Denis Macshane’s dimwitted rhetoric
Denis MacShane spoke in a recent Guardian/Observer debate on civil liberties.
Lots of things were wrong with his speech but two things particularly stood out.
My first problem with him was his use of the “victim as expert” logical fallacy – more broadly, an “appeal to (a false) authority” – if he is mugged, he is an authority on mugging; if she is raped, she is an expert on rape.
You see a lot of this in terrorism discussions too: e.g. tube bomb survivor says ‘terrorist suspects’ should be locked up for 90 days.
MacShane’s authority on muggings and CCTV stems from his son:
Actually, I’m not too worried about CCTV cameras. why? Because my son, 13 years old, was badly mugged a month ago, and thanks to CCTV the people who mugged him will now appear in court next month.
Obviously that should get rid of all our concerns. Somehow it doesn’t.
My second problem with him was his next sentence:
There’s a balance of liberty: their right to mug my son in freedom, or their right to face surveillance and be caught.
It’s dimwitted rhetoric and empty populism to speak of freedoms and rights in that way, and there is no balance of liberty there at all in reality.
If he isn’t being stupid he is playing to the crowd.
No-one has the “right to mug his son in freedom”, or indeed “the right to face surveillance and be caught”. No-one has “the right not to be mugged”, or the “right not to be blown up”, or a “liberty not to be blown up, as MacShane put it, or indeed his “liberty of the citizen not to face potential explosions in the tube or elsewhere”.
Apologists for the Brown regime should really stop talking as if supporters of civil liberties think people should have such rights.
No wonder MacShane’s whole speech was incisively summed up by Henry Porter with, “there you have it – that’s why we’re in such a mess.”