EU Copyright Directive Protests

I am hearing there are big protests planned internationally to oppose the EU Copyright Directive. The directive is similar to ACTA which you will recall sparked similar international protests which we covered in a break from our holiday in Amsterdam.

From the Open Rights Group newsletter:

The European Conference of Presidents will vote this Thursday in Brussels on a request to fasttrack the final MEP vote on the EU Copyright Directive to 12 March. If successful, international protests against upload filters planned for 23 March will become obsolete. Stay tuned for ORG’s call to action.

More information about protests is listed at Save the Internet. For some reason, however, there is no planned demo in London. From afar my estimate is that copyfighters are predisposed to support Remain and the feel of the ORG newsletter is that they would really rather not have to go ahead with this right before the Article 50 Brexit deadline.

Some Thoughts on Antisemitism

Antisemitism is periodically in the news as a major problem in society. This time, it is the Labour party, with its leader Jeremy Corbyn, that is at the center of the scandal. From what I have heard, there seem to be indeed some people with antisemitic ideas in the labour party. I find it, however, difficult to believe that Corbyn is a real threat to jews in the UK.

If he were to become PM, he would certainly be a threat to everyone, including jews. I, too, would leave the country if that were to happen. Luckily, he does not seem to have a realistic chance of moving into No.10. That being said, I have not heard any specific threats being voiced against jews in particular by him. I even doubt that he is personally an antisemite. I get the impression that it is more a plot to get rid of him rather than a real scandal of antisemitism.

At worst, he is not willing to give jews the same identity politics privileges that he would grand to other minorities. That would make him a hypocrite. But a hypocritical politician is not particularly unusual. In fact, it seems almost impossible to become a leading politician without being one.

It needs to be said, however, that, given the disastrous history of antisemitism in Europe, jews may be excused to worry a bit too much. After all, they have made the mistake of not being worried enough before, with horrible consequences. It is understandable that they are very sensitive when it comes to antisemitism.

I don’t like identity politics. It should be scraped all together. While it is true that real antisemitism exists, and can be a problem, it seems also true that there is a lot of bad politics being made with it. What is antisemitism? Antisemitism, to me, used to mean the hatred of jews as a collective for being jews. More than that, if it is supposed to be evil, then this negative view of jews needs to be based on clearly false ideas.

This qualification, however, is only necessary in theory. In practice, it is difficult to see how all jews could be bad as a collective. Therefore, claims that all jews are bad are in reality certainly false. That cannot be said about individual jews, of course. But calling out individual bad jews would not be antisemitism. It seems therefore sufficient to define antisemitism as the hatred of jews for being jews.

Antisemites believe that there is something inherently evil about jews. This is often coupled with the believe that there is an active conspiracy of jewry to control parts of society, or even the whole world. An example of a common conspiracy theory is that jews control the almighty banking system. Therefore, and this is the dangerous bit, jews need to be fought back to crush the conspiracy.

These kind of jewish conspiracy theories were mainstream at many times in history. They are still mainstream in a number of regions in the world. What makes them so dangerous is the fact that there is clearly lots of evidence against them. Like a lot of other conspiracy theories, it is based on circular reasoning. Evidence in favor is seen as proof, while any evidence against is ignored. Even worst, evidence to the contrary is often interpreted as a deliberate disinformation campaign. It is turned into evidence of how sophisticated the conspiracy is. That makes it impossible to disproof these theories.

In other words, jews don’t really have a chance of defending themselves against these bogus allegations. They become the victims of false ideas that are out of their control.

This, to me, is antisemitism. And for all the reasons above, it is indeed evil. While it seems unrealistic to expect the world to become completely free of dangerous ideas, fighting them is certainly an important cause. The only way of doing that is with good arguments. And in order to be able to make these arguments we need an open and free debate.

But we don’t have an open debate around antisemitism. The subject seems very stigmatized. In addition to that, it seems to also have been hijacked by some special interest groups. The definition of antisemitism that is being used at the moment appears to be very different from my own. At the centre of the debate is the working definition of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This definition states:

“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

Superficially, this definition is quite similar to mine. Yes, antisemitism is the hatred of jews for being jews. Although, this definition does not actually say hating jews in general, it just says jews. So it is not clear whether this could also mean hating specific jews.

