Whilst Afghanistan continues to demand an influx of fresh faced young Englishmen in the first flush of adulthood to risk life and limb in a macabre game of hopscotch as a precursor to emerging from the dreaded condition of ‘Failed State’, other countries have put their thinking caps on and are coming up with some novel suggestions as to how to reinvent themselves.
I was particularly interested to see Bejam’s Iceland’s efforts to change their dependence on frozen fish and frozen funds.
Following Wikileaks role helpful role in their financial crisis, when their national broadcaster ran the url for the Wikileaks disclosure of their creditors when blocked from publishing the list themselves, they have invited Julian Assange, the Wikileaks editor, to talk to them about changing their laws so that Iceland could become a free speech friendly haven for publisher’s. The Sovereign State of Wikileaks?
This, it is hoped, would encourage the world’s giant media corporations to register their companies in Reykjavik rather than the libel tourism capital of London.
Some of the world’s smallest and least economically viable states – Monaco, Andorra, the Cayman Islands, even Switzerland, have learnt to be viable by offering a means of side stepping unpopular laws, why should it not work for Iceland?
The proposal has attracted cross party support in Iceland, a country of 320,000 people who have been left paying a disproportionate share of their income to repay creditors in Britain and the Netherlands.
It would draw on the source protection laws of Sweden, the Belgian protection laws for journalists and the First Amendment of Free Speech from America. According to an email from Assange (which was then leaked, ironically enough) the amendments would cover source protection, whistleblower protection, immunity for ISPs and other carriers, freedom of information requests, and strong limits on prior restraint. They would also provide protection against libel judgements from other jurisdictions, much as the United States may soon do with the Free Speech Protection Act of 2009.
Free Speech attracts strong emotions, and those gripped with a belief that they ‘know’ the absolute truth of a range of situations will tell you that free speech is an absolute that should have no restraint on it, that when the law is unable to give them the ‘closure’ they wish, that they should be free to denounce from their pulpit, soapbox, or newspaper, whoever it is that they feel is responsible for their chosen cause. Libel laws should play no part in their ability to speak out.
That is but one side of the coin. If media moguls are able to congregate in a sovereign state from where they can publish any calumny they wish, you will have a situation where a political leader may be protected by his friendship with a media giant, but any opposition will be vilified and ridiculed beyond anything we see at present – with no redress. Just because the state laws allow anyone to publish anything they wish will not mean that media moguls will publish anything you wish – you will just have freed them to publish anything they wish.
It is not just less state intervention in our lives in the form of legislation that we need, not just smaller government, but smaller economic global forces – the gigantic media corporations being just one.
Libel law is more than overdue for a thorough overhaul, UK libel law in particular, but I fear that those who fondly imagine that with libel law removed, newspapers would then be free to publish what they see as the truth, may well be in for a rude awakening when they find that they have removed one of the last bastions against powerful global media forces being able to publish ‘facts and figures’ proving ‘beyond doubt’ that every single opposition candidate in a forthcoming election is a paedophile, convicted armed robber, and ate three babies for breakfast.
You think they wouldn’t? Really?
So, now we are on the subject – your suggestions for recycling Britain – what could we turn Britain into that would earn money?