The Sun wants the BBC to sack Gary Lineker for “peddling lies.” Let’s leave aside the fact that the Sun is much better at peddling lies that Mr Lineker ever will be. What this shows, yet again, is that the right is now the enemy of freedom.
We should put this demand alongside the Mail and Express’s calls for pro-Remain “traitors” to be silenced; the Tory attacks upon independent institutions such as the Bank of England; the investigatory powers bill; and the fact that many supporters of immigration controls also want (pdf) controls over other areas of economic life. And, let’s remember, immigration controls themselves are attacks upon freedom: they deprive people of the freedom to live where they choose or hire whom they choose.
All these are examples of the right’s hostility to freedom. Yes, this hostility might be popular – but that tells us only that there can be a tension between liberty and the will of the people.
To those of us of a certain age, this illiberal trend might look odd. During the 60s and 70s the cliché was that there was a trade-off between equality and freedom and that the left leant towards the former whilst the right favoured the latter. And western Cold Warriors were forever proclaiming the virtues of freedom against the “evil Empire” that was the USSR.
So, what happened?
In truth, not much. In many cases, the right’s espousal of freedom was only ever a pretence. Whilst they pretended to bemoan the USSR’s lack of freedom, they supported Pinochet, apartheid and the repression of women and gays, and were (and are) untroubled by coercion in the workplace. The only freedom the right truly believed in was freedom for bigots and exploiters.
I say all this because many people still don’t seem to realize it – perhaps because their instincts were formed during the Cold War. There’s an odd type of lefty or ex-lefty who whines about no-platforming and restrictions on free speech at universities whilst under-appreciating the fact that the biggest threats to liberty don’t come from silly teenagers. And many of those who think of themselves as supporters of freedom (such as the Adam Smith Institute?) seem to associate more with rightists than lefties.
Another thing: bigots please note. Paying your TV licence does not give you a right of veto over every BBC appointment.