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John Laughland

British Totalitarianism


Since my an hour and a half long interrogation at Gatwick Airport last October, there have been a number of developments which only serve to reinforce my initial reaction, which is that Britain and Europe are sliding into totalitarianism.

First, I am not the only political commentator to have been treated in this way. My friend Vanessa Beeley was, as I now learn, also subjected to the same treatment, in 2021, as was Kit Klarenberg of The Gray Zone in May. Both Vanessa and Kit are British, like me, and yet we have been treated under legislation (the 2019 Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act) designed to prevent hostile persons entering British territory. The unspoken implication is that these supposedly hostile actors are not British citizens, whence the fact that the legislation applies only at points of entry into the UK. 

But the fact that the legislation creates a special legal regime which is in force only at borders, where normal rights are suspended, only emphasises the fact that this legislation creates lawlessness – a point I made in my first article on the subject. It would not be possible to seize our computers and detain us in this way anywhere else on British territory. Yet special regimes are the very opposite of the rule of law: as the seminal English constitutionalist, A. V. Dicey, defined it, "We mean [by the rule of law], in the first place, that no man is punishable or can be made to suffer in body or goods except for a distinct breach of law established in the ordinary legal manner before the ordinary courts of the land.” (my emphasis).

Second, the seizure and retention of the material copied from my computer (of which I was deprived for three weeks, even though I depend on it every day for my work) was reviewed by two judges six months after the event. This delay was itself a serious procedural infraction: the police are supposed to apply within seven days, not six months, for the right to keep such material.
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Don Basilio, a Hero for our Times


‘Russian spy among the guest lecturers of a Budapest elite college? ’The question mark at the end of this headline above a recent article in an English-language Hungarian media outlet, Daily News Hungary, is an excellent example of the vigorous dishonesty practiced by journalists around the world, both in major national newspapers, including Dutch ones, as well as in minor media like this Hungarian one. Gideon van Meijeren caught a mendacious Dutch journalist red-handed this week but they are the same all over the world.

The question mark in the headline illustrates the dishonesty. It is nothing but an attempt to say something while denying that you are saying it. Right at the end of the piece, with breathtaking chutzpah, the journalist writes, ‘Of course, all the above written does not support he (Laughland) was ever a Russian spy.’ But of course that is the whole thrust of the text, otherwise the headline would have been ‘Innocent academic wrongly questioned by British police. ’You have to get to the end of the article to read this miserable disclaimer, whereas the intent of the text is to make the reader see the headline (while overlooking the question mark).

Ever since I started working at the Institute of Democracy and Cooperation in 2008, and long before the concept of ‘fake news’ became common (around 2016) I observed the industrial production of fake news at close quarters because it concerned me personally. Whether the journalists contacted me or not, it made no difference: they always wrote the same story - that IDC was a front organisation for the Kremlin. The accusation was always more interesting than the truth, even though the accusation was always identical. In the last 15 years, the so-called ‘news’ has not progressed one jot.
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Europe's Descent into Totalitarianism


On 7 October 2022, late in the evening, at around 11.30 pm, I was detained at Gatwick Airport in London by anti-terrorism police. I was not released until shortly before 1 am and my computer was taken from me. It has not yet been returned.

My passport and all my personal belongings - my wallet, my phone, my keys, everything - were removed. I was taken to a room where I was questioned for an hour by two anti-terrorism police officers, acting under powers given to the police (as I learned for the first time) by Schedule 3 of the 2019 Counter-terrorism and Border Security Act.

The Act is supposedly designed to allow the police to detain ‘hostile actors’ who are travelling to the country to ‘plan, prepare or carry out their hostile acts’ (according to the leaflet the officers gave me). But the Act itself says, ‘An examining officer may exercise the powers under this paragraph whether or not there are grounds for suspecting that a person is or has been engaged in hostile activity’ (my emphasis)[1]. So an Act ostensibly designed to allow hostile actors to be stopped in fact applies indiscriminately to everyone, according to its own explicit terms.
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NATO has Blinked First


It is rare to hear politicians mention God but even rarer to hear them mentioning Satan. Yet the Russian president did both in a solemn speech in the Kremlin on 30 September. He described as ‘pure Satanism’ the ‘anti-religion’ which, he said, now grips the West and which it wants to spread around the world. He in particular mentioned ‘woke’ perversions such as gender reassignment surgery offered to children.

The accusation of Satanism demonstrates the sheer level of anger in Moscow. Putin’s speech was a resounding declaration to the West that relations with Russia are now over. This comes from the mouth of a man who, like his Foreign Minister, has been studiously referring to ‘our European partners’ and ‘our American partners’ for decades. Not any more. Russia wants to end what it sees as Western dictatorship – and the West wants to end what it sees as Russian dictatorship.

The speech was given at the occasion of the annexation of four Ukrainian regions. The annexation represents a severe escalation of the conflict which Russia started six months ago. Like an attack in chess, Russia has, with its invasion, seized the initiative, having been on the back foot since 2014 and during the eight years in which it stood by as Ukrainian forces, with Western backing, tried to re-take the Donbass by force and harassed and killed thousands of their own civilians in the process.

