Tory answer to terrorism is censorship and more surveillance
"British Muslims flock to jihadists' hardline sect," says today's Times. The ISIS recruitment video appears to be working: if you're depressed at the prospect of a tedious life of sex and alcoholism in Britain, come to Iraq or Syria and stone a few homosexuals and prostitutes, or behead the odd infidel. It's fun. In the words of one young British Muslim: "A message to the brothers who have stayed behind. You have to ask yourself what prevents you from joining the ranks of the Mujahideen? What prevents you from obtaining martyrdom? You are going to die anyway."
Try to watch that recruitment video soon (very soon), because the Government is demanding that Google remove it from YouTube. That is the Conservative response to the imminent threat of 400 jihadi youths about to return from their tour of duty in Sunnistan.
You expect this sort of thing from David Cameron. But Liam Fox?
He is in favour of increasing state monitoring powers "to intercept the communications of extremists". Of course, they'll intercept the communications of the rest of us as well, and maybe His Grace will fall within the emerging redefinition of 'extremist', for isn't an extremists simply someone who believes very strongly in something with which you happen to disagree?
Liam Fox is of the view that the people will accept greater levels of surveillance to monitor the ISIS extremists when they return home: "A majority of people will accept that an 'ideological battle' means that the authorities will need greater powers to intercept the communications of extremists," he said, explaining: "They hate us because of who we are. We can't change that. It is our values and our history that they detest more than anything else."
But British values and our national history include freedom of religion and freedom of expression. Jihadi recruitment videos are undoubtedly disturbing and reprehensible, but you don't solve the malignancy with censorship. Indeed, the entire history of religion teaches us that where beliefs are suppressed by the state, they tend to spread underground as believers contend for their faith against the persecution. The antidote to Islamic religio-political extremism is the Judæo-Christian ethic and the values of the Enlightenment. Against malignant totalitarian theocracy you argue for peace, goodness, tolerance and the virtues of liberal democracy.
But Cameron isn't persuaded, and Fox seems to share this Tory strand of authoritarianism. "The whole area of intercept needs to be looked at," he insists. "We have got a real debate, and it is a genuine debate in a democracy, between the libertarians who say the state must not get too powerful and pretty much the rest of us who say the state must protect itself."
So, in order to protect its citizens, the state will restrict their liberties and subject them to increasing levels of surveillance. In this "ideological battle" between libertarianism and authoritarianism, the current Conservative leadership inclines toward the latter.
"It became necessary to destroy the town to save it," said a US soldier when asked to justify a decision by allied commanders to bomb the Vietcong. That quotation has been distorted over the years: "We had to destroy the village in order to save it." Village, town, country - the size of the community is irrelevant: the principle is the same. Regardless of civilian casualties, the enemy must be eradicated. So, to protect freedom of religion, we must restrict it. To guard freedom of speech, we must limit it.
And so the Islamists amongst us modify our values and regress our liberties by a couple of centuries. Therein lies their victory.