For clarifications, the IHRA does give a number of examples of what it thinks is antisemitism. While some of them seem perfectly correct, others merit the suspicion that this is not really about clarifying the debate. Let us look at some of the examples. They are not necessarily in the order presented on their website.

“Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective – such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.”

“Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews”

These are two good examples of real antisemitism. But wait a moment. Why is the second example antisemitism? After all, we might be talking about real, and not fictional, acts. There are two reason why it is indeed antisemitism. Firstly, the logic is not valid. One cannot conclude from the specific to the general. This is called inductive reasoning, and it is a common mistake many people make.

As I already said, it is difficult to see how all jews could possibly be bad. Jewry is not a militarily organized, top down, organization. It is a religion, with very diverse believes and people in it. We are dealing with individual human beings. Humans have a free will to make their own decision. Holding someone responsible for what someone else did is therefore illegitimate. This is an individualistic, liberal view of humans. A true collectivist, however, might disagree with this.

So, yes, this is antisemitism. And it is so within a liberal worldview. The fact that the IHRA is calling out this view is a hopeful sign that this organization has liberal values. Unfortunately, some of the other examples make that conclusion look very questionable. Let us have a look at two examples that, in my view, are not necessarily antisemitism.

“Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.”

“Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis”

In other words, no matter what the government of Israel uses the Holocaust for, it cannot be criticized for it. And, no matter what policies Israel actually adopts, even if it was real national socialism, comparing these policies to the Nazis is a priori wrong. Any such criticism is automatically antisemitism, even if it was factually accurate.

This seems odd. In order to be evil, antisemitism needs to be based on false, unfalsifiable ideas. Let us, for the sake of the argument, assume that there really was a jewish conspiracy to control the world. If that were actually true, than in my view it would be very sensible to have a debate over whether the rest of us might want to do something against that conspiracy. It is only because these conspiracy theories are clearly bogus, and unfalsifiable, that antisemitism is evil.

But is it still antisemitism, if real acts of some real jews are being criticized? If so, than that would turn antisemitism from being evil to being a potentially sensible position to take. Palestinians, for example, have some good reasons to hate at least Israelis. If a foreign, and hostile, army occupies your home, why wouldn’t you be angry? This is not paranoia, or a crazy conspiracy theory. It is a real problem for them. That is not to say that hatred is a good policy adviser, but it is certainly not irrational in this situation.

It is text book identity politics to exempt certain groups of people from being criticized. And it is one of the reasons why it should be abandoned. No matter what certain groups say or do, criticism is deemed to be a priori evil.

As I said earlier, I would go along with this, if we were talking about jews as a collective. Yes, Palestinians have no good reason to hate all jews in the world. They don’t even have a good reason to hate all jewish Israelis. If they did, and many do, then that would be indeed unjustified antisemitism. The real issue I have with these examples is that we are no longer talking about all jews anymore. Instead we are talking about real acts of real groups of jews.

Israel is a real state, with real policies. It does not represent all jews, nor is it essential to be an Israeli to be a jew. Many jews are not Israelis, and many jews are not even zionists. So why would criticizing Israel in any form be the same as the hatred of jews in general? Why equate Israel with Judaism?

By equating jews with Israel, the IHRA has adopted the same faulty, collectivist, and inductive reasoning that it called out in the second example we looked at. If someone hates certain jews, like the Israeli government, for what they really do, then that is the same as hating all jews in general. This conclusion simply does not follow from the premisses, unless one is a collectivist. But if we accept collectivism as true, then blaming all jews for what certain individual jews do is also valid.

The only alternative conclusion is that the IHRA, in its definition, was indeed not exclusively talking about hatred of jews in general, but even just hatred of specific jews. This would be odd. It would mean that jews, even as individuals, cannot legitimately be hated, no matter what they do. That is not really a conclusion that can be taken seriously.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the IHRA has adopted a collectivist mindset in this example. Which begs the question what is it going to be? Are we gong to judge jew hatred from a collectivist or an individualist perspective? Antisemitism is only irrational from an individualistic perspective. Another example gives us an answer of why jews are being equated with Israel.

“Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.”

Note that it says jewish people and not individual jews. Again, this is real collectivism. As a libertarian, I cannot make sense of the idea that an involuntary, and very diverse, collective can have self-determination. What does that even mean? None of these artificial collectives, like the Germans, French, English, Italians etc. can be self determined. The idea that they could is dangerous nonsense. It is the major source for the growth of the state. After all, if governments just express the self determined will of the people, than how could anyone object to what they are doing? The people can hardly oppress themselves. I am with Ayn Rand on this, only individuals can be self determined.

It is particularly bizarre to think that self determination could be facilitated by a state. That is not what states are. States are immoral entities. They are unfortunate facts that we have to deal with. The verdict is still out on whether they are necessary evils, but they are definitely evil. Certainly, no one can have a right to something that is evil. According to this IHRA clarification, everyone with a liberal mindset, like myself, who opposes collectivism, and considers states to be evil, is an antisemite.

The idea that jews as a people should be self determined is of course the very core idea of zionism. What this statement therefore does is to declare an opposition to zionism as being antisemitic. That is a real problem. Zionism is not a crazy, unfalsifiable conspiracy theory. It is very much a real political ideology, and movement. It has well known thinkers and leaders. It is also the official ideology behind the current state of Israel. Zionists are not in hiding. If asked, they openly, and often proudly, say that they are indeed zionists.

Declaring the criticism of a political ideology itself to be illegitimate is an unacceptable attempt to censor a political debate. No political ideology should be freed from being criticized. This is particularly bizarre as there are a lot of liberal, and even non-liberal, jews who are also opposed to this collectivist ideology. Meaning, some jews themselves could become, and quite frankly are, antisemites, according to this definition. That is obviously absurd.

But the IHRA is only collectivist when it suits them. As we have seen, if it does not, then they are perfectly capable of being individualists. It all depends on whether collectivism is used to defend or attack jews. The same is true for their views on Israel.

“Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel”

So, at first, Israel is portrayed as the collective representation of the will of the jewish people, who have a right to self determination. Opposing this idea itself is antisemitism. But when the perverse logic of that collectivism is consistently applied then that is also antisemitism.

Going through the working definition of the IHRA, one can only conclude that it is an ill conceived, incoherent drivel. It is not designed to clarify what antisemitism is, but seems more suitable to confuse the debate. Sometimes, seeing jews as a collective is wrong, and at other times not seeing them as a collective is also wrong. No matter what the argument is, as long as it is critical of some jews somewhere, it could, according to this definition, be called antisemitism.

If clarifying antisemitism was the goal, the IHRA could have just left it at, “antisemitism is hatred of jews as a collective”. That would have been sufficient and clear. The problem is that this would not have included criticism of zionism. Their clarifications do the opposite of clarifying. They confuse, and water down the definition to the point that almost any criticism of jews, and especially zionism, can be called antisemitic, if convenient.

Confusing the debate is likely to be the real point of this definition. It is a text book bullying tactic of identity politics. Make people insecure of what is and what is not allowed to say, and they will shut up. Why take the risk of being targeted by this mob? And despite the fact that the IHRA says that there can be legitimate criticism of Israel, it clearly has a problem with debating zionism.

Be a zionist or be an antisemite. To that I say, don’t push me, because I won’t pick zionism. Neither will a lot of other people. It is a dangerous strategy to declare liberal worldviews to be antisemitic. In the long run, this will backfire big time, and we are already seeing this happening. To try this anyway seems to reveal an insecurity of not being able to defend zionism in an open debate, within a largely liberally minded society. And zionists should be insecure, because their nationalist ideology certainly is not liberal.

Brexit: What is going on?

On the eve of the commons vote that Theresa May has now tried to defer, we gathered to work what is going on, what we want and what is happening next.

The panel included:

Christian Michel – Philosophy and Economics Meetup Organiser
Lucy Harris – Leavers of Britain
Catherine McBride – Senior Economist, IEA Trade and Competition Unit

In their opening statements the panellists gave their point of view. I started by asking Christian why “people” wanted to be part of the EU in the first place?

Christian does not know why “people” want to Remain, but knows why he wants to Remain. This is because he feels that the EU destroys respect for the concept of a state. There is no love for the EU in the same way that there is love for nation states. States that are remote and undemocratic lack moral authority and the end result, he says, will be that the EU exerts less authority than would be wielded nationally.

