Even as a steadfast critic of the UK's socialistic healthcare system, I'll happily admit to being a full-blown Anglophile. I adore our beloved cousins and close allies across the pond. I enjoy visiting the United Kingdom, from London to Birmingham to Edinburgh. I believe the "special relationship" between our two countries is a cornerstone of global security. I'm an avid consumer of British television shows, from the Bake Off to Broadchurch. And above all, I love the warm, clever, welcoming British people. Even their food has improved. So it genuinely pains me to be pondering this question over the last few days: Is Britain still a free country that values Western democratic values? Chief among those core principles are the protection of innocent human life, freedom of speech, freedom of expression, and free citizens' ability to go about their daily lives without undue or heavy-handed interference from government. While the Brits remain -- and should remain -- our close friends, and while our national interests still align in many ways, I cannot help but look on with sadness and occasional revulsion as the British State increasingly seems to regard and treat its citizens as subjects.
The people of the UK are still able to elect their leaders and impose dramatic changes, of course, so it would be a gross overstatement to liken their government (as some critics have) to a totalitarian regime. But a string of recent stories and incidents have raised serious fears in my mind about whether Great Britain is becoming something other than -- something less than -- a truly free country. I'll lay out a number of examples, and allow readers draw their own conclusions regarding that provocative proposition, starting with: (1) The appalling and inhumane treatment of Alfie Evans and his family. Many Americans may recall the Charlie Gard case from 2017, wherein the parents of an ailing young boy were ordered by the government not to travel to the US to explore groundbreaking treatment for their son's extremely serious condition. After a protracted legal battle, the state prevailed. Young Charlie Gard was not permitted to leave Britain, care was ceased, and he died. A similar, grotesque saga featuring another terminally ill baby is playing out today:
The father of twenty-three-month-old Alfie Evans told reporters on Tuesday that he is giving his son mouth-to-mouth resuscitation after the hospital withdrew the baby’s life support. “Both Kate and I had to give him mouth to mouth resuscitation to keep him alive because his lips turned blue,” the baby’s father said. “We were doing what a nurse should have been doing to sustain his life,” he continued. “Now they are saying that he looks really good but we all know he should be in Italy right now.” Alfie’s life support was removed Monday afternoon, and he is now only receiving oxygen. Doctors were “gobsmacked” that the toddler continued to breathe on his own close to 24 hours after he was taken off life support, his father said. A High Court judge on Monday denied Alfie’s parents’ last-minute request that they be allowed to take their son, who has a degenerative neurological disease, to Italy for treatment following the Alder Hey Children’s Hospital’s decision that the toddler’s life support be taken away against his parents’ wishes...Italy granted the baby emergency citizenship on Monday, but his parents still cannot legally transport him out of the country. The judge called Italy’s move to grant Alfie citizenship “disrespectful to the principles of international diplomacy” and said supporters of the parents have given them “misleading” advice about their child.
How dare...Italy? It's hard to overstate how twisted that assignment of moral opprobrium is. Yes, little Alfie's condition is dire and his chances of survival are negligible. But there are doctors in Italy willing to offer experimental treatments at no cost to the family, with a jet standing by to fly them out of the UK. The boy's chances of recovery may be close to zero (perhaps especially so after State-mandated delays), but regardless of medical outcome, it strikes me as unspeakably egregious that the British courts have the authority to order their own free citizens to be effectively imprisoned inside the UK until their baby has been suffocated to death. Like Charlie Gard's family, their international travel and supplemental health care would have cost British taxpayers nothing, yet the Evans are being denied basic freedom of movement and the right to try -- albeit against heavy odds -- to save their child's life. If Alfie were healthy, his parents would be entirely free to fly him to Disneyworld, or anywhere else. But he's sick, so they're barred from taking him to another country to explore alternative treatments? It's unfathomably capricious and cruel. Their supporters have grown increasingly desperate and furious, as one might imagine. As a result of "abusive" and "threatening" rhetoric on the internet, the police are getting involved:
We've issued a statement this evening to make people aware that social media posts which are being posted in relation to Alder Hey and the Alfie Evans situation are being monitored and may be acted upon. Read the full statement here: https://t.co/epopt5bhmY— Merseyside Police (@MerseyPolice) April 25, 2018
"Not only are we going to kill this child, we're going to throw you in jail for complaining about it." https://t.co/iyriy2jeaE— Mark Hemingway (@Heminator) April 25, 2018
I'm not even sure that's much of an exaggeration. Throughout this ordeal, I've struggled to grasp why a government would be so hard-hearted and so hostile to the wishes of a despairing family. Allahpundit offers a chilling theory that I fear is more or less correct: "The only conceivable reason the UK would refuse to let him go is because they’re terrified that he really might be successfully treated. If they’re wrong on a question of life and death that’s now being scrutinized internationally, no one would ever trust an NHS end-of-life assessment again. Letting him go would require the British health-care and judicial systems to do the one thing bureaucracies bristle at doing, knowing how it undermines their institutional authority: They’d have to admit they were wrong. They can’t do it." Sickening. Incidentally, if this were a government minister's child, or one of the celebrated Royal Babies, does a single person alive doubt that every single effort would be exhausted on behalf of those families? Oh well. Sorry, ordinary people, the government controls how and where your child must die. You have no say in the matter, and you must comply.
(2) We've already shared the story of a 78-year-old man who was arrested for murder after he stabbed a criminal who was robbing his home. Details: "One of the burglars, who was armed with a screwdriver, forced the homeowner into his kitchen while his accomplice went upstairs. Detectives believe a struggle then took place between "one of the males and the homeowner" and the 38-year-old intruder was stabbed in the upper body." Under pressure and after an outcry, the cops decided not to pursue the matter against him further, even after some supporters built a memorial shrine to the deceased criminal outside the house. But the point stands: Britain has not only disarmed its citizenry of firearms, it is stepping up "knife control" efforts, which is exactly as cartoonishly ridiculous as it sounds. Do Britons still have any meaningful right to self defense? Or is protecting their lives and property -- especially with forbidden tools -- more of a possible ticket to prison than anything else? When The State alone is the Great Protector (except for people like Alfie Evans, of course), all others are conditioned to think twice before doing anything that's "best" left in the hands of the authorities. Even if someone were to die or be raped while being victimized, at least she'd do so in compliance with government edicts. Suffer for queen and country, or else.
(3) Next, there's the case of the British man who's been sent to jail for eight months as punishment for flipping off a traffic camera and using a radar jammer to foil the nanny state's revenue racket:
Top tip: If you want to stay out of trouble, don't do what this driver did and swear at our mobile safety cameras while driving past in a car fitted with a laser jammer. Today he's beginning 8 months in jail for perverting the course of justice. https://t.co/Y5jpeOlt96 pic.twitter.com/rKQRVgNkB1— North Yorkshire Police (@NYorksPolice) April 23, 2018
If you want to stay out of prison, don't "swear at our mobile safety cameras." Giving the bird to an inanimate object representing petty State power is a criminal offense. The word "creepy" doesn't quite suffice here. (4) Also forbidden are wrong thoughts expressed online:
Britain's biggest police force has set up a controversial unit – dubbed as ‘thought police’ by critics last night – to investigate offensive comments from the internet. It will be supported by an army of volunteers trained to seek out anything they deem inappropriate on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter. They will then report it to officers who will attempt to track down the culprits and possibly prosecute them, according to a report seen by The Mail on Sunday. Scotland Yard is spending £1.7 million to set up its Twitter squad, which will have five detectives running it. The establishment of the new unit comes after a surge in reports of racist and sexist abuse on social media, with some trolls jailed for making death threats against MPs. But there have also been high- profile cases where police have been accused of being too heavy-handed in arresting or prosecuting people simply for making jokes.
From the Met Police website. Read it. Then read it again. And again. And again.— Paul Embery (@PaulEmbery) March 16, 2018
You may not have committed a criminal offence. But if we don't like what was in your head, we can still make you a criminal.
This isn't 'hate crime'. This is thought-crime. https://t.co/a1Nt0mviqG pic.twitter.com/xXbNf3UD8Q
Members of Parliament have gotten in on the Orwellian act, too. Finally, (5) there's this mind-bending "hate crime" conviction of a young woman who posted musical lyrics on her private Instagram feed as a tribute to a boy who was killed in an accident:
A teenager who posted rap lyrics which included racist language on Instagram has been found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message. Chelsea Russell, 19, from Liverpool posted the lyric from Snap Dogg's I'm Trippin' to pay tribute to a boy who died in a road crash, a court heard. Russell argued it was not offensive, but was handed a community order. Prosecutors said her sentence was increased from a fine to a community order "as it was a hate crime". She was charged after Merseyside Police were anonymously sent a screenshot of her update...Liverpool Justice Centre, sitting at Sefton Magistrates' Court, heard Russell posted the lyrics to her account after the death of a 13-year-old in a road accident in 2017, the Crown Prosecution Service said. The words Russell used on her account contained a racial label which some people find extremely offensive. The screenshot was passed to hate crime unit PC Dominique Walker, who told the court the term was "grossly offensive" to her as a black woman and to the general community. The Liverpool Echo reported that Russell's defence had argued the usage of the word had changed over time and it had been used by superstar rapper Jay-Z "in front of thousands of people at the Glastonbury Festival."
That defense didn't work. The girl was found guilty of a hate crime -- yes, really -- and received the following sentence: "She was given an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and told to pay costs of £500 and an £85 victim surcharge." The "victim surcharge" formulation almost reads like parody, but I'm afraid the climate of individual freedom in Britain is devolving past the point of parody. As you contemplate my original question, also mull over this parting thought: If you were a family friend or relative of Alfie Evans today, you would be liable to be charged and prosecuted for too "abusively" objecting to his treatment (or lack thereof), or for quoting lyrics in his memory on social media that may be deemed unsuitable by some unaccountable tribunal. Doing either of those things would place you in far graver legal danger than any bureaucrat or magistrate who ordered Mr. and Mrs. Evans to remain in Great Britain until their son has perished, compelling them to forego privately-funded medical opportunities elsewhere. How deeply, astoundingly, enragingly perverse. Free people have a general sense of what freedom looks like, and that isn't it. I'll leave you with this, via a Brit who became a US citizen earlier this year:
Americans.— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) April 24, 2018