AUTHORITARIAN MUCH? UK GOVERNMENT FLOATS IDEA OF LABELING ANY DISSENT AS EXTREMIST
Those pesky protestors seem to be creating problems all across the world. You know, protestors? Those people who disagree with all sorts of policy, or injustice, inequality, even global warming? But in free societies, aka Democracies, those protestors get out and protest to make sure their voices are heard. They have a right to do so, though those rights seem to be getting narrower in a lot of places lately. But in England, the UK government is hoping to do away with those pesky protestors. And their idea is to broadly define the “extremist” label to anyone who “undermines” England’s “institutions and values.” That sounds sort of reasonable, I suppose. Except for the fact that it is the most authoritarian move they could try to make.
PROTEST, DISSENT, PUBLIC DISAGREEMENT COULD IN THEORY BRAND ANYONE AS AN EXTREMIST
So think of it this way. If you are protesting (in England) against the fact that the UK government is sending troops to the Middle East for the “War on Terror,” that could mean you are undermining its “institutions and values” by doing so. I use this example because had this existed when England did, in fact, send troops to fight the war on terror alongside the United States, anyone who protested that could (and likely would) have been branded an extremist. So this entire idea would, in theory, not just stifle free speech, but criminalize any disagreements with the government. And that is authoritarian, to an ultimate degree.
EXTREMIST LABEL UNLIKELY TO SUCCEED FOR NOW, BUT THE COCKNEY GENIE IS OUT OF THE BOTTLE
This whole idea has been cooked up by civil servants working for cabinet minister Michael Gove. But fortunately, it’s not a done deal by any means. There is a whole slew of disagreeing officials who share the legitimate concern that legitimate groups and people will be labeled extremists simply for disagreeing in public. And some civil rights groups have come right out and said that this would likely “criminalize dissent.” It seems that all the folks out protesting in England at the moment -pesky protestors- are vexing the current powers that be in England.
It seems unlikely this idea will become policy for now. But the genie is out of the bottle conceptually. And the UK government changes all the time….