Free Speech – Preserving the right to express and share opinions

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We share these concerns expressed, of information of individual members being suspended, for what would seem to be expressing personal opinions, or sharing others, and look upon the Labour Party to preserve the right of free expression.  Please see below the text of a motion from Henley BLP and reasons for their support of the motion.

(Permission to post given from member of Henley BLP:)

TEXT OF FREE SPEECH MOTION

This branch believes that there should be no infringement on the rights of free speech and free criticism within the Labour Party. The thousands of suspensions of Labour members during the 2016 leadership election, based often on one-off comments on social media, unsubstantiated claims or association with left wing organisations, appears to have been politically motivated.

This process was an affront to democracy and this CLP condemns the entire process. Legitimate grievances should be dealt with according to the principles of fairness, with suspension as a last resort not a primary action. We demand the reinstatement of all those still suspended without a hearing.

Regarding expulsions, there should be no ban on memberships of campaigns or organisations as long as they are not campaigning against the election of a Labour government or Labour councils.
The only acceptable political limitation on membership of the Party, other than the exclusion of proscribed organisations, is that people who join or are members or supporters, commit to support Labour candidates in future elections. Earlier electoral activity is of no importance.

We call on the CLP to welcome in any supporter and member prepared to make such a commitment.

We call on the National Executive Committee to ensure that these principles are reflected in the membership application process, so that all party units will welcome in any supporter and member prepared to make such a commitment.

We demand the Party implement the proposals in the Chakrabarti report.

STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF MOTION

I believe that if there is to be any real unity in the Labour Party, we must have transparency, fairness and people must be free to express their opinions freely, without fear of reprisals.

In the run up to the election thousands of members were purged; the figure is now given as 182,000.

The entire Brighton and Hove District CLP were suspended – the Labour Party’s biggest CLP with 6,000 members – days after a vote that installed officers supportive of Jeremy Corbyn in key posts. The entire Wallasey CLP, was also suspended after they threatened to pass a vote of no confidence in Angela Eagle when she was nominated as a candidate in the leadership election.

Others have had the most tenuous accusations to justify their suspensions: retweeting a tweet from the Green Party in 2013; posting a tweet supporting a rock band, the ‘ Foo Fighters’; unsubstantiated accusations of ‘ abuse’ with no details of rights to appeal, or pending investigations.

The Labour Party have gone through members’ Facebook and Twitter accounts for periods up to three years back, in order to dredge up treasons to purge them, contravening their democratic and human right to free speech, a right of privacy and due process.
Many of the purged have had no reasons given to them at all, such as two bed ridden grannies with terminal cancer who have participated in no political activity whatsoever. We have no idea how many conference delegates were suspended.

What most of the purged have in common is that they supported Jeremy Corbyn.

Anti-Corbyn supporters have not been purged in the same way despite a tide of insults, including one who described Jeremy Corbyn’s supporters as Nazi Storm Troopers.

Given the timing it is reasonable to assume, it was intended to reduce Corbyn’s mandate.

Many of those who have been suspended remain distressed. One woman claims to have developed depression. Others are afraid to say what they want on social media, for fear that their accounts will be snooped and things will be used against them – because the purge continues.

Last week Labour suspended the black Jewish vice-chair of Momentum, Jackie Walker, after she asked questions deemed inappropriate.

People must be free to express their opinions freely in the Labour Party. There must due process and the right of appeal. These things are natural justice and the Labour Party, must be seen to enact them. The Labour Party has always been a broad church and we must not conduct a witch hunt of our members or silence people by exclusion and force.

Manifest Thought – The alarm bells for social media

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Manifest Thought

First posted on November 18, 2012 by  julijuxtaposed

With Rights come responsibilities. Obviously. Free speech is the free expression of thought, or repetition of another’s thoughts. But the right to speak freely is not cost-free. The right and responsibility of selective censorship belongs firmly with the speaker/writer, who must choose whether or not to risk the possible consequences of controversy. This does not mean you have no right to react, to be offended. Free speech means the right to speak freely, the right to offend and be offended. If you take offence it is up to you how you respond – the consequences of your response are your responsibility. The responsibility of choice – that’s what’s ‘free’ about free speech. To be grown up, responsible individuals, we would be greatly advantaged by freedom and accuracy of information from our politicians and mainstream media. But we aren’t. And Nature abhors a vacuum, right?

