By Faranak Bakhtiari

Britain’s double standards trap itself in “freedom of speech”

September 30, 2020 - 18:41

TEHRAN – Following the British government’s order on schools to not use resources from any organization that has advocated abolishing capitalism, critics believe that the country’s blaming others for not respecting freedom of speech is now engineering young minds to omit anti-capitalism in future generations.

On Sunday, The Guardian published a report that British Department for Education (DfE) guidance issued for school leaders and teachers categorized anti-capitalism as an “extreme political stance” and equated it with opposition to freedom of speech, antisemitism and endorsement of illegal activity. 

Although it is undeniable that censorship is common among almost all countries under different circumstances, Western countries are destined to drift farther away from the freedom and democracy they claim about.

Capitalism is one big old system of oppression that includes racism and antisemitism. When the government sets guidelines stating that anti-capitalist works are not allowed, they are essentially saying they don’t want people talking about changing the oppressive systems in place.

Although the educational system is not the only information system in countries, and people have access to information through the media and other sources, the omission of a particular topic in education reflects the omission of this topic among young people of the next two generations and is a kind of engineering of youth thoughts.

Against the spirit of democracy

Mehdi Motaharnia, a political sociologist, told the Tehran Times that although this is not a positive policy move, it is only anti-democratic and not anti-freedom of expression if it goes through the legal process of approval and is criticized and approved by both critics and proponents. 

Because information is not obtained only from educational places, so that it might not be total opposition to freedom of speech, he added.

Western society traps itself in “freedom of expression”

In the examples cited in the guidance as “extreme political stances”, “opposition to the right to freedom of expression” is expressed immediately after the “desire to abolish or overthrow democracy, capitalism” is self-contradictory because Britain is doing the same with preventing a special educational content to be taught in schools.

Some western countries have always been blackening others with different ideologies for not having “freedom of speech”, however, they step into a path that is even smarter than those countries’ censorship and omit special perspectives basically to prevent the next generations from knowing it.

The dual standards of Western society trap itself in “freedom of expression. Among the laws that oppose the abolition or overthrow of democracy and capitalism, Western countries must move away from the freedom and democracy they are proud of.

Economist and former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis said the guidance showed “how easy it is to lose a country, to slip surreptitiously into totalitarianism”.

He added that “Imagine an educational system that banned schools from enlisting into their curricula teaching resources dedicated to the writings of British writers like William Morris, Iris Murdoch, Thomas Paine even. Well, you don’t have to. Boris Johnson’s government has just instructed schools to do exactly that.”

Barrister Jessica Simor QC suggested that the government has on occasion not complied with the guidance itself after it admitted the new Brexit bill would break international law (“endorsement of illegal activity”) and continued selling arms to Saudi Arabia for use in Yemen following a court ruling that it was unlawful.

Tariq Ali, the writer, and activist, said although the new guidance was a sign of “moral and political bankruptcy”, the advent of the internet meant such measures were futile.

“Leaving aside the stupidity, these things don’t work,” he said. “People will read what they want to read. Trying to enhance a version of the prevent strategy, which is already in place, is quite scandalous and shocking.

“If you put things on a banned list, lots of young people can access them via the internet and read them. Banning them from schools will not work at all, aside from the fact it’s a sign of moral and political bankruptcy.”

He added that “How could both young and old people not read anti-capitalist analysis after 2008, or now with the virus going on and recessions looming all over the western world.”

It is understood that the DfE is clear that schools should not work with agencies that take extreme positions, including promoting non-democratic political systems, and that teachers should be politically impartial.

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