Wednesday, 1 December 2021

Formal complaint regarding the politically motivated cancellation of an event at Totnes Civic Hall on 20/11/21.

Or: What Did You Think Totalitarianism Would Look Like?

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience. They may be more likely to go to Heaven yet at the same time likelier to make a Hell of earth. This very kindness stings with intolerable insult.”

~ CS Lewis


My complaint is founded on the timeless and time-honoured principles of freedom of association and of speech.

My charge is that the decision to cancel the Totnes Civic Hall Booking on 20/11/2021 amounts to social control through ideological curation of how Totnesians use our hall. This decision has exacerbated divisions in our community and resulted directly in the widespread slander across social media and local press of a large subsection of Townsfolk, many of whom are already denied access and therefore a voice on the social media on which they are now openly defamed and misrepresented. 

These innocent people of Totnes - to whom the hall was gifted - are paying the price for this dreadful decision. Not just in the loss of the use of their hall, but in the outrageous smearing of their reputation, en masse. Through the trust's actions, a large group of Totnesians (I believe around 250 tickets were sold) has been spuriously associated with every far-right/ fascist/ anti-semitic/ anti-vax/ anti-science/ QAnon trope going. The ill will, division and actual harm caused by such slurs is truly immeasurable. Even those of us who had no interest in the event but simply believe in the basic principles of a free society are now roundly smeared just for standing up and saying so. This is both tragic and genuinely dangerous.

It amounts to politically motivated slander, based on tenuous arguments by association, on a large scale, by a public body, against a subsection of the group the body exists to represent.

The Totnes Times' sad and rapid descent into the gutter - marked by the repeated slurring of conscientious and rational citizens with the utterly inaccurate, vicious and highly charged taunt 'anti-vaxxer' - is a clear example of how the trust's actions have directly contributed to the decline in respectful dialogue and community cohesion. The immeasurable harm to our community caused by the spread of such blatant misinformation and slander is caused in a moment, yet may not be remedied in a lifetime.

Councillors have claimed this was done under pressure from disruptive and potentially violent actors who appear to have successfully smeared the event while themselves threatening to disturb the peace. This is an abject moral failure. Is it now the case that anyone can approach councillors seeking to discredit a speaker at an event, threaten violent protest and have an event cancelled?

The oft-repeated suggestion that this decision does not amount to censorship because the meeting could have taken place somewhere else is a ludicrous argument. "Yes, we're burning your books, but it's not censorship, because you can always print more" is no defence. This was clear suppression of free speech and association.

Let me be clear that I do not support speech that is unlawful, and would urge councillors to report any such speech of which they are aware to the relevant authorities. Councillors have repeatedly tried to inform me about the wrongthink of some speaker or other but then repeatedly failed to answer the question: has a crime been committed? The failure to respond to this simple and pertinent question is answer enough.

There is a very well established political movement underway to blur the lines between speech that is unlawful and that which is considered distasteful, abhorrent, hateful, 'unscientific' or 'dangerous' in some way by someone, somewhere.

This political movement attacks the very foundation of our natural born rights as free people and has no moral, ethical or lawful basis. It is, quite simply, evil. Society cannot progress through approved groupthink, just as science cannot progress through consensus. If dogma is all we are permitted to think, and new thoughts are criminalised, there can be no learning, progress and growth. Such a drive threatens the end of civilisation and the beginning of totalitarianism.

Several councillors have suggested that the majority vote to ban the event lends the ban some kind of moral standing. On the contrary, all it suggests to the principled observer is that the majority of councillors are either unprincipled or ignorant of the principle at stake. Groupthink is a scourge in modern politics and society and I applaud wholeheartedly the one councillor who voted with their conscience.

It has also been suggested that community support for the decision lends it ethical credibility. In reality, the briefest glimpse into history demonstrates that totalitarian thinking is often widely applauded by the majority, who are largely ignorant of the underlying principles and monumental risks as well as being easily spooked by boogiemen they do not understand. How ironic it is that the slur 'anti-semite' is now used to silence and discriminate against a vilified minority.

It has been exceedingly frustrating to try and uncover the reasoning behind the decision. Most councillors have ignored my communication completely, while others have abused me and suggested that my argument is in some way tainted by what others have said on obscure internet forums. How ridiculous.

Councillors repeatedly avoided direct questions, such as: were the organisers or ticket holders consulted on a decision which affected them so directly and which was based on charges made against them? I suspected the answer was no and so it eventually proved: it was a kangaroo court in which only the case for the prosecution was heard. This in itself is disgraceful and the fact that I had to ask this question again and again before receiving a straight answer shows how shameful councillors knew this fact to be.

I was falsely informed by several councillors that both the National Association of Local Councils and the police had advised the cancellation. This repeated claim was a lie, plain and simple - intended to lend legitimacy to the decision. The reality is that the police did not give advice on the decision, but merely commented on it informally after it had been made. My search for answers was also deliberately misdirected and confused by one councillor's false implication that the trust consisted of different people to the council.

As far as I have been able to ascertain, the case for the cancellation as expressed privately was to do with historical revisionism and political views described as 'far right', while in public the Mayor seemed to think it was more to do with alleged scientific 'misinformation'. Either way, the cancellation of this event is, in my view, a terrifying example of 'far left' politics at work, as is the suggestion that the potential of protests against the event made the event itself untenable - a motive for cancellation which councillors have widely hinted at but been extremely reticent to confirm, perhaps sensing how completely outrageous this idea is and how terribly it reflects on their political posturing regarding which side of this debate is considered 'dangerous'. This despite what appeared to many to be active encouragement of violent counter-protest against the recent demonstration in the local press by the Mayor.

