A "pernicious and even dangerous poison" is present in the British media, Home Secretary Charles Clarke said today.
The politician accused parts of the Press of making incorrect and over-simplified statements about his Government's record on civil liberties. He said journalists had transferred totalitarian qualities to democracies such as the UK and the US following the collapse of "genuinely dangerous" dictatorships.
That's right - critics of Labour have just gone from being fool-hardy to being dangerous. Students of history and irony will note that this is a strategy of control and intimidation usually found traditional totalitarian states: criticism of the state is not merely misguided, but threatens the personal safety and prosperity of everyone in that state. Presumably, the danger to which Clarke refers is that the claim to recognise petty dictatorships at home will blind us to the threat of larger ones abroad: I think we're probably able to do both.
Still, it's genuinely pleasing to hear someone squeal like this:
"In the absence of many of the genuinely dangerous and evil totalitarian dictatorships to fight - since they've gone - the media has steadily rhetorically transferred to some of the existing democracies, particularly the United States and the United Kingdom, some of the characteristics of those dictatorships. So some commentators routinely use language like 'police state', 'fascist', 'hijacking our democracy', 'creeping authoritarianism', 'destruction of the rule of law' [...]"
Let's take a stroll down memory lane: let's try detention and punishment without trial, advocated by our Dear Leader only yesterday, which would seem to fit the description of most, if not all of the above.
From the position of the lowly blogger, it seems that the way to avoid being accused of totalitarianism is to stop behaving in a way that appears.. well.. totalitarian, such as making the claim to be the only arbiter of truth, the only one to understand 'complex' arguments for the good of the people:
"In the case of often complex debates, for example on the appropriate balance between liberty and security, much media comment reduces itself to simplistic and flowery rhetoric."
Here, only Clarke and chums get to decide what is 'appropriate'; disagreement with those decisions being made on our behalf is 'dangerous'.
Of course, only someone who really enjoys their rhetoric would notice that Clark has just attacked the messenger and not the message or that 'simplistic and flowery rhetoric' is the hallmark of an administration that thought Saddam had nuclear weapons, claim that ID cards will protect us from terrorism, think that the NHS is having the bestest year everrrr etc. etc.
Gallows humour aside, the Home Secretary just accused critics of his government of being dangerous. Will someone give me odds on how long it will take for his advocates to accuse us of treason?