As above, so below: Right-wing attacks on free speech and protest

facebookWouldn’t it be nice to live in a country that revered free speech, and where nobody could walk over our right to protest against unjust laws?

Some of you may think you do live in such a country; if so, you are mistaken.

Our ability to discuss such matters freely, from the courts of justice all the way down to the social media, is constantly under attack by the forces of Tory-led right-wing tyranny. They don’t want anything we say to get out. It might disturb the sleeping plebs.

Thank goodness these attacks are starting to receive the attention they deserve – such as the comments made by Baron Bach in the House of Lords last Wednesday (February 13), when he angrily voiced his concerns over changes to legal aid for social security cases.

He said the regulations passed that day (see the previous Vox Political article on the subject) made it “a day of shame for our country and its reputation as a civilised and just place to live and work“.

He said: “After 1 April, for those who do not have the means to pay – the vast majority, I would suggest, including many disabled people – where will they get the legal advice they need? They can get it now, but they will not be able to get it after 1 April. How will they receive advice on whether to start or not to start an appeal process? Who will advise them on the intricacies of the social security system?

Legal aid for welfare benefit advice will be abolished. However difficult the case, however much it may rely on points of law, there will be no legal aid either before or at a First-tier Tribunal, let alone an application to the Secretary of State for reconsideration.

“I hope that [the minister, Lord Freud] will not suggest that somehow welfare benefit law is so easy and unlegal that legal advice is never justified. He knows better than that, as does the House.

“Nor, I hope, will he use the argument that it will save some precious public money. Everyone agrees that abolishing social welfare law will cost the state, and particularly his department, much more money when early advice is not available.

“People’s legal problems, whether they are to do with welfare benefits, debts or employment, will get worse until one day, of course, the state will have to pick up the pieces from the broken lives that follow.

Does it not make a farce of our reputation as a country with equal access to justice as a major part of our legal system that no such equal access to justice is available to millions of our fellow citizens who are in receipt of social security in one form or another?”

He developed the point to its logical conclusion – that this is part of a government conspiracy to gag the poor: “It is too much of a coincidence that these legal aid cuts come at exactly the same time as radical welfare reform.

“It must be a deliberate government policy to bring in radical and damaging welfare reforms at the same time as making it impossible for the vast majority to appeal against the decisions that affect their daily lives.

It is a disgrace and a scandal.”

As above, so below: On Facebook, Vox Political tries to post links to its articles on groups where like-minded readers may benefit – with considerable success.

Until an incident a couple of weeks ago.

It seems Tory-supporting right-wingers have started to appear on these groups, where they have then been – I believe the term is – ‘gaming’ the Facebook complaints procedure to silence users like myself. They complain to Facebook that we are ‘spamming’ those groups. The authorities at Facebook – as any user knows – have never investigated such complaints. They act immediately to suspend the rights of the suspected offender to post on other groups.

So the right-wingers get their way, and – with the collusion of this vast social media provider – free speech is lost.

It’s now nearly two weeks since these Netbullies turned their attention to Vox Political. Despite frequent complaints to Facebook, this site’s ability to post to other groups has not been reinstated.

Every day, this site receives queries from administrators of those groups, asking what has happened and why Vox isn’t posting any more. It is clear that they did not want this interference in the operation of their group. And yet the authorities at Facebook not only allow it to continue, but enforce it.

This is as great an attack on free speech as the forthcoming restriction of Legal Aid. Perhaps greater – as discussions on Facebook help form public opinion. The right-wing Netbullies know that; they want to silence us.

Are you happy to let them?


  1. Phil The Folk February 17, 2013 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Three cheers for Lord Bach I say!! At least someone has an ounce of common sense. Overall this gagging of free speech is very worrying we’re not far away from the thought police! Orwell was so right in the warning he gave to all with his book 1984 yet this lot just keep making it a reality.

  2. shirleynott February 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm - Reply

    Just to comment on the first part of this, I have never heard of Baron Bach before today, but every point he has made (reported here) couldn’t be better expressed. Unfortunately, he is exactly right. Everything that’s coming into force and being trampled on/got rid of, as from the beginning of April, is going to make this years’ April 1st a day to remember – for all the wrong reasons. Is it ironic or just complete coincidence that the day in question is April Fool’s Day?

  3. Paul Smyth February 17, 2013 at 1:47 pm - Reply

    Reblogged this on The Greater Fool.

  4. Stephen Bunting February 17, 2013 at 1:57 pm - Reply

    The manipulation of social networking sites is a huge concern. Many disabled claimants use this as their only means of commenting on their situation – their only political power, if you like. Almost all “comment” sites I’ve been on hae someone right-wing trolling while passing themselves off as a member of the public ..