Catherine, was working in Australia as the EU developed from the EEC into the EU. For her, the institution was an “OPEC for developed nations”. In particular this is what it was presented as in Australia, making its evolution into a sovereign entity with broad and deep powers a bit of a surprise. Such was also the experience of people here, she felt. Catherine also feels that had the EU stuck to the 9 first countries (Belgium, France, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, West Germany, Denmark, Ireland and the UK) it might have worked out better. However the UK in particular was the “oddball” and had different economic needs and alignments, tending to develop ahead of the EU nations thanks to US influence. This meant the UK was incompatible from the the beginning.

Lucy, laments the rapid “twitter feed” progression of events in the current climate. Lucy felt that what the country needed now was a new leader from the Leave side who would be able to be braver and more bold than Theresa May and deliver the result of the vote. This deal, she says, is not Brexit and not the will of the people because it leaves us in the Customs Union. She says the Brexit we need must include “no connection” with the ECJ, freedom of movement, the customs union or single market. The reasons for Brexit are not especially tied to immigration and is not a racist phenomenon.

The panel went on to discuss, in some depth, the nature of democracy and the attitude of the Remain camp toward Brexit voters, and the likely direction of events.

 

Brexit looking shaky

So, in case you had missed it, a Brexit deal is now on the table. It introduces a transition phase while the new relationship is being discussed and keeps us in the Customs Union (and much else besides) while that process continues. After 2 years of negotiating an exit it crucially fails to assure Britain that a meaningful exit is possible at all. Since the passage of the Lisbon treaty there has been the Article 50 get out clause, but bizarrely, no such mechanism to leave is contained in the withdrawal agreement.

This is a ludicrous version of Brexit and cannot really be given the name. It has been described as capitulation, giving Britain the status of a vassal state. Regardless of your views on Brexit, or participation in politics generally, the passage of this agreement would be a disaster.

The question must now be asked: what should be done?

If the choice on the table is between Remain and this deal, then the only sensible decision is to Remain. Exit on WTO terms seems to be an incredibly unpopular option at present, and seems even likely to pass the necessary Commons vote. I greatly prefer No Deal to the present option, but the task of campaigning for it seems quixotic. It is perhaps made possible by the fact it is presently the default in law, but there are attempts underway to change that fact also.

There does seem to be some momentum behind the idea of creating an alternative deal, either by making small but important changes to this deal, or invoking the Norway option (EFTA / EEA membership). There are even a few people in the cabinet working on a fix.

The conventional wisdom is that there is no time for a second referendum, but there does seem to be a degree if political will in favour it. Should libertarians aim to begin influencing that process?

Perhaps it is better, since we are ourselves divided, to avoid taking a corporate libertarian view on the matter. This might be reasonable, but a concern is that this means sitting out one of the largest political controversies of our time.

KCL Libertarians’ Statement on ‘Endangered Speeches’ Event

We write to you at a paramount time where attempted censorship on campus is no longer looming in the shadows but is vividly on display in one of the most prestigious universities in the world.

This afternoon’s event entitled ‘Endangered Speeches’ is due to be hosted by the King’s College London War Studies Department, featuring a conversation between Dr. Joanna Williams, as its guest speaker, and Professor Michael Rainsborough who heads the War Studies Department. The conversation is advertised to assess the contentions surrounding the debate over free speech at university campuses. Ultimately, as outlined, the debate aims to ‘explore the dimensions of the debate’ and allow students to cultivate their own understanding and widen their perspective.

We are extremely concerned, but also unsurprised in light of recent events, that elements within the university have attempted to curtail Dr Williams’ free speech on campus and sought to pressurise the university to rescind its invitation and publicly apologise over dubious grounds. It seems that these individuals and societies would rather not have a debate at all, instead citing platitudes that they have the moral high ground, thus those who disagree with them should not be permitted to speak on campus. Disagreeing with Dr Joanna Williams is something we couldn’t encourage more, but rather than coming to the event and challenging her ideas within the Q&A, those seeking to cancel the event would rather the guest speaker not be heard at all.