Twitter and other social media are proving a golem to the Powers that Be. Social media are gateways: publishing platforms, sources of factual and fictional information and currents through which the whole spectrum of discourse is electronically made manifest as a public performance. For some, its immediacy and potential reach means it’s perceived more as an online conversation: spontaneous, informal, reactive; for others, its textual permanence and reach understandably expects an equitable standard with traditional publishing. The trouble is, is that it’s neither and both.

Twitter reflects the physical, mental, emotional, multi-dimensional world. It is, therefore, bound to reflect the very best and the absolute worst of both information and humanity. Truth, illusion, kindness and cruelty are available in equal measure. We also live in uncertain times. Not a single aspect of Life is untouched by the precipice(s) on which we stand. Our Dear Leaders are proving themselves to be tyrannical incompetents; our institutions are in need of ethical audits; our mainstream media are all too often the mouthpiece of another’s agenda. We live through an age of shocked-but-not-surprised and it is increasingly possible, however sophisticated we think we are, to believe in anything and nothing – even momentarily. Sometimes it is only hindsight which distinguishes between an ignorant herd mentality born of rumour and the rapid acquirement of new and important information.

The global climate is highly strung, reactionary and poorly weighted. So are we, sometimes. For sure, some people go out of their way to be aggressive, intimidating and personal. This is a reflection of the real world, so we can expect this, unfortunately. But occasionally even the most temperate and secure among us might react impulsively and with questionable justification. We have all given and received undesirable attention, inadvertently or not. We also know that, however hard we try, someone, somewhere might be offended. Indeed, there are even a few who go out of their way to find offence, irrespective of the speaker’s intentions. In the physical world we are perfectly capable of reducing ourselves and others, so why on earth would it be different in the ether? We are learning the ways to handle it, much as we did when we were growing up in the ‘real’ world. I’m not condoning gratuitous expressions of personal hatred. Nor am I disputing a person’s right to pursue their offender. This right to respond is catered for through defamation in civil law: any immediate improvement should arguably be focused on ease of access and affordability for private individuals. It should not be within the direct reach of the Police and criminal courts and especially not through politicised Police and Crime Commissioners and careless or overly enthusiastic G4S employees. Laws already exist for those rare occasions when State-sanctioned enforcement is required. I am cautioning that knee-jerk law or policy and chaotic, generalised accusations from on high are likely to be far more detrimental than the current dilemma. We have enough evidence of divisive spin to recognise a threat to social fabric when we see it.

Social media are still rather recent phenomena and I suspect we need time for more unfolding; to trust and allow our peers to curb behaviour by approval, caution or condemnation; to match our electronic reputations to conscience and Will. We are learning to dance on yet another shifting carpet, so trying to define the warp and weft of this erratic picture is bound to produce a fragmented narrative. I’m not enthralled that any of us, be we a public or private figure, might suffer a potentially very public attack, especially if it’s unfounded. Nor is there comfort in such abuse being on permanent record, but the alternative right now is terrifying, as it will certainly result in the further encroachment of authoritarian ideology, whim and fear. That way lies a very policed state.  We recognise the signs – Gods know there have been enough alarm bells.

We either have free speech or we don’t. Trying to shut us all up, whatever our opinions, good or bad, right or wrong, is not the mark of an evolved society. It is disconcerting to witness government and mainstream media panicking about everyone else’s morality and liability, threatening caveats which would turn the whole concept into an oxymoron. Freedoms of speech and expression are extensions of Free Will and Freedom of Thought, born of an influence (call it God, biology, I don’t care) greater than religion, government or society – despite an often relentless effort.

We lose these freedoms by sloth and oppression and at our peril.

We all have lessons to learn in discretion and discrimination. This one is for the collective.  It will be enriched greatly and grasped more quickly if it is practised with much better example, by those with power, who claim to serve our interests. That would be a viable and welcome ‘trickle down’. We are all having to grow up again. Hopefully this will be led by a principled nature and the nurture of good conscience.

In the meantime, take heart that we are all not telepathic.

Apropos on anonymity: While it’s undoubtedly true that some hide their identity because they are up to no good, there are many, ordinary and decent internet users, who mask themselves for artistic reasons or because they are protective of their privacy and/or are suspicious of the surveillance state.

Related Think Left post:    The Unfree flow of Information and Cyberspace.

Sign Stop The Net Grab petition at http://action.goingtowork.org.uk/page/s/stop-the-net-grab or http://www.change.org/petitions/stop-the-net-grab

The Truth? – Censored! – Understanding our World:

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Understanding our World: The Media, Education and Censorship.

By Pam:

I read today about a blind, cave dwelling fish. Apparently, after two million years of living in dark caves, it has lost its ability to see, yet still is influenced by the rhythm of life in its genes. I pondered as to whether we – people, living in the dark under the shroud of propaganda will eventually lose the ability to read truth, or whether it is innately written within our genes, – our need to trust each other, to live within a society, a mutually beneficial existence ensuring our survival.

If not, then the plutocratic parasites controlling our planet, will ultimately self destruct taking the good of mankind with them.

I ponder also how the phrase “Big Brother” metamorphosed into the title of a TV programme, watched by millions ensuring that whole hoardes of people, possible a whole generation, now transfixed by this new “opiate of the masses” are thus prevented from being confronted with the real, painful truth that their lives have become, a source of financial profit for the few.

Those words written by George Orwell Nineteen Eighty Four , (published in 1949) of course led to the title, of a worldwide reality television show Big Brother is based on the novel’s concept of people being under constant surveillance. One cannot help but reflect on the irony.

“The thought police would get him just the same. He had committed–would have committed, even if he had never set pen to paper–the essential crime that contained all others in itself. Thoughtcrime, they called it. Thoughtcrime was not a thing that could be concealed forever. You might dodge successfully for a while, even for years, but sooner or later they were bound to get you.”
- George Orwell, 1984, Book 1, Chapter 1

From such an early age, we begin to develop an understanding of our world. A baby’s eyes , once in focus will furtively glance around a room, until finds its mother’s eyes, full of hope, of curiosity, and then pursue an evolutionary prioritised path fuelled by a need to learn, to share, and to create.

There is no doubt that my first understanding of politics was gleaned from the stories our family told of conditions of the coal mines in South Wales, of stories of starving families in the General Strike of 1926, of a great grandmother demanding to be taken to polling stations on a stretcher. It was certainly not from the BBC. In fact current affairs programmes in the 50s and early 60s seemed to be all about The War. I was never hungry, I had shelter, I had health care. The post war socialist world led to opportunities for the working class and for women beyond any ancestor of mine. The Labour Party had made a difference, and the feeling of optimism of the 1960s prevailed.

Later, as an adult, and with my own eyes I saw policemen abusing little children at football matches, the BBC reported football violence, and of course cited some other instigators than The Police. I learned not to trust what I read, or what was reported on radio and TV, and like my ancestors, to have a deep mistrust of the Establishment which cared about self-perpetuation, and nothing for ordinary people.

Most of us learn our first ideas about the world from our parents, and then from our own experiences. As we grow, we learn to expand our sources of knowledge. We talk to our peers, listen to our teachers, read books, and newspapers, watch television and listen to the radio, and for today’s young people the Internet provides a potential source of information and a means of instant communication. It should be a means of education and free speech.

But all this is a means of misinformation, of propaganda, of lies and corruption. Who can we believe or trust?  What is Censorship?  How and why is it applied? Where is it? It is everywhere. It is a means to control, the tool of the mega-rich who control the planet, a plutocracy which is self perpetuating but only by the veiling of the truth from the many.

Using the propaganda modelManufacturing Consent posits that corporate – owned newsmass communication media — print, radio, television — are businesses subject to commercial competition for advertising revenue andprofit. As such, their distortion (editorial bias) of news reportage — i.e. what types of news, which items, and how they are reported — is a consequence of the profit motive that requires establishing a stable, profitable business; therefore, news businesses favoring profit over the public interest succeed, while those favoring reportorial accuracy over profits fail, and are relegated to the margins of their markets (low sales and ratings).

To protect children, then some censorship is necessary to some extent, but we are not all children. The information we are allowed to know is limited. Our perception of truth clouds our minds. This study from Harvard Business School demonstrates how Americans perceive wealth distribution.

Sources of Information and Truth – or Not Truth.

LIBRARIES

Libraries have historically been a source of information, of education. This source of information for the ordinary people should be brought forward to the 21st Century, providing access to books and to on line information for all.

See: Think Left 21st Century Library Service

EDUCATION SYSTEM:

Our teachers in the past were a rich source of information and learning skills, are now being deprofessionalised and deskilled, just serving to allow institutions to reach arbitrary targets set by governments, and delivery of a script, a prewritten National Curriculum when the state decides what people should know, or not know. Is this today’s Thought Police?

See: Think Left What Price Failure

RELIGION AND THE CHURCH:

The words Karl Marx “opiate of the masses” echo as loud today than ever.

“Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people. The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness.”

Karl Marx (Critique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right)

Whether Christian, Muslim, or Jew, those who pursue religions have no right to impose their beliefs on all citizens. For those that believe in the illusion of an imaginary force directing them, I sigh, but I accept in a democracy people have a right to their beliefs. I do not accept that they have the right to inflict on women of Northern Ireland removal of a human right to terminate a pregnancy. (Stephen Fry, Atheism) I am disturbed to hear fundamentalist religious groups attacking atheists for simply not sharing their view. This is propaganda, a precursor to fascism, to wars- those horrors religion always seem to lead to. Whatever, you feel or believe is up to you, but it is time for a separation of the Church and State. Christianity no longer represents the people of our country, these non elected people who seek to deprive women of their human rights.

THE WRONG SORT OF MPs .

Think Left’s study into how representative our Members of Parliament are clearly shows a disparity between the life’s experiences of those who represent the people of this country. How can people learn to trust ? We need to change the make up of the House of Commons so it is the voice of the people as it claims to be.

See: Think Left Becoming a Member of Parliament

Also: Think Left Women as MPs

THE BBC and BROADCASTING:

This week the House of Commons voted to begin the process which will result in privatisation of the National Health Service. The implications of the Bill may be missed by many, unsurprisingly as this was barely reported by the BBC, seemingly obsessed by the anniversary on 9/11, of ‘Free Schools”, of the 50p tax rate. We have hardly had a mention of the plans to asset-strip our NHS and the removal of the obligation by Secretary of State to provide health care for all, as was the intent when drafted. It hardly mentioned that the NHS will be a source of pickings for the rich, and no longer aims to provide the best quality health care. What an outcry will there be when everyone understands this. But by then it will be too late.

The BBC, a public organisation can hardly itself be regarded as representative of people or even an organisation pursuing equality of opportunity. Like MPs fore- mentioned, people presenting the News are unlikely, in the majority to understand the issues faced by the majority of people in this country.

See Think Left: Red Labour must address the elephant in the room

Also Think Left : Labour’s Finest

A Think Left investigation into the profiles of News presenters from BBC 24, Newsnight, Radio4 Today/News at Ten has unsurprising outcomes. Where information was known, it was discovered that there is inherent sexism. There is and under-representation of women, and where there are women the age profile contrasts sharply with that of men.

Almost exactly two thirds of newsreaders went to private, independent or public schools, hardly representative of the general public.

This pie-chart shows the tertiary education of newsreaders, exactly one third having had an Oxbridge education, much in line with MPs.

Perhaps ordinary people might have more confidence in the message from the BBC if its newsreaders were paid realistic salaries in line with the majority of other public sector workers. The Director General earns £838,000. Other directors as of March 2011 had salaries of £488,000, £517,000, £467,000 and £452,000.

The personnel employed by the BBC, can hardly be regarded as representative of the people. They are very similar in their range of backgrounds to the MPs, and the same criticisms can be levelled at the news presenters who interrogate the politicians, and issues of the day. For the most part, they can have little personal experience of the lives of a majority of the population, and consequently do not ask the questions or single out the issues which would be of significance for that majority. For example, why would privatisation of the NHS be a priority for a presenter who has always used private medicine? Why would tuition fees of 9K/y seem enormous to a privately educated interviewer when top public school fees are 29K?

It might be forgiven if they showed an understanding of ordinary people’s lives. That was certainly not the case here – this filmed during the riots, and since removed from the BBC website. These are things we are not supposed to know., deleted by the Thought Police. Darcus Howe , a West Indian Writer and Broadcaster with a voice about the riots. Here is speaking about the mistreatment of youths by police. This was filmed during the riots, and since removed from the BBC website. These are things we are not supposed to know. deleted by the Thought Police.

POLICE AND JUDICIARY:

The knee–jerk responses emphasise the injustice of  those who have wealth and want to keep it – and the rest of us. The Huffington Post reports that riot sentences are longer than average according to data analysis:

“The average sentence handed down by judges in all courts for those offences was 13.6 months, compared to 11.6 months for all of 2010.

Earlier reports by The Guardian had claimed that the riot-related sentence were more than three times as high as the average.

However, the Ministry of Justice told The Huffington Post UK that the paper had compared sentences from crown courts to those from all courts in 2010.

The Guardian said that the average sentence for those offences was 4.1 months, more than three times the overall average. The MoJ pointed out the overall average was actually 11.6 months.

Since crown court cases are typically more serious, the difference appeared larger than it was in reality.

