Tuesday 7 February 2017

The terrifying right-wing contempt for justice and the rule of law

The underlying contempt for justice amongst many on the political right has been clear for some time. It's come to the fore in recent times with the British right-wing propaganda rags attacking judges as "enemies of the people" and now Donald Trump Twitter abusing a well respected judge for daring to over-rule his Muslim ban as unconstitutional, but for those of us who have been paying attention, it's been an obvious problem for a long time.

You only have to look back at Theresa May's appalling track record at the Home Office to see manifestations of this opposition to the concept of open justice.

One of the big alarm bells was the introduction of Secret Courts through "Justice and Security" legislation in 2013. This legislation fundamentally undermines the concept that justice needs to be seen to be done in order to be effective. If people can be locked up by a court they can't enter on charges they don't know relating to evidence they're not allowed to see, then how can anyone know that the justice system is being administered fairly?

Theresa May's reaction to the Edward Snowden revelations was telling. Instead of seeking justice against the people who had been unlawfully stealing the private communication data of millions of British people and businesses, she introduced rushed legislation to temporarily legalise what they had been doing unlawfully for years (Dripa) and then permanently legalised mass data retention and snooping by all manner of non-terrorism related state agencies through the Snoopers' Charter, an act that also retroactively legalised the criminal behaviour of the surveillance state and allows the state to lie in court in order to secure convictions!.

Theresa May's next huge display of contempt for the rule of law came when she attempted to bypass parliament entirely out of a desire to conduct the Brexit process as an autocrat who gets to make and repeal laws at their personal will, free from legislative or judicial oversight.

As this astounding power grab was defeated in the courts the right-wing press went into an unprecedented frenzy of condemnation. The tabloid hatchet jobs on the judges who ruled in favour of parliamentary sovereignty (against autocracy) were absolutely shocking. It's hard to imagine how anyone could be uneducated enough not to be horrified at the Daily Mail describing judges as "enemies of the people", but millions of people actually applauded these displays of contempt for the rule of law under the delusion that High Court judges are the evil metropolitan elite, and Theresa May is some kind of not-at-all dictatorial woman of the people!

Revealing their true character Theresa May and the Tories refused to condemn the appalling tabloid hatchet jobs on the judges. As far as they were concerned a wave of public contempt towards the justice system was exactly what they needed in order to disempower parliament and the courts and centralise even more political power in the hands of the Theresa May and the Tory party.

Credit: Sousa & Machedo Arts
The refusal of the Tory government to condemn the abuse of judges was deeply shocking, but the sight of an actual President of the United States actively delegitimising and threatening judges is pretty near top-level craziness.

Trump signed an astonishing 22 Executive Orders in his first couple of weeks as President. It soon became clear that he didn't even bother to read some of them. He apparently had little idea that Steve Bannon had promoted himself onto the National Security Council in one of the Orders he signed without bothering to understand

It's no wonder that this blizzard of hastily drafted Executive Orders is falling foul of the United States constitution. Trump's Muslim Ban was so profoundly unconstitutional it's astonishing that it was ever enacted. Not as astonishing though as Trump's petulant and abusive reaction to being denied his own way by the justice system.

You don't have to be an expert in the history of the American justice system to understand that a sitting President publicly lambasting a judge for the "crime" of upholding the constitution of the United States is utterly extraordinary stuff.

Neither do you have to be an expert in the authoritarian dictatorships of the 20th Century to see that contempt for the rule of law goes hand-in-hand with despotism. There's little excuse for not at least having heard of the political show trials in Nazi Germany, the Great Purge in Soviet Russia or the campaigns of extrajudicial killings carried out by US backed Latin American dictators.

My mention of Soviet Russia makes it clear that justice-hating despots can come from the left or the right, but modern manifestations of this contempt for justice are clearly coming from the political right:Theresa May's repeated assaults on the justice systemthe Britain First leader openly calling for instant lynch mob killings on the streets the baying attacks on judges from extreme-right propaganda rags like the Daily Mail and the Express,  the Michigan Republican leader Dan Adamini calling for a repeat of the 1970 Kent State shooting of unarmed protestersDonald Trump Twitter-ranting about the judge who dared to defy his Muslim Ban by upholding the US constitution.

It's pretty clear where this contempt for justice stems from. Wielders of political and economic power like to see justice system as something that exists primarily to defend their interests. They certainly don't see it as something that exists in order protect the interests of ordinary people from them.

The establishment elitists see justice as a commodity that can be bought and sold, not something that exists to serve everyone. Thus the extraordinary tantrums when the justice system intervenes to prevent them carrying out some of their appalling schemes.

The rage of the Express and the Daily Mail against the judges who ruled to protect the concept of parliamentary sovereignty, and the rage of Donald Trump against the judge who upheld the United States constitution both come from the same essential source. The hard-right craving for despotism and the establishment of a permanent dictatorship of those with the most capital.

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