The Mayor also appears to have taken up leader writing duties at the Totnes Times of late - where he has pontificated about what freedom of speech is not. What's far less clear is what he and the other councillors think freedom of speech is. If it means speech that is approved by the trust then the principle is robbed of any meaning whatsoever.

There has also been a vague suggestion that, because the event was likely to attract people who are sceptical of the necessity and effectiveness of public health measures such as medical masks and 'social distancing', the council had a duty to step in and protect these people, essentially, from themselves. This suggestion demonstrates both a profound ignorance of science and a completely misguided and dangerous overreach by the trust. It is not the trust's job to protect people from speech or from airborne disease. Both of these are the responsibility of the individual. For the trust to seek to control and limit people's behaviour in this way is profoundly wrong and deeply concerning.

There is no need for me to engage with the various claims made about the speakers at the event or their associations. It is all completely irrelevant and makes not an inkling of difference to the principle at stake. As I've made clear: If councillors are aware a crime has been committed, it is their civic duty to report it. It is, however, very far from their duty to prohibit the free association and speech of law-abiding citizens or to ban events based on 'precrime' predictions.

That is a moral crime and the basis of my complaint.

There are only two morally coherent options: Either a crime has been committed by one of the speakers, which would be a matter for the courts, not councillors, to judge, and which would have no bearing on the hire of a venue - or no crime has been committed, which, equally, could have no bearing on the hire of a venue.

Anything else is pure discrimination.

It is completely inappropriate and unethical for councillors to abuse their power by seeking, effectively, to collectively penalise those who have not been tried. Even if speakers had been tried, it would be utterly unethical for the trust to punish them further. Councillors do not legitimately have the power to judge and punish Totnes citizens (or anyone else) based on someone once saying something they didn't like. The idea is preposterous in a civil society and a complete abuse of the trust placed in councillors by free citizens.

The councillors are not the arbiters of good taste, truth and (certainly not) reason for the people of Totnes. We are free to choose what to say and what to believe. The council have stepped over a line and from my communications with some of them, they seem either utterly oblivious to, or to actually revel in this fact.

Councillors have repeatedly suggested that I am 'in bed' with the wrong crowd. This is just silly. I am simply a man who believes in the principles on which our civilisation is built. How tragic it is that this appears to be an unfamiliar phenomenon to the councillors.

I was even told by one councillor that the response against the event was 'huge', whereas the concerns of the event attendees were 'niche'. Two petitions were set up - one against the event which garnered 140 or so signatures, and one for the free use of the hall as it was intended, which is approaching 1000. This is a matter of principle and not a popularity contest - but one has to wonder why a councillor would choose to invert the reality of the situation so completely.

To explain why I believe this to be a profoundly political decision, it is necessary to provide some context.

Politics has transformed beyond recognition in the COVID era. Nationally and locally, established parties have put aside their differences to align with a new narrative. A highly contentious drive is underway, variously referred to as globalist, technocratic or communitarian, which embraces and promotes such ideas as the fourth industrial revolution, the 'great' reset, the green new deal, and rule by officially recognised 'science'. This global drive enjoys the backing of the wealthiest individuals and institutions on the planet, who are able to unleash untold resources in its marketing and promotion.

Many ordinary people around the world have profound concerns about the legitimacy and potential consequences of this unaccountable and uninvited project, which they fear could lead to the first global totalitarian governance system - as many of its key ingredients, including central bank digital currencies, the 'internet of things' and global public-private partnerships have the potential to almost completely eliminate individual freedom of choice. The alignment of state and corporate interests that is underway draws comparison with fascism, while the globalist and utopian vision of 'rule by the experts' echoes the empty promise of communism. Observant people also note that the completely gratuitous hysteria over COVID, along with the plethora of unusual, harm and scientifically dubious 'health measures' enacted in its wake are intimately related in a great many ways to this unprecedented movement of power and resources into the hands of the ultra-wealthy. All of these observations are grounded in undeniable evidence and cannot be dismissed as conspiracy 'theories'. 

As independent journalist James Corbett puts it, " Although, perhaps, a mere extension of the age-old quest for domination that has motivated every would-be tyrant throughout history, this iteration of the dream - fuelled as it is by technologies that even Orwell could never have dreamed of - represents the greatest peril that the human species has ever faced."

I believe it is these profoundly concerning wider political developments which are the primary and pressing concern of the Totnesians so sneeringly and inaccurately dismissed as 'anti-vaxxers' and worse. And - if their analysis of current events is half accurate - they represent the sole local resistance to this totalitarian agenda.

From this perspective - the one deliberately ignored by councillors - the cancellation of this event can be seen as a move to suppress and stifle popular opposition to the schemes of power-crazed billionaires who seek to entice and bully us into the totalitarian future they envisage. Suppression of dissent is exactly what one would expect from the foot soldiers of a totalitarian regime - albeit (for now) of the less overt but more insidious kind described so brilliantly by CS Lewis in the quote above.  

This decision, the ignorance and prejudice on which it is founded, the disregard of the harm it has caused and the complete lack of repentance shown by councillors are a complete disgrace to our town. 


  1. Absolutely, totally agree and thank you for taking the time to engage and communicate this so well.

  2. The council have absolutely nothing to apologise for. If their decision was wrong - then so be it. All authorities can be wise after the event.
    The statement that the “known interests and connections” have no relevance is ridiculous. Some of these connections -( including through family members) have been proven to be nonsense.

    The point that the meeting could have led to trouble or unrest is not proven in that particular building - but has been the case in other locations.

    1. I'm not sure you've understood my argument, but thanks for the feedback.