  5. alison oliver February 17, 2013 at 2:02 pm - Reply

    i am so outraged by the actions of this government – i am beginning to wonder what kind of country we are living in that allows such things and where the people concerned are too scared or apathetic to do anything about it. this article is superbly written and i intend to share it on my facebook – lets hope there are enough of us to get together and stop this government from their crimes – they should be named and shamed….i have been a victim of these changes already, on two counts and am wondering when the next blow is coming(although i would call them “side-swipes”) perhaps they will be happy when we are all evicted and living in work houses??????

  6. Mike Gideon Hodgson February 17, 2013 at 2:10 pm - Reply

    its also fathers or mothers who have to go through the farce of family court to see there kids who are also losing legal aid.

    • R March 20, 2013 at 5:43 pm - Reply

      I’ve had an abusive ex partner who has dragged on a family case for many years now, he kidnapped my son, made repeated slanderous remarks about me, tried to mess up my benifits, broke the contact order repeatedly, my house got attacked so a new worker expressed concerns about my kids emotional well being and tried to rush him off me (with no regards to previous findings that he was better in my care until the house got attacked) and now this….

  7. Dickie Jones February 17, 2013 at 3:10 pm - Reply

    question . with the change in all welfare, will the case law be obsolete

  8. Dickie Jones February 17, 2013 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    forgot the question mark lol?

  9. Dickie Jones February 17, 2013 at 3:31 pm - Reply

    Another question could not the bedroom tax be challenged in judicial review or indeed the court of human rights as there does seem to be many legislative rules within this act that infringes on them
    I am aware that it will cost,. but the human rights act works for many criminals that are not allowed to be deported from this county although proved guilty of heinous crimes and probably funded by legal aid .would it be to much to ask for someone to challenge this act as there seems very little support other than a lot of hand ringing by the labour party or anyone else .? .

  10. colin February 17, 2013 at 3:43 pm - Reply

    i believe in peaseful protest i also know my forefathers gave up there lives so we could live with freedom and prosperity i also believe we are under attack from our own government who only see the £ sign so i say lets do to them what they are doing to us lets have action ….action s to let everyone know in this country that people are suffering at the hands of the rich and powerful .I say lets stop britain working take the streets block the roads stop trade …LET THEM KNOW IF WE ARE GOING TO SUFFER THEN THEY WILL TOO

  11. Ash Martin February 17, 2013 at 9:58 pm - Reply

    Case law will not be obsolete…the problem will be finding people with the experience to be able to do something about it…even where advice services are not being wholly removed, the emphasis is changing towards telephone and Internet advice, rather than face-to-face, with less chance of something groundbreaking happening because of that …

  12. Sasson February 18, 2013 at 9:50 am - Reply

    There is a big problems within some welfare activist facebook groups Mike.

    The only conclusion you can come to when helpful posts and comments you make are removed, with no explanation given from moderators, whilst bigoted information is allowed to remain is that the group has been infiltrated. As a result, I left those groups.

    To be honest, they waste your valuable time whilst achieving hardly anything for the cause, but that’s the point, that’s what ‘they’ want. Some of them become little more than a platform for people to complain, which fair enough, it can be good to vent, but to do it over and over every day? That’s not healthy for someone, especially when facing what we’re all about to.

    For most of us, we just need practical information and advice at the moment, like ‘how am I going to survive when my ESA is completely removed up until I am allowed to appeal’. When I posted that along with some ideas I had, and asked what ideas other people had, no one offered up anything useful, just hands up in the air, and how awful or mad it was making them. Really, of what use is that?

    It seems that a lot of help for the vulnerable in society is about to be removed, and what help is there has become corrupted in some way, so we need to make sure that we pass on any useful information we have that may enable someone to survive the system until it can be changed.

  13. Sasson February 18, 2013 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Well, just commented and my comment disappeared, and being that it’s about free speech it made me chuckle, so I’ll try again!

    I was saying that facebook welfare activist groups are being infiltrated by many dummy members and trolls; I’ve left most of them now because of the underhanded tricks like deleting posts and comments that are useful to people, deleting comments under bigoted posts, or outright attacks on people for no reason.

    I’ve never been blocked, but all they do is just remove your posts/comments. I’m a well educated, reasoned person who would never post anything offensive, but rather helpful things based on information I have obtained to help myself and others, so why is this information removed? If you ask a moderator, they say they’ll get back to you, but never do. If you complain on the actual page, that’s when they tend to block you.

    These groups may help some, but what they primarily achieve is wasting peoples’ time, making them think that they are achieving something whilst achieving very little at all.

    Rather, if people need advice, it’s better to contact actual organisations who have information specific to you.

  14. rainbowwarriorlizzie February 18, 2013 at 9:46 pm - Reply

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