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Price of Freedom

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It seemed there might be a respite from the ‘eternal vigilance’ required as the price of freedom, once the Berlin wall fell in 1989 and the second great totalitarian menace of the 20th century was defeated. Not so, of course. Not a day passes without some new obnoxious case of the soft-Orwellian thought police harassing a free-born citizen’s freedom of speech and of conscience; every new day the papers tally up the acts of violence perpetrated by Islamist supremacists; increasingly the soft-totalitarian instincts of the Green movement get in our faces.

Threat 1: Where Climate Science meets Climate Politics

“Today’s debate about global warming is essentially a debate about freedom. The environmentalists would like to mastermind each and every possible (and impossible) aspect of our lives.”

Vaclav Klaus, President of the Czech Republic
Author of ‘Blue Planet in Green Shackles’

Messing with our children’s minds

The ugliest face of the fundamentalist Greens is revealed in their propaganda that, to differing degrees, deceives and terrifies the minds of children: consider the almost cult-like quality of this Greenpeace ad of a boy snarling revenge at the older generation for their negligence on global warming:

– or the even sicker sadistic ad by the 10:10 campaign exploding the bodies of students who refuse to bow the knee to Carbon Reduction:

– or the nightmarish official opening ad for the UN Copenhagen climate conference in 2009. This is unspeakable. This is nothing less than emotional child abuse. This, if taught in school along with that parody of science, Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” is not education but propaganda. Watch and consider:

This is where climate science borders on “climate cult”. What phrase would better capture the Deep Greens’ sinister use of intense fear and heavy moralistic authority to compel a child’s beliefs? And the Labor government is complicit in frightening the children – with the political effect of creating intensely Greens-Left climate correctness in the next generation of voters. Read THIS report for further unexpectedly angry comments from experts in education and the mental health of children:

PRIMARY school children are being terrified by lessons claiming climate change will bring “death, injury and destruction” to the world unless they take action.

On the eve of Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s carbon tax package announcement, psychologists and scientists said the lessons were alarmist, created unneeded anxiety among school children and endangered their mental health.

A compromised science

Setting the psychological aside, let us turn to the scientific. Here I refuse the lazy option of outsourcing one’s brains to some ‘consensus’ generated by the UN bureaucrats who constitute the Intergovernmental (not inter-scientific) Panel on Climate Change, the IPCC. Something that relies on authority or consensus is politics, not science. No, the hypothesis of ‘catastrophic man-made global warming’ remains to be judged like any other theory – on grounds of conformity to objective data and scientific plausibility – and in my view the hypothesis that our emissions are leading to dangerous global warming fails the test of both data and plausibility.

It is reasonable to expect that the effect of changing one variable, CO2 (one degree Celsius for a doubling of its concentration, all other things being equal) will be countered by adaptive responses in other elements of the biosphere, given the expected homeostatic tendency of any such complex system; important studies support that outcome while ‘speculations’ using inherently inadequate computer simulators project the opposite. Only one approach is scientific, in the sense of testing theories by their conformity to observations. But only one approach is politically effective in producing the desired ‘consensus’ and momentum for new taxes and new transnational regulation: that is the approach of the UN’s climate bureaucracy, the IPCC.

Show me any current climate data that falls, unequivocally, outside the ‘background noise’ of normal variation as recorded over time scales from hundreds to millions of years. If a theory is so unconvincingly supported by the available facts (in contrast to being ‘supported’ by whatever GIGO they use on their latest ‘climate simulator’) then the null hypothesis must prevail: that current fluctuations are well within the range of past variations and therefore do not require any further explanation.

Further, there is little reasonableness left in a ‘consensus’ that has been so corrupted by abuses of scientific process – the violations of scientific principle revealed in Climategate, Michael Manne’s infamous ‘hockey-stick’ graph, and the third-rate lobby-group research cited by the IPCC – and which can only respond to intelligent challengers by abusing them as ‘deniers’ and lackeys of Big Oil.

The mystery, then, is why such a lame hypothesis should be backed with the full force of the elite establishment, and why does it have such a hold on young minds in particular?

A global political opportunity

The answer appears to be twofold: first, that this scare-campaign meets the political needs of those who are ideologically inclined to what anthropologist John Fonte identifies as the sophisticated ideology of ‘global governance’. His important book, Sovereignty or Submission was reviewed in the March 2012 Quadrant:

In the academy, the media, the law, the foreign policy establishment, the corporate world, the wider political elite, and—almost inevitably—the bureaucracies that serve international institutions and non-governmental organisations, the ideology of global governance is the prevailing intellectual orthodoxy.

For those of this political bent – and at the level of international politics this is the ‘prevailing intellectual orthodoxy’, not some conspiracy theory – the myth of the Global Climate Crisis is a once-in-a-generation political gift: here is a cause sufficiently frightening to propel nations into a more regulated international economy and more integrated global bureaucracy (here the Carbon Tax / Emissions Trading scheme is key).

That ‘catastrophic man-made global warming’ provides a uniquely powerful rationale for creating a more globally-regulated world was evident in the frank comments by the President of the EU, Herman von Rompuy, when he expressed hope in 2009 that the upcoming Copenhagen Climate Conference would be a big step towards ‘global governance’; a serious political model to be distinguished from Greens leader Bob Brown’s unserious non-starter of a ‘world parliament‘.

The von Rompuys of the world appear to believe that the planet would be better off under a caste of professional bureaucrats; the model of sovereign democracy has passed its use-by date, unable to solve the problems of a globalized world, and power should gradually devolve to the transnational political experts who know what is best for the world. From that point of view, this mass-anxiety of global warming catastrophism is too good a political gift to turn down – and too important, tactically, to let scientific skepticism get in the way. Hence the political ferocity from the internationalists against those local ferals who dare challenge this project.

Needless to say, this Great Cause is also being appropriated by less benign utopians with a totalitarian itch – of which there is no shortage of examples.

As Vaclav Klaus told the Australian media in 2011 (and remember, he fought against a totalitarian regime and now serves as President of the Czech Republic; his insights deserve serious consideration):

Twenty years ago we still felt threatened by the remnants of communism. This is really over. I feel threatened now, not by global warming – I don’t see any – but by the global warming doctrine, which I consider a new dangerous attempt to control and mastermind my life and our lives, in the name of controlling the climate or temperature.

A global ‘mission’ for the young

Secondly, and perhaps more profoundly, this notion that we are destroying mother Earth/Gaia with our emissions and must take urgent action to save the planet gives younger people in particular a mission, a serious and even transcendent sense of meaning and purpose; in fact, something approaching a new pantheist spirituality to re-enchant a culture which has drifted from its older monotheistic moorings. Think only of the powerfully animist / pantheistic movie, Avatar.

In my post on this threat – “The Deep Green Climate Cult: Avatar and Flannery” – I look at the mindset of Climate Commissioner Tim Flannery’s weirdly mystical ‘Gaia’ prounouncements, and the powerfully mythical film, Avatar. Some of the more out-there Avataresque prophesies of Flannery included:

I think this global super-organism, this global intelligence, will be able to send a single strong and clear signal to the Earth. And what that means, in a sense, is that we will be a regulating intelligence for the planet, I’m sure in future, and we will do what our brain does for our body which is to help create stability, cooridination between the parts, and lead to a stronger Gaia, if you want, a stronger earth-system.

Heady stuff. As I concluded:

Flannery puts on display what has been long suspected: that the worldwide Save Gaia campaign draws deeply from the ancient wells of mystical, powerful, good old-fashioned pantheism. Ecopantheism with a pseudo-scientific veneer, to be sure, but nevertheless an ancient superstition with its own dehumanising tendencies. Putting aside the most vigorous manifestation of ancient animism / pantheism –  the widespread practice of human sacrifice to appease the weather gods – we should still be wary of the dehumanising effect of its collectivist mindset, the conformity of ideas which was deemed essential for survival. So it is again: Flannery’s “strong Gaia” requires that we be of one mind, a civilisation of shared beliefs, sending “a single strong and clear message to the Earth”. What then of the climate skeptic? What place has he in Flannery’s super-organism? This is a disturbing fantasy, but then all totalitarian systems start off as mere disturbing fantasies.

Threat 2: Where Islamic faith meets Islamist ‘Death Cult’

Child holding a pre-printed placard in Hyde Park, Sydney, September 2012

“BEHEAD ALL THOSE WHO INSULT THE PROPHET”

Can the gentle side of Islam prevail?