In an absurd statement issued by the KCL Intersectional Feminist Society, but also backed up by 144 other students in a variety of departments across the university, the case was furthered that due to Dr Joanna Williams’ supposed opposition to women (despite, of course, being a woman herself), trans and non-binary people, students on campus will be put in danger of ‘harm’. As one line states explicitly, ‘not supporting women, trans, and non-binary people kills, and Williams knowingly endorses this.’ Without knowledge of who Dr Joanna Williams is, one could only assume after reading the statement that she believes in men ruling over women and the encouragement of the suicide of trans people. Not only is this deception, it is a vivid exemplification of a smear campaign to shut down discussion, force feed students only one given narrative and prevent them from hearing a different point of view. Make no mistake, this is no different from the procedure followed in academic institutions within the authoritarian regimes of the 20th century when an opinion that differed from the regime propaganda was espoused. In this way, those attempting to cancel this event are more in harmony with the ‘fascists’ they are supposedly trying to battle against than the supposed liberators they claim to be.

More importantly, we were extremely disappointed to learn that the Student Union, a body elected by students to represent students’ interests, came to the defence of those hell-bent on de-platforming Dr Joanna Williams. In a statement, the KCLSU expressed ‘solidarity’ with those restricting the free exchange of ideas on campus and expressed concern and disappointment at her potential presence. In truly ironic fashion, they claimed that this event ‘only serves as a platform for a harmful speaker, as opposed to truly addressing the issue of free speech on campus.’ If a Student Union doesn’t have the intellectual fortitude to fathom that harmful speech counts as free speech, we must be prepared for very dark times ahead. What kind of precedent does that set? When anything that is subjectively perceived to offend any single person becomes the litmus test for an idea to be shut down, what speech will be left to be heard? It is clear to see that the Student Union’s backing of this anti-free speech crusade will only limit the band of accepted speech, and that is severely dangerous. (To read the statement, follow this link: https://www.kclsu.org/news/article/6015/Statement-on-quotEndangered-Speechquot-event/)

In the interests of the future of students and our educational instructions that we all hold so dear, we call on the Student Union to retract its statement which aims to restrict students’ exposure to more ideas on campus. If this demand is not met, we will be forced to take further action within our rights as students by holding our representatives to account.

Whether you agree with Dr Joanna Williams or not, and we certainly do not endorse everything she stands for, free speech will soon dry up at the source if we do not stand up for the right of those who disagree with us to convey their ideas.

Join the battle to preserve free speech with our nationwide Free to Speak campaign (FaceBook, Twitter) and protect the free flow of ideas, no matter which side of the political spectrum they originate from, on university campuses. Free speech is already being curtailed on campuses, and it’s time we woke up before they come for your speech.

 

Danny Al-Khafaji – President of the KCL Libertarian Society and Director of Free to Speak

Georgia Leigha – Vice President of KCL Libertarian Society

Tamara Berens – Communications Director of KCL Libertarian Society

Danielle Kleinerman – Events Organiser of KCL Libertarian Society

Eberle Miller – Treasurer of KCL Libertarian Society

Facebook purges libertarian(ish) accounts

Libertarians, mostly Americans, on Facebook are frantically working through the details of a mass ban of Facebook Pages maintained by organisations in the libertarian-conservative part of the spectrum.

One user posted this “working list” of affected accounts to another libertarian’s wall:

The Free Thought Project – 3.1 million fans
The Anti-Media – 2.1 million fans
Police the Police – 1.9 million fans
Cop Block
Filming Cops
Policing the Police
Cop Logic
Rachel Blevins
End the Drug War
V is For Voluntary
TheAnonNews
Legalizing Cannabis Hemp
End the War on Drugs
Anonymous News
Get Involved, You Live Here
Dan Dicks – 350,000 fans
Political Junkie News Media – 300,000 fans
Murica Today – 180,000 fans
Choice & Truth – 2.9 million fans
You won’t see this on TV – 172,000 fans
Modern Slavery Hilarious Vines – 129,000 fans
Fuck the Government – 168,000 fans
Punk Rock Libertarians – 190,000 fans

Also blocked were Peaceful Anarchism, Liberty One and The Truth Is Viral.

I am not personally subscribed to these pages, I am not vouching for them or identifying them as libertarian or as anything else. I prefer to limit my consumption of social media, but I have certainly heard of many of them.

Some sound a bit bonkers, others seem to have been doing important work which anyone should recognise as valuable in a democracy. It is possible Facebook has some evidence that they were up to something? There seems to be an issue with pages being “forced” to spam for reasons related to Facebooks algorithms.

I’m asking you a question: have you been tuning into these pages and what do you think is going on? Are some of these legit targets based on some criteria of public safety that you feel is valid? Or are they legitimately operated venues of dissenting opinion which is being squashed?