Ilana Mercer, August 6, 2003

A British Times Literary Supplement reviewer recently took a shot at tracing the “providential themes” in George Bush’s political rhetoric. Indeed, the interminable war on “tyrants and terrorists” is laced with evangelical zeal. The American president, however, is not alone “in the redemption business.”


British Prime Minister Tony Blair fancies himself every bit the redeemer of mankind. Etched all over Blair’s address to Congress was the devotion to the “mystic [and, might I add, malevolent] idea of national destiny.”


One particularly chilling dictate was this: “I know out there there’s a guy getting on with his life, perfectly happily, minding his own business, saying to you, the political leaders of this country, ‘Why me? And why us? And why America?’ And the only answer is, ‘Because destiny put you in this place in history, in this moment in time, and the task is yours to do.'”


The tyranny implied in Blair’s maudlin grandiosity should be obvious.


First, the little guy back home ought to be the one calling the shots, not Messrs. Messiah and Company. Second, before Blair joins Bush in rousing the “visionless” middle-class American from his uninspired slumber—The Great Redeemer thinks it’s below contempt to harbor a civilized desire to mind one’s own business and live in peace—he ought to take a look at the little guy back in England.


Tony Martin, for one, is not having a terribly tranquil time. Blair’s blather to Congress about “the spread of freedom” being “the best security for the free” must ring hollow to the law-abiding, English farmer, who would no more advocate the spread of British-style freedom than he would the bubonic plague.


Tony Martin was recently released from jail after being arrested for the crime of defending his home—he killed a career criminal by the name of Fred Barras and injured his accomplice, Brendon Fearon, when the two broke into the elderly man’s homestead. Martin was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison, the court finding that he had no freedom to use force to defend his property or his life.


The traditional “Rights of Englishmen”—the inspiration for the American founders—are no longer cool in Cool Britannia. The great system of law that the English people have long held dear, including the 1689 English Bill of Rights, which entails the right to possess arms, is in tatters. The British elites, many of whom enjoy taxpayer-funded security details, have disarmed law-abiding Britons, who now defend themselves against the protected criminal class only at their own peril. 


A right that can’t be defended, however, is a right that exists only in name. In Britain today there is, in effect, no real right to life or property.


In Blair’s Britain, the law has been turned around to break and subdue proud and self-sufficient people like Tony Martin. The Crown rejected his self-defense plea, although his conviction for murder was commuted to manslaughter once Martin capitulated and agreed to accept a diagnosis of mental illness. In other words, to defend your home in Britain is to evince a paranoid personality disorder.


Martin’s case, unfortunately, is far from unique, and the consequences of this policy have been appalling. According to a recent UN study, writes Historian Joyce L. Malcolm, author of Guns and Violence: The English Experience, “England and Wales have the highest crime rate and worst record for ‘very serious’ offences of the 18 industrial countries surveyed.” Whereas violent crime in America has been plummeting for 10 consecutive years, criminal violence in Britain has been rising.


Since Blair’s 1997 total ban on armed self-defense, things have gone from very bad to even worse. “You are now six times more likely to be mugged in London than New York,” notes Malcolm. “Why? Because as common law appreciated, not only does an armed individual have the ability to protect himself or herself but criminals are less likely to attack them….A study found American burglars fear armed homeowners more than the police.” The most dangerous burglaries—the kind that occur when people are at home—are much rarer in the Unites States, only 13 percent, than in Britain, where they constitute 53 percent of all such home invasions.


How far has British barbarism gone? Malcolm’s evidently garden-variety accounts include the story of an elderly lady who fought off a gang of thugs “by firing a blank from a toy gun, only to be arrested for the crime of putting someone in fear with an imitation firearm.”


Similarly, when Eric Butler was brutally assaulted in a subway, “he unsheathed a sword blade in his walking stick and slashed” at one of his assailants. Butler was added to the lineup—he “was tried and convicted of carrying an offensive weapon.” 


Tony Martin was almost denied parole because he failed to show sufficient contrition for killing one of the creatures that invaded what was supposed to be his castle. In the words of a probation officer, Martin continues to be “a danger to burglars.” In a truly civilized country, of course, that would be a compliment.


To add insult to injury, after having been robbed of three years and five months of his life for the crime of self-defense, Martin’s ordeal is still not over. The surviving ruffian, who has more than 30 convictions to his name, has been granted permission to sue his victim, even given legal aid to so do, for the injury he suffered on the “job.”


In addition, the criminal protection and reinforcement program that is contemporary British justice also entails honoring career criminal Brendon Fearon’s “right” to know where his victim, the old farmer, will reside now that he’s been released.


Tony Blair has gone to great (and dubious) lengths to make a case for Britain‘s right to defend itself from perceived threats in the international arena. He ought to be reminded that self-defense, like charity, begins at home.



August 6, 2003

CATEGORIES: Britain, Constitution, Crime, Individual rights

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