If Islam were merely a spiritual system, a humble way for people to live lives of reverence and decency, that would be fine and there would be nothing more to discuss. But there is a lot more to discuss – and it is negligent in the extreme for my generation to put off the discussion out of politeness, or timidity, or both, kicking the can down the road to our grandchildren’s generation.  Any discussion must start from a sincere will to welcome everybody and anybody to this country provided they intend to build up, and not undermine, our secular self-governing society. And any intelligent and respectful discussion will acknowledge that our model of secular self-government is not the only available model in the world; other cultures prefer a theocratic model which honours higher authorities than mere human lawmakers. Then the question must be asked: in the long term, is the political preference of some Muslims for a theocratic system of shariah law compatible with Australia’s heritage of secular (i.e. man-made-law) democracy? And what are we to do to avoid the sort of cultural dislocation, ghettoization and conflict that is now facing Europe?

I hope, but am not convinced, that spiritual Islam can be separated from political Islam for the long term. For many years this has been achieved by the statecraft of countries like Indonesia and Turkey, but even there the equilibrium is changing. I have spoken with the Pakistani-born Anglican bishop, Michael Nazir-Ali about the chances of moderate Muslim religious leaders around the world keeping the people’s support against the jihadist influence; he is unsure but knows it is our only hope. One of the world’s bravest women, Ayan Hirsi Ali, also hopes but is unconvinced; she lives under the double death-sentence of apostasy from Islam and also for collaborating in a movie critical of Islam’s treatment of women, which got Dutch film-maker Theo van Gogh murdered – speaking HERE on Lateline:

AYAAN HIRSI ALI: Well I think first and foremost I’m calling for a separation of, if you want, mosque and state; in other words, that’s why I keep emphasising the political dimension.

I have no problems with the religious dimension of Islam – the prayer, the fasting, the visiting of Mecca – anything spiritual. But anything that has to do with sharia law, I think that is something that Muslims should reject and by doing so they’ll be accused by the fundamentalists that they’re not really true Muslims, but I think that is something that they could – Muslims could come together and say, “We don’t want that part.”

And if they find that rejecting the political dimension of Islam in a way is to – doesn’t really fit in with – because you have to – Islam demands that you submit to the will of Allah. If you don’t submit completely, that means if you also don’t adopt both the political and social dimensions of Islam, you’re not a true Muslim then I would say to those Muslims: seek other alternative sources of morality and spirituality.

Jihad and the plight of Christians

Jihadism may not be able to do much more to western countries than murder a dozen here and a thousand there, but its impact is catastrophic on residual Christian communities in certain Muslim lands. Why is this not the focus of far more international diplomacy, and why does it hardly rate a mention in the international news?

Another Christmas season, another mass-murder of Christian children and their parents and grandparents at a church service somewhere on the frontiers of Islamic jihad. In 2010 – Egyptian Copts (who predate Muslims in Egypt by half a millenium); in 2011 – Nigerian Catholics, with the body parts of dozens of men, women and children gathered up in plastic bags by distraught survivors… As The Australian editorialised after Christmas 2011:

THE murderous bomb attacks launched against Christian churches in Nigeria by Islamic Boko Haram jihadists are bad enough on their own. But in the context of what is happening to Christians elsewhere, especially amid the fervour of the Arab Spring, they underline how, as we celebrate Christmas, Christians are under siege.

Such is the modus operandi of too many foot-soldiers of the ‘religion of peace’, and just look what happens to men of honour in the Muslim world who dare to condemn this persecution of Christians: the second most prominent politician in Pakistan is murdered by his bodyguard for criticising that country’s oppressive ‘blasphemy laws’, under which Christian villager and mother of several children, Mrs Bibi, was condemned to death for alleged comments about the Muslim Prophet. This is brute savagery, the antithesis of all that the West stands for – and yet the leaders of the West (other than Pope Benedict) fail to speak the necessary words. Instead, all is euphemism and appeasement, and any free man in the West who says what must be said is likely to be prosecuted by the state censors for ‘vilification’.

Islam and the censoring of free speech

In the words of the greatest of the free-speech warriors in the West, Mark Steyn, who took on the state censors and defeated them:

In Canada, I too committed the crime of “offending” certain approved identity groups. And there is no defense to that: Truth, facts, evidence are all irrelevant. If someone’s “offended”, that’s that: You’re guilty. And increasingly, in Canada, Australia, Britain, the Netherlands, France, Austria, Scandinavia, the human right not to be offended trumps all.

