Thursday, January 29, 2015

Just as you thought politicians could not get any stupider ....

.... along comes this item of information via the Adam Smith Institute blog, which is quoting an article from Monday's Guardian. To be fair to the Grauniad (not words you hear from me often) and its readers, the article makes no comment and merely quotes Scottish Labour MP Thomas Docherty and the readers are shouting his idiocy down.

Mr Docherty has realized that Mein Kampf is not a very nice book and considers that we ought to think of banning it.
Docherty has written to culture secretary Sajid Javid about the text, pointing out that it is currently “rated as an Amazon bestseller” and asking the cabinet member to consider leading a debate on the issue. An edition of Mein Kampf is currently in fifth place on Amazon’s “history of Germany” chart, in fourth place in its “history references” chart, and in 665th place overall.

“Of course Amazon – and indeed any other bookseller – is doing nothing wrong in selling the book. However, I think that there is a compelling case for a national debate on whether there should be limits on the freedom of expression,” writes Docherty to Javid.
Right, let's have a national debate. This blog is weighing in on the side of NO. Or to be a little more detailed, "no, you stupid fool, we cannot ban books, especially those of historic importance, because we do not happen to like what is written in them". Will that do for a debating position Mr Docherty?

If Mr Docherty is worried about anti-Semitism he should think of banning the Koran and, indeed, certain parts of the Bible. The Gospel According to St John springs to mind. He should certainly think about banning certain deeply anti-Semitic publications that his colleagues in the SNP were quoting during the IndyRef campaign.

If Mr Docherty is worried, as he seems to be, that Mein Kampf led to some very nasty events and actions in twentieth century history (not that I believe that as who could possibly have got through that turgid rubbish?) then he had better start thinking about banning Das Kapital, The Communist Manifesto, various works by V. I. Lenin, I. V. Stalin and Mao Zedong. We could start with the Little Red Book, which was most definitely a call for hatred and violence.

Is it really surprising that the book is high on Amazon's list for history of Germany or history references, given its importance? What are students and historians to do in Mr Docherty's ideal society? Sign up, presenting credentials, to the one and only library that will be issuing the book to the right personnel? I do believe we have seen systems like that in certain societies in the twentieth century. Does Mr Docherty want to emulate them? (Maybe I don't want to hear the answer to that.

Sadly, it is against the principles of this blog to call for a ban on stupid pronouncements by politicians though I say this with gritted teeth.


  1. Well said, Helen. This really beggars belief (except that it doesnt nowadays, and thats the sad thing.......)

  2. Is there a special place where they breed these people. Is he not aware of the Nazi book burnings, viz

    On a separate note, just to add to the gloom see

    Apparently it's now a crime to discuss Islam on a bus.

    I'm afraid the era of freedom is drawing to a close, I can't see a way back to sanity from here. As Tony Hancock once said "What about Magna Carta, did she die in vain". In this her 800th anniversary year, I'm afraid it looks as though she did.

  3. Just another ill educated subject of our socially engineered generation. However, it does make one wonder just whose brand of smoke they are now blowing up ones bottom.

  4. While I agree with all three comments I do have to differ from Ian Reid about the era of freedom drawing to a close. What era of freedom, precisely? When was it and who knew about it? Magna Carta gave rights to some barons. It was a very important document (though the Bill of Rights was more important) but it did not introduce centuries of freedom. Even now there is more freedom in this country than in most of the world and that is the best we can say for any period. We need to introduce the idea of freedom not hark back to some mysterious golden age.

  5. Helen. Whilst I share your indignation at the MP's stupidity and your comments i am surprised that you should wish to ban parts of St John's Gospel - presumably because you think it is anti - Semitic?
    How so, for Jesus himself was a Jew, as were most of the NT writers,
    And certainly the Apostle John.
    What had you in mind?

    1. What had I in mind? Certainly not the banning of the Gospel. You can't have read what I wrote (not that I blame you). I was listing various well known works that can be accused of anti-semitism as that Gospel can be. The fact that its author was Jewish is actually irrelevant. The Christians by that stage were very anxious to distance themselves from the troublesome Jews who had fallen foul of the Roman authorities.

    2. Incidentally, I think Biblical scholarship tends not to believe that the author of the Gospel was the actual Apostle.

  6. Helen I appreciate what you're saying about freedom, and Magna Carta being only one step on a long journey to where we are today. It's been less than a century for example that women have had the right to vote in this country, and for several centuries Catholics had very few rights.

    I know I've lived in very privileged era, with for example the famous obscenity trial about the publishing of "Lady Chatterley’s Lover" ushering in an era of unprecedented artistic freedom, and satire of even the highest figures in the land, some of it vicious, being a given.

    But recently it feels as though we've reached a high water mark, and we're now being more restricted. People are being sent to prison for what they've tweeted, and the hate speech laws have criminalized a lot of speech. It's more than just a perception, people have become very much more circumspect in what they say, and there has been a change in atmosphere.

    I agree it's all relative though, I know someone from Argentina, and people from Russia who have settled in this country, and to them we have real freedom, in a way they couldn't imagine in their home countries. But it's the direction of travel, things feel to me to be going backwards in terms of freedom.

    P.S. You can see Tony Hancock's version of Magna Carta history here.

  7. I think I remember the Hancock version and very funny it is, too. However, may I remind you of a couple of things. One is that the theatre was under censorship until relatively recently. The other is the various events in universities in the sixties and seventies when speakers who did not toe the line (were pro-American, for instance) tended to be howled down by assorted mobs. At the John Blundell memorial meeting at the IEA the other evening somebody described what happened when Professor Eysenck spoke (or, rather, attempted to speak) at the LSE.