Sunday 8 December 2013

Freedom, choice, Nigel Farage and the unpleasantness of The Guardian


The nannying fussbuckets have been in full cry what with plain packs, banning smoking on hospital grounds and the, almost certainly untrue, estimate that 600 children a day start smoking. Indeed the good thinking folk who advocate that public health is good for us are bouncing around all chipper as government slips down the slope to a controlled, constrained and, incidentally, crime-filled future of health intervention.

This brings me to an especially unpleasant piece of ad hominem in The Guardian. Don't get me wrong, I think Nigel Farage has become something of a self-parody, a sort of avatar for the pub know-all but this attack is unpleasant and incorrect in equal measure:

Nigel Farage's cigarettes are often depicted as one of the most appealing things about him. To date, his deployment of crafty or, occasionally, cheeky ciggies, while all around him conform to public health advice, has been a remarkably well-received token of his libertarian vision.

So the article begins, continuing in this vein with the author (in her left-wing nastiness) seeking to imply that not only does Nigel want us all to die but that this is the essence of 'libertarianism'. The word is used in almost every paragraph until the author realises her argument is pretty thin and decides to deepen it by invoking 'Godwin's Law'  - suggesting that Nigel is really a 'fascist' (on the basis of a couple of uncorroborated stories about his youth).

What depresses me most isn't that The Guardian is publishing an attack on Nigel Farage that is so shallow as to be almost dried up but that the basis of this attack is that he is a libertarian. Not just because - as his party's policies on immigration and gay marriage show - Nigel is anything but a 'libertarian' but because the author suggests that there is something terrible about a belief in personal choice.

And this is the divide. The Guardian and its friends (that, in this matter, include The Daily Mail) do not believe in personal choice and personal consequence. They believe - completely without evidence - that the dark evil of Big Tobacco, The Drinks Industry, The Food Industry and their accomplices in Advertising are combining to force children into smoking, drinking and eating the sort of food a Guardian reader would never allow in the house (far too common).

The truth of this is that Nigel Farage thinks you should be able to drink, eat and smoke legal products without being ostracised, taxed to the hilt or banned. However, he doesn't think people should be able to marry who they wish or that freedom includes free movement.

The Guardian, on the other hand is fine on the marrying bit but doesn't think working-class people are able to make choices about drinking smoking or eating and should be told what to do. The Guardian is also opposed to free movement - especially in Cuba.

Given a forced choice, I'd back Nigel over The Guardian. But there must be a better choice than between 'nanny knows best' social democracy and the slightly xenophobic world vision of Nigel Farage? I read and hear people saying the right things - some right, some left, some muzzy middle - about choice and freedom (that they are rights not privileges granted us by some benign authority) but see too little of this arriving in public policy. There I just see more reasons to interfere with choice and freedom, more of the man in Whitehall knowing best, more regulation, more tax.

And the result is less choice, less freedom, less opportunity and more poverty.



Anonymous said...

I think the case Nigel Farage makes against gay marriage is this:
He has no problem with civil partnership which is the same in all but name. However churches in this country are currently licensed to perform marriage ceremonies and he thinks it is just a matter of time before they are compelled, by a discrimination ruling from the ECHR, to perform gay marriages.
I'm not religious but I agree with him on this.
Having said that, I don't think UKIP want to reverse the law because that would be near impossible. So the likely outcome is that churches will have to de-license themselves.

Frank Davis said...

churches will have to de-license themselves.

That's probably the hidden intent.

Smoking Scot said...

Might help explain why sales of The Guardian are down 10.6% on 2012.

At a daily average of 187,000 it really is a niche paper and I doubt more than 10% of them even bothered to read this article!