This is disastrous. It puts free societies on the same continuum as the ululating savages of Mazar e-Sharif. They were also “offended” – by some no-name pastor on the other side of the planet burning a book. The Taliban’s idea of due process is less protracted than the Australians’, but operates on the same basic principle – that the right not to be offended is sacred.

As some of us said over the free-speech wars in Canada, if a multicultural society is not to descend from soft totalitarianism into naked thuggery, its citizens need to grow thicker skins: We need not sensitivity training, but insensitivity training. Instead, the Euro-Aussie-Canadian model thinks things will all work out if only we tiptoe ever more daintily on multiculti eggshells.

What core liberties are you willing to trade for a quiet life? Short of punitive military measures we’re not willing to take, there’s not a lot we can do about baying Afghan mobs hot for decapitating people because someone expressed an opinion. But we could at least put some clear blue water between our legal inheritance and theirs by not dragging people into Australian, Dutch, Austrian and Danish courts for the same “crime”.

Observing the cowing of Europe – its abandonment of hard-won liberties of thought and speech in the face of the intimidation by Islamists – shows that the West may now be too enfeebled by decades of cultural self-mutilation to offer much resistance.

Perhaps not in Australia? There are two signs of hope: that our leaders and police seem to talk straight, unlike the Europeans (think of Peter Costello telling those who want sharia law that there are plenty of other countries they can go to if they want to live under that system, but not here); and that there appears to be a significant mass of Muslims here who also have sufficient courage to tell their agitated co-religionists to take a cold shower.

In the end, every migrant – and I am one – is welcome in Australia if they accept our civic culture of secular self-government and separation of religion and state. Some devout Muslims may come with a different notion of law and may prefer a theocratic state, but that is not an option here: Islam must adapt to Australian civic culture, not Australia to Islam.

Threat 3: Where freedom of speech and conscience meet the ‘human rights’ police

Closely linked to the above two threats – because they are frequently the arenas of public debate where censorship of dissent is most obvious – is the worrying drift away from the hard-won right for free men and women to argue their case on matters of public importance.

Again, the governing elite (not necessarily those in Parliament, but those who are part of the ‘inner ring’ of influence) seem not to have a robust and egalitarian respect for the views of the common man; they tend to despise anything that smacks of a conservative  / Christian / patriotic outlook. They would prefer that only ‘approved attitudes’ prevailed, attitudes compatible with the progressive worldview of those in their circle. The way to do this is to brand as ‘offensive’ or ‘discriminatory’ attitudes and arguments that fall outside the range of approved opinion, and set the ‘human rights’ police onto the offenders.

Examples abound: my posts on Islam outline some of the cases overseas where critics of the multicultural orthodoxy of Europe have been silenced by the ‘religious offense’ censors, and indeed the Islamic bloc at the UN keeps trying to introduce ‘blasphemy laws’ to prevent criticism of its philosophy anywhere in the world. In Australia, the most popular columnist in the country, Andrew Bolt, has been judicially silenced, to some extent, for questioning the validity and fairness of giving public money and government preferment to those who identify as aboriginal but who look and speak like any other ‘white’ Australian. In a very small way I have also had a chance to confront – and in this case rout – the thought-police, because I dared to defend a child’s right to both a mother and a father, the violation of which is, in my view, the central harm inherent in ‘gay marriage’.

As Senator Ron Boswell said in the Senate the night before my absurd ‘compulsory conciliation’ with the gay activist at the Anti-discrimination Commission:

The case of Dr van Gend makes a mockery of the antidiscrimination law. It lowers the value of free speech in Australia. If people like Dr van Gend are forced to appear before the Anti-Discrimination Commission of Queensland that is a threat to one of Australia’s greatest freedoms: the right to free speech. It is a major disincentive to people making a contribution to debate across Australia. Tomorrow will be a sad day for free speech in Australia. How has a country like Australia come to this? Anti-discrimination bodies should not be used as star chambers by those who simply do not like what someone else says.

As I wrote when the Bolt case was underway:

Confronted by this deepening disaster, the duty of every elected representative of a free people is to hack away the strangle-vines of vilification laws, sack the ‘human rights’ thought-police, and reclaim our right to argue as fellow citizens and be inevitably offensive.

Free speech is not an optional extra; it is the freedom by which we argue for all our other liberties, and without it we are restrained in thought and action. As Steyn points out, free speech is not a left-right thing; it is a free-unfree thing.

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