Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Aaro protects the human

Dave, on the Human Rights Act. In the struggle for democracy and civil rights, you can count on Dave to render all possible assistance short of actually helping. I suspect that some readers will see this as "a not bad Aaro column", because he does appear to come down on basically the right side, but you have to look at it in the context of Dave's whole journalistic Ouevre.

This is Aaronovism as aesthetic politics; he is in favour of the European Convention on Human Rights, not because of any specific rights it provides, but rather because it is "an inspiring piece of legislation". On any specific detail, of course, there are arguments on both sides, and we must consider the public good as well as the selfish individual and his rights, there are hard choices to make and perhaps our leaders have it right after all etc etc etc and on to eternity.

I notice that there is one statement Aaro makes for which he is actually his own counterexample:

As to the abstract nature of human rights, well you sure as hell know when they’re not there — when there isn’t freedom of expression or freedom of worship, when there is no right to a fair trial, or right not to be subjected to arbitrary detention, where there is torture or gross abuse

Aaro is of course, the Mr ASBO of the British Left and has boasted of the fact in the past. The Anti Social Behaviour Order can certainly curtail someone's freedom of expression and subject them to more or less arbitrary detention (at the very least, it can put someone in prison for doing something which is not itself an imprisonable offence). An interim ASBO can be placed against someone without a fair trial. Dave has not, as a matter of verifiable fact, noticed this.

If Dave is a "latish convert to the struggle for democracy and freedom", he certainly lacks the typical zeal of the convert. I don't think he is, not really. He's switched from one Big Brother to another, without ever really changing the core of his politics. Freedom and democracy really are "symbolic" to him.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, it is "a not bad Aaro column" in my opinion. But DA does love his complex arguments and misdirections.

Lord Lester’s response began with the idea that Pascoe-Watson was animated by Rupert Murdoch wanting to avoid the privacy implications of the HRA, and thus save his newspapers (including, presumably, this one) from being sued for invasion of privacy by irate celebrities. His Lordship was not pressed to explain why just about every other popular paper and populist commentator in the land was taking the same view.

Like much of DA, this is less reasonable than it first appears. Lester's ad hominem argument is, "You're only here because your boss is against this legislation." Other popular papers may also worry about being sued, so they would have the same reasons. George Pascoe-Watson wasn't there for them, however. "Irate celebrities" is the issue, which Dave ducks like a good 'un.
He doesn't seem to get the "maladministration" argument either.We can regard this situation as having two possible immediate causes -- legal and admisitrative. In the second, the laws may be fine, but the courts are slow, the coppers bent or the Home Office itself simply clueless. In the first, the laws are so wrong that the rest doesn't matter. Now, our laws in these regards seem to come from a) previous administrations, which did't have this problem of missing parolees; b) the EU, ditto; and c) the recent ones were drafted by Blair's own ministers.
I don't think we can blame the legal system (though New Labour have been crap at drafting laws), which, er, leaves administration.
For a supposed radical, he doesn't half shudder when the people (via the popular press) have some opinion. It's all a bit "My outrage is carefully considered; your outrage is nasty and plebian". (I largely share his prejudices, mind, I just think it's good when politicians courses' are corrected by common opinion.)

On the Guardian editorial, he's right, it is a piety. But it's also a truth. Aaro's point that "Plenty of people care more about one than the other" doesn't gainsay "Everybody cares about both security and liberty at the same time" at all.

I think this article will have consequences. DA is now in the position of defending New Labour's better moments (the Human Rights Act) against New Labour. If he has shown anything here, it's that he's unwilling to go along whereever the New Orthodoxy takes the true believers. He's therefore more independent than the core of Comment is Free Guardian staffers (like Michael White, Martin Kettle, and so on), whom I'm thinking of referring to here on in as "Comrade Stalin says".
So not a bad column, after all.

5/17/2006 10:47:00 AM  
Blogger Benjamin said...

Do I trust David Aaronovitch on human rights and civil liberty issues?

About as far as I can throw him.

And that goes for many Labour people these days.

5/18/2006 09:42:00 AM  

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