… make sure he isn’t similarly occupied!
The news that a convicted rapist won a case in the ECHR elicited a predictably furious story in the Daily Mail. This prompted many people to post mis-placed anti-EU commentary, even though the EHCR is part of the Council of Europe and not the EU.
Anyway, silly me, I left two comments myself. One pointing out this little factual inaccuracy, and another one that’s more thoughtful and philosophical about how the difference between a regular law-abiding citizen, and the worst criminals ever is not a binary distinction but more of a sliding scale:
While I agree that people who have committed serious crimes should be disenfranchised, many of us break the law in small ways every day. Under your blanket rule anyone who drives at 33 mph in a 30 zone should be ineligible to vote.
Sure there are practical limitations as to who is prosecuted and who isn’t, to give both the general public and police equipment a reasonable margin for incompetence, but the fact remains that the dividing line between breaking the law and not breaking the law is not somewhere between doing something “a little bit wrong” and committing murder.
The message here is that while there are rapists and murderers, who can be legitimately described as “evil” they don’t make up even the majority of people who break the law by a long shot, and it’s a good idea to have a sense of perspective on these matters.
OK, it’s not Pulitzer prize-winning standard, but it’s a pretty good and intelligent piece, even if I do say so myself. It amused me to see how being sensible, level-headed, and thoughtful wins you no friends in Daily Mail land. My comment was one of the three on that article in negative appreciation figures, when I last checked it was minus 26.
I’m not sure about giving all prisoners voting rights; I think there is a case for withdrawing rights from serious offenders,.however the responses seem a little simplistic- it’s either all or none, and all prisoners are as bad as multiple rapists. This is plainly untrue.
Just thinking, as you do.
I have this theory about technology. Lots of people say of things like mobile phones, “Why do they have to be so complicated? Why do can’t they just do…” My theory is that while there are some common items in most “Why can’t they just do” lists, but there are also so many variants that if you add up all the lists you get something that’s pretty much what’s on the market- the phone that people complain is too complicated.
Now my musing was this: are “small states” like that? Small state libertarians and anarchists rarely, if ever, advocate a complete lawless vacuum. There is always some role for a society, and some institutions needed for a society to work. My musing is: if you add up all those small states, ring fence all the areas that people don’t want to cut- does the state get any smaller?
It’s a question I don’t pretend to know the answer to, by the way.
I don’t often take delight in others misfortune (at least I hope I don’t). But I am pleased to see Labour’s Phil Woolas brought to book. As Immigration minister he championed the Daily Mail cause against aslylum seekers, talking tough and nasty in order to please the bigots. I would be pleased if a Lib Dem were to replace him, but for me it will be justice enough to see the man himself removed.
Having read round the internet on this subject, the case has brought some interesting responses, and by interesting I mean downright strange.
Firstly there is the Daily Mail, whose general readership Woolas liked to play to. You’d expect the usual foaming-at-the mouth commenters to be split as here was a Labour minister who championed their cause. Do they cheer that a Labour MP has been found out as a lying cheat, or complain that he “woz only sayin what we were all thinkin”. No contest, it was the former, with some going as far as to accuse Woolas of being part of some great conspiracy to drop immigration controls flood Britain with foreigners. Thus demonstrating how little influence reality has on the opinions of the typical anti-immigration nutter.
Then there are repeated snide comments about Lib Dem “lies”, and how “they all do it”, and “What’s new after 13 years of Labour spin”. I know the 140 characters of twitter don’t lend themselves to much nuance, but really? Are people over simplifying for the sake of making pithy comments, or do they really not get it?
This was not just someone who told a lie. This is not someone who just picked on things in isolation in order to make someone look bad. This is not someone who expressed an opinion that happened to turn out to be wrong. This is someone who made up stuff about someone else in order to make them look bad, and printed it.
Amongst the commentary there are also some odd ideas about what constitutes a lie, and what is morally equivalent to telling an out and out lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and presenting your case in the most positive light you can.
There is a difference between telling lies and expressing mistaken beliefs. An untruth told in “good faith”, while morally wrong and a crime of incompetence, is not a lie.
There is a difference between telling lies and turning your back on a promise (for whatever reason). Being hopelessly unrealistic about what you can achieve is not dishonesty.
There is a difference between seeing things differently to you, and expressing that opinions, and telling lies. (Europhobes take note.)
There is a difference between telling lies about yourself to make yourself look good, and telling lies about another person in order to make them look bad. While I don’t approve of dishonesty in self promotion, it’s ludicrous to claim it is morally equivalent to defamation.
And no, I don’t believe politicians routinely tell lies about their opponents. They may highlight aspects of their behaviour in a negative way, they may express their opinions about what their opponents attitude amounts to. But they don’t generally just make stuff up.
If you’ve reached this point and are nodding away, then THANK YOU. There are still some sane, rational people out there and hope for the world.
If you thought this was all weasel words and pedantic nonsense, then please please please do grow up.
More on Phil Woolas: