannot say for immigration. There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.)

It is especially egregious that people tolerate this risk but not the other because America and Britain played a part is destabilising the Middle East with its foreign policy. Why is it that the same Americans who are so quick to take credit for the glories of their country, at the same deny any responsibility at all when it does something bad – and all the while lecture us about “accountability”? I believe its “My Country Right or Wrong”, not “My Country When It Suits Me”. And yet we who would wish to bear the burden are decried as snowflakes, while those who shirk it with hysteria and hyperbole idealise themselves as modern day, rugged frontiersmen.

There is just not enough perspective – on the right – or honesty – on the left – being brought to debates on immigration to begin with. We need to put this aside and ask ourselves what would truly bring the greatest good to the greatest number of people.

Trump, Brexit and the Death of Patriotism

We have really lost our way with immigration. Sad! Forgive my Trumpian flourish but this is an important topic and I need all the attention I can garner.

I totally understand that one can take a principled stance against immigration to a point – and many do – but it has become far too common to hear the motives of immigrants impugned.

Observe the pejorative meaning the phrase “economic migrant” has taken on. As a friend mentioned on Facebook, “economic migrants continue to flood in, let’s face it for their own good, not the good of the country they are (sic) enter”. Why are we are rebuking the insufficient patriotism of those yet to land on our shore? It is a bizarre condition totally divorced from an understanding of human psychology that we seem to be placing on entry and one which is quite antithetical to British and American values.

Anyone who argues that this disdain is solely because economic migrants are taking the place of deserving refugees, has not come to terms with the fact that for large swathes of the right there are no refugees, just economic migrants. As Twitter user Truth_At_Last writes “Invest in so-called ‘refugees’? I wouldn’t piss on one of the criminal economic migrants if they were on fire #NoRefugees

The thing is, emigrating to further your interests and emigrating to further the interests of the country are not mutually exclusive. America as I recall had rather a large number of immigrants who came in the pursuit of happiness and that as we are often reminded turned out quite well. It was called the American Dream.


This idea had its antecedents in Britain. Our relations with other individuals do not represent some zero sum equation, but rather the potential for prosperity via mutually beneficial economic activity. If I sound unduly Whiggish here, it is because I am simply stating what British values are as they have traditionally been conceived, cant and all.

In fact the whole edifice of Anglophone Liberal Democracy is that by private individuals pursuing their own interests the public good is taken care of – as though by a guiding “invisible hand” if you will forgive the allusion to Adam Smith.

I have to say I find the lack of faith in basic British and American values among the nationalist right to be disturbing. I am reminded of the words of another “Britisher” Samuel Johnson. He made the distinction between patriotism and nationalism, calling the latter the “last refuge of the scoundrel”. Patriotism is a positive love for your country and what it stands for; nationalism stands for little else than empty headed belligerence to the rest of the world. I would go further and suggest that it is mere tribalism, no different to that of the supposed “savages” we supposedly run the risk of being “swamped” by. We have – and I never thought I would see myself type this – too few patriots at the moment. For a love of country unmoored from principle is a truly worrisome thing.

But I am the son of an immigrant so what do I know?

Trump, the Constitution and the Real Threat to National Security

The man daily wipes his arse with the constitution.

In a White House meeting today Donald Trump stated that he would “look into” supporting law enforcement agencies who seized the assets of those it suspected of criminal activity. This is despite the clear unconstitutionality of the action. And I quote Article XIV, Section I: “nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law”. Funny how those who bray most about their love of the constitution know least about it.

Let us not forget that he thinks “torture works”. Do not worry though; he will not start using it. Not because it goes against the Eighth Amendment but out of deference to his Secretary of State, the reassuringly named James “Mad Dog” Mattis. (I will stick with the Butcher of Fallujah, thanks)

It is also worth pointing out that his now confirmed pick for Secretary of Education, Betsy De Vos, has spent her whole career privatising state education and diverting funds – and nubile young flesh – to religious chartered schools. It was by adopting this strategy that she hoped to “advance God’s kingdom” at the expense of the separation of Church and State as guaranteed by the First Amendment.

The man simply does not know enough to care about the Constitution.

What he does have is this weird fetishisation of the Second Amendment, so common among the GoP. People with severe mental illness can now buy guns with no issues. Leaving aside the paradox of invoking the inviolability of the constitution to defend an amendment to it, is it not gross that of all the amendments it is this one that the GoP grandstand on? Especially when so many rights are curtailed in the name of the War against Terror; a terror which is dwarfed by garden variety gun violence, and is in many way exacerbated by it.

There were 15,809 homicides by firearm in America in 2015, against the 14 deaths by Islamic terror (and in deathly cross pollination these were killed by legally purchased firearms.) In just the last 72 hours there have been 108 gun related deaths. You tell me which is the threat to national security?