Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Passive-Aggressive Freedom: Human Rights I

When I am not churning out press releases and pretending that they are a design project, I like to worry about human rights. Given that the Conservative Government seems intent on replacing the Universal Declaration of them with a version off the back of a cornflakes packet, that's probably not a bad way to idle. I'm even plodding my way through AC Grayling's book on the subject - despite his pompous prose.

As a intellectual anarchist (translation: smart-ass who uses anarchism as an excuse for doing whatever he likes), I used to argue that human rights are a fiction, anyway. There are no rights in nature, I proclaim, pointing to the bunny getting gobbled by a tiger. They are just some stuff that people made up.

Having said that, so are the works of Shakespeare, but they get taken seriously.

My attack on Conservative plans is a knee-jerk response - I am suspicious of a party that panders to the worst aspects of the political right, and allows Boris Johnson to represent them in public. But I am sure I shall, eventually, take a closer look at their plans, and be dismayed.

I promise to admit it if I think the plans are sound. But since politicians are more about making vague, general statements than thinking about the philosophical detail or implications of some random slogan that they randomly decide to accept, I'm allowed to be a dick about this. 

My favourite human right is this one. Taken from the European Convention, which is the one I think Cameron wants to dump.

Article 10 – Freedom of expression

1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

It does give with one hand and takes away with the other - the state still gets to challenge the freedom of expression - but the freedom of expression is dear to my critical heart. I mean, you can't ruin a dinner party in a state that won't allow discussion of certain ideas.

Even so, I don't see why anyone would object to this: it's not like it prevents the state getting pissed off with an expression of this right. They can whack people into jail, or at least censor them. Only they have to prove that it is prescribed by law. 

There will be legal challenges and that - which is what the courts are for, to moderate the consequences of our freedom.

Then again, let's remind ourselves of Cameron's remarkable understanding of the how the concept of legality works.

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