In response to the annexations, Ukraine applied to join NATO. Zelensky, flanked by two officials whom one would not want to meet at night in a dark alley, did a little stunt in front of the cameras in which they supposedly signed an application for rapid NATO accession. Zelensky then later approved a law ruling out negotiations with Russia – a law which binds himself. It was another stunt because obviously such a law can be rescinded or ignored.
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The Americans Did It


In his remarkable book, The Psychology of Totalitarianism, the Flemish psychologist Mathias Desmet explains how collective psychosis can cause people to lose their critical faculties. He cites a famous experiment in which a person can be made to say that one line on a diagram is the same length as another, when in fact it is longer, if seven or eight actors have pretended to come to the same conclusion before him.

Desmet is writing mainly about the coercive psychosis of Covid. But the same arguments apply to the current collective psychosis about Russia. For years and decades now, we have been fed horror stories about Russia. These have of course only increased in intensity since the invasion of Ukraine. We have now reached a situation in which entire sections of the media, and their respective national governments, claim to believe things which are simply impossible.

The latest example is the apparent sabotage of the Nord Stream gas pipelines. Russia has been immediately blamed but the accusation is not credible, for the following reasons. I defy any person endowed with normal critical faculties to show the opposite.
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Credibility of European Court of Human Rights lies in ruins after judges’ links to Soros revealed


A study by the European Center for Law and Justice in Strasbourg has revealed several conflicts of interest between judges at the European Court of Human Rights and NGOs funded by George Soros.

The European Center for Law and Justice is an NGO which often appears at the court to campaign on social, family and religion-related issues. I am proud to be listed as a research fellow at the ECLJ but in reality I have written only one article for the center’s website and I receive no salary from it. I had no role in writing the report.

The study has found that, out of the 100 judges who have served on the bench of the European Court of Human Rights in the period 2009-2019, nearly a quarter (22) have strong links to George Soros’ Open Society Foundation or to NGOs like Amnesty International and others which are funded by it. Human Rights Watch, for instance, has received $100 million from the Open Society Foundation since 2010. 

Some of the NGOs receive so much of their budget from Soros that they are in effect wholly owned subsidiaries of his foundation.
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Key Takeaway from Ukraine Peace Talks in Paris is that Zelensky’s Best Friend is Putin


The Paris talks on Ukraine have enabled Putin and Zelensky to meet for the first time. But they have agreed only to kick the can down the road, to agree to disagree, while seeking progress on issues other than the war in Donbass.

It would be difficult to exaggerate the weakness of Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s position. He is a political novice facing perhaps the most experienced and formidable statesman in the world. Although an intelligent man, the former TV comedian says he likes to do things quickly. 

Russian President Vladimir Putin, by contrast, is known for his extreme attention to detail and for his propensity to play a very long game.

Putin is not in a rush. Zelensky is, because time is not on Ukraine’s side. The country has avoided default by a whisker only by negotiating a new IMF loan to pay off the old one taken out five years ago and due for repayment this year. 

The gas pipeline Nord Stream 2 is about to be completed, partly sidelining Ukraine as a transit country for European gas, thereby reducing both its political clout in Europe and, crucially, its revenue from transit fees. Zelensnky needs a new agreement with Gazprom by the end of this year, i.e. in the next three weeks. It is not yet in the bag.
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Attempt to Prosecute Assad at ICC is Aimed at Undermining Syrian Peace Process


The announcement that “a group of Syrian refugees and their London lawyers” have found “a neat legal trick” to press for an indictment against Syrian President Bashar Assad by the International Criminal Court demonstrates, yet again, the dangerous corruption of international justice, against which I have been warning for over a decade.

The Syrian war is nearly over, thanks to the military successes of the Syrian army and its Russian and Iranian allies. Exhaustion on both sides has probably helped. Diplomatic overtures have started to re-integrate Syria into the international system, starting at the regional level: the United Arab Emirates have re-opened their embassy in Damascus; the Sudanese president, Assad's near namesake, Omar Al-Bashir, has visited Syria, as have senior Egyptian officials; Syrian officials have attended pan-Arab summits; even Israel is maintaining its dialogue with Russia over Syria. In short, the situation is being slowly normalised as Syria herself embarks on the painful search for internal peace.

The attempt to get Assad prosecuted is an attempt to stamp out these seedlings of peace before they take root. Any prosecution against Assad would scupper, or at least severely damage, this slow acceptance that the Syrian president is part of the solution. When even the British government has accepted that Assad is here to stay, and that peace must be made with him, his implacable enemies fear that their prize is about to slip out of their grasp. They do not want peace, if that means keeping Assad.
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‘Moral disgrace’: EU Parliament lectures world on rule of law, then destroys legality in Venezuela


It’s a moral disgrace when the EU Parliament, which lectures the world on the need to respect the rule of law, uses legal language to tell lies about the legality of the situation in Venezuela, and to destroy that legality.

Exciting news from France: Marine le Pen is the country’s new president. After the Macron regime plunged the country into political crisis, Mrs Le Pen took the oath of office on Place de la Concorde on Friday before a small crowd of gilets jaunes (yellow vests) specially assembled – with the TV cameras – for the occasion.

Proclaiming that she was acting according to Article 7 of the Constitution of the 5th Republic, Mrs Le Pen announced that Emmanuel Macron is no longer in office. To be sure, the government and civil service, the police and the armed forces all continue to operate normally, and Mr Macron continues to work in the Elysée Palace as usual, while Mrs Le Pen is under investigation for financial irregularities. But as she has received official recognition from both Russia and China, she has now become the legitimate president of France.

Of course, this fictitious scenario is ridiculous. But it is no more ridiculous than the recognition of Juan Guaido as president of Venezuela, voted by the European Parliament on January 31, one week after the recognition of him by US President Donald Trump.
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