Friday, August 12, 2011

First refuge of despots

ALL despots want to suppress dissent—they can’t rule if people actually have a say. So, it’s not surprising when authoritarian regimes crack down on freedom of expression, but supposed democracies? That suggests the closing of a free society.

In response to the riots in England, the Conservative Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said that his government is looking at banning people from using social networks like Twitter and Facebook “if they are thought to be plotting criminal activity.”

The simple reality is that there is absolutely no way to “ban” people “thought to be plotting criminal activity” without also banning everyone else—just as Iran and Egypt and Libya tried to do in the face of popular uprising.

I’m not trying to equate the UK riots with the uprisings in the Islamic world, but neither am I saying they’re NOT the same—I’m in no position to comment. What I’m saying is simply that despots always try to close down channels through which opposition to the government can communicate, and in that sense alone, David Cameron is no different than the dictators in Iran.

The rightwing may not like modern democracy—messy, intemperate, overly emotive—but they have no right to try and suppress it. If they do, they should not be surprised at any civil insurrection that follows. That’s not an endorsement, by the way: It’s a warning.

No comments: