Philip Pullman on the Loss of Civil Liberties in Britain

Philip Pullman had an opinion piece in the Times of London today to mark the Convention on Modern Liberty, a one-day gathering of activists interested in civil liberties. Weirdly, the piece isn’t available at the Times anymore, and it has not been for several hours. Even the Google cache has been unreliable, though it’s up as of this writing. The vast community at BoingBoing has been watching closely.

Thankfully, the Libertarian Alliance seems to have the full text:

The new laws whisper:

You don’t know who you are

You’re mistaken about yourself

We know better than you do what you consist of, what labels apply to you, which facts about you are important and which are worthless

We do not believe you can be trusted to know these things, so we shall know them for you

And if we take against you, we shall remove from your possession the only proof we shall allow to be recognised

The sleeping nation dreams it has the freedom to speak its mind. It fantasises about making tyrants cringe with the bluff bold vigour of its ancient right to express its opinions in the street. This is what the new laws say about that:

Expressing an opinion is a dangerous activity

Whatever your opinions are, we don’t want to hear them

So if you threaten us or our friends with your opinions we shall treat you like the rabble you are

And we do not want to hear you arguing about it

So hold your tongue and forget about protesting

What we want from you is acquiescence

The nation dreams it is a democratic state where the laws were made by freely elected representatives who were answerable to the people. It used to be such a nation once, it dreams, so it must be that nation still. It is a sweet dream.

If the Times doesn’t want these words, I’d like to borrow them.