Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Support Fitwatch and the Student Protesters

The Daily Telegraph and nasty blogger Guido Fawkes are organising a lynch mob for students they think broke the law at the demonstration last week. While I'm pleased to see these outlets supporting law and order, I don't recall them doing the same for lawbreaking hunters or arms companies, Bullingdon Club members who smash up restaurants, or the MI5 and MI6 agents who connived in torture, leading to the government paying out millions of pounds in hush money to avoid court - or perhaps I'm being naive.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Police has closed down Fitwatch (links to an alternative version for now), a website which collects material related to heavy-handed policing, illegal evidence-gathering and police criminality. According to the Met, Fitwatch's advice to students (grow a beard, chuck away your protest clothing, don't volunteer for arrest but let the cops do the work) is criminal (rather than obvious - if you've managed to get into university, you should probably be able to work this out by yourself). They haven't asked for the post to be taken off: they've ordered the entire site to be banned for a whole year - without benefit of evidence or trial.

Oh really? Why not arrest them then, rather than pressure the site hosts to close it? This is the kind of thing we see in Iran. If advice like this is criminal, we can find out through the courts rather than just shut sources down.

This is what Milton said in Areopagitica in 1644: don't pre-censor, let people publish then use legal channels to test the limits of what's acceptable. You don't have to agree with Fitwatch to recognise the importance of this principle.

OH YES. A little snippet for you students who voted for the Lib Dems because they publicly promised - on camera with big signatures - to abolish student fees: I believe the appropriate word is LIARS.

The Liberal Democrats were drawing up plans to abandon Nick Clegg's flagship policy to scrap university tuition fees two months before the general election, secret party documents reveal.
A month before Clegg pledged in April to scrap the "dead weight of debt", a secret team of key Lib Dems made clear that, in the event of a hung parliament, the party would not waste political capital defending its manifesto pledge to abolish university tuition fees within six years.

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