Friday, June 9, 2017

The Hubris of Theresa May

Theresa May called a British election three years early, thinking it would consolidate the strong hold of her party on the British Parliament. Instead, she failed to receive even a simply majority!

Her hubris is evident in several respects. She refused to debate her opponent, which is odd in light of the fact that British parties actually represent particular points of view, in contrast to American parties.

Also, her party had to walk back a position taken in its manifesto, the first time in British history this has happened. The position which came under intense attack was a proposed policy of forcing elderly people to pay more for their in-home care.

Interviews with British voters by NPR showed that nobody felt that May was "on their side", in contrast with the Labour candidate who resonated with voters by decrying cuts in government services.

Looming over the entire election was the "Brexit" issue, which May has completely bungled by blindly following the narrow 52-48 election result, instead of showing true leadership by trying to ameliorate the effects of this unfortunate vote. Instead of showing leadership, she showed "followership", and this is what came through to voters who have rejected her phony "leadership".

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Free Speech in U.S. vs. Europe

One of the most striking things about the Floyd Abrams books (see last post) is the difference between free speech in the U.S. and the rest of the world. We read almost daily about dissidents in third world countries being persecuted for their opposition to their governments.

But what is striking is that Europeans do not enjoy the free speech freedoms that we take for granted in the U.S.  In "The Soul of the First Amendment", Abrams says that all of the cases he discusses in which truth was a defense in a libel trial would have turned out differently in Europe.

Abrams cites many examples of the European hostility to free speech, but the one that is the most striking is a principle adopted in 2014 by the European Court of Justice, in which the "right to be forgotten" was enunciated. Under this ruling, Google and other search engines were required to remove content deemed to be old enough that it was "inadequate, irrelevant, or no longer relevant".

Despite the fact that we are talking about true information here, Google nonetheless had deleted over 4000,000 articles as of 2015.  Examples include the following:  1) a story about a policeman whose assault on a man was filmed and who was jailed for 21 months; 2) an article about people under 30 suffering strokes; 3) an article about a 27-year-old man who was killed in a plane crash in Nepal.

The list goes on and on, but the point is that these are stories containing true information, and to order them removed from Google shows the antipathy Europeans have to free speech. Personally, I prefer the U.S. approach, which gives me the right to discuss matters of public interest in a  free and robust manner.