“It’s still higher, but not three times higher,” a spokesman for the Ministry of Justice told The Huffington Post UK.

The Guardian has since amended its story.”

See : Think Left Perils of Punitive Evictions.

PRESS and PRINT:

It was the media who got the better of the Labour Party in 1987 and in 1992, (Memories of 97 and beyond). The front page of the Sun made sure of that. In recent months, we have read about, listened to and watched reports of the corruption in The Murdoch Empire. The Law should not allow any individual ownership or editorial rights over more than one newspaper or periodical and ownership must be transparent.

The press sleaze currently filling our airwaves as a result News International criminal practices, exposes the extreme bias and manipulation by the Press. Labour has always struggled to get the people’s message across. Now there is an opportunity to hit back! Labour must finally undertake a reform of the media network.

See: Think Left Quality Life for Civilized Nation ( Secrecy and Tax Havens)

TRADE UNIONS:

The press painted a black picture of the Trade Unions during the 1980s, not surprisingly as it wanted sole influence. Their role in communication, in education is crucial, and must be heard against the deafening voice of the mainstream media. Education of workers through trade union initiatives and through the Workers’ Educational Association learning opportunities for the disadvantaged..

The INTERNET:

Like other media the Internet is a medium through which propaganda can flow. This film demonstrates that there is a culture of Israeli satirical UTube videos about the Gaza strip , and is very disturbing.

It is the greatest bluff of all.

We cannot believe all we read and see. But the Internet undoubtedly is very powerful.

Political blogging and U-Tube has been a challenge to the establishment who try to silence us. We must speak out. People are doing just that.

Here is one man’s view of the riots. This man has answers, and uses the medium of technology to make his message. The young people of today will speak, because they have nothing to lose. We have been here before. Give the money back to the people, to the environment from where it has come. Redistribute the wealth, the wealth made by the sweat of workers, let them have their earnings not the mega-rich.

SOCIAL NETWORKING:

Twitter was blamed for the riots, the people’s communication of today, will challenge the establishment. Meanwhile people’s tweets will be tracked and spied on, CAPTCHA codes used to monitor Face-book posts. They want to know who is doing what, where, when and why – because people are speaking out. They speak The Truth. If the plutocrats and Establishment seek to silence, it is because it is THEY who have something to lose.

HOW WE CAN TO LEARN TO TRUST AGAIN:

An incoming Labour government must never again let an opportunity pass to address the power and bias of the press and media, and should make the following a priority.

  • We must ensure we have a more representative Parliament which represents us.
  • Politicians should make politics relevant to the people and not indulge in Yah-Boo antics across the floor of The House of Commons which only those from public schools can understand.
  • We must ensure that the judiciary is fair, and seen to be so.
  • The BBC should not be an elitist organisation and should aim to inform, and present quality entertainment, education and current affairs programmes.
  • Labour should conduct an investigation and implement reform of the whole media network
  • No individual or company should be allowed ownership of more than one newspaper and they must be a resident British/EU citizen.
  • It should not be permitted to own both a newspaper and a TV/Radio company.
  • An inquiry into the role of the PCC (Press Complaints Commission) should be transparent and truly independent.
  • The Secrecy surrounding Tax Havens and Off shore Financial Centres must be lifted.
  • The outdated role of the Church of England in state matters must end.
  • Vindictive sentencing which is clearly politically motivated as seen recently must be overturned.

REFERENCES AND READING:

Manufacturing Consent: The Political Economy of the Mass Media

Edward S Herman and Noam Chomsky

and from Wikipedia: (Manufacturing Consent)

 What is Censorship?

Blind Fish

Jon Ronsons’s stories about people trying to control the internet.

http://ukhousebubble.blogspot.com/2011/09/how-americans-perceive-wealth.html

Plutonomy , Think Left

Keep Social Media on the Streets Think Left

Perils of Punitive Evictions. , Think Left

Here is one man’s view of the riots.

Darcus Howe , a West Indian Writer and Broadcaster with a voice about the riots.

Workers’ Educational Association

Nineteen Eighty Four , Georg Orwell

Red Labour must address the elephant in the room , Think Left

21st Century Library Service , Think Left

Karl MarxCritique of Hegel’s Philosophy of Right

Becoming a Member of Parliament , Think Left

What Price Failure , Think Left

Women as MPs , Think Left

The Huffington Post on Sentencing on riots

Labour’s Finest Think Left

The Health Service Bill Debate H-o-C Democracy Live

(Memories of 97 and beyond) Think Left