Category Archives: Comment

Censorship in the Identity Era

In these unpredictable political times, one thing is certain: there isn’t any campaign (even the US presidential election) that can’t be hijacked and trampled by identity politics. As I wrote previously, identity politics is the vehicle via which the privileged middle-classes make everything about themselves. And so inevitably, and depressingly, every important issue gets quickly taken over and turned into an identity issue. If the issue isn’t actually sexist, homophobic, racist, or whatever, never fear: they’ll say it is anyway.

So of course, no sooner does the government announce that it will giving the BBFC the power to block websites (a power virtually unheard of in democratic countries), than identitarians are elbowing their way to the front of the victim queue, determined to make it all about them.

A particularly bad example of this is floating around social media – an article in Dazed by Jake Hall, entitled Why the UK’s new laws could destroy queer & female-led porn. The premise is basic nonsense – there is nothing in the new laws that could justify this claim. In fact, there is no evidence given in the article that this is true either, other than a couple of vague quotes that support the headline. In an attempt to nip this sort of stuff in the bud (I failed), I wrote a piece a while back to explain why the BBFC’s rules aren’t sexist – they’re much worse than that.

Furthermore, Hall’s article is literally riddled with inaccuracies and confusion. The very first sentence repeats an old myth: “According to recent figures, the global porn industry is currently worth around $97billion.” This is a claim I cover in my book Porn Panic!, and is one that was fabricated some time ago, and is regularly used by by anti-porn campaigners. Hall doubles down on his mistake by sourcing his claim to fightthenewdrug.org, a notorious anti-porn site with religious links.

Hall also states that “[t]hese acts are yet to be officially defined” – this isn’t true – the BBFC guidelines for porn have been in place for years. He goes on to repeat more anti-porn myths, such as “Anybody with any experience of porn knows that a vast majority of it depicts muscular men and petite, shaven women” (well, at least we know what Jake likes to watch); and that old favourite of anti-porn activists, stating that it is… “true that our porn use does need to be monitored – there’s a lucrative market for child and non-consensual pornography growing daily” (Really Jake? Please provide some statistics to back that – preferably ones that don’t come from a religious anti-porn site).

So under the guise of being all nice and inclusive to “oppressed” identity groups, Hall ends up apparently supporting the worst aspect of the new censorship laws, age verification, under which millions of sites containing sexual imagery may be blocked under the bogus excuse of “protecting children”.

Although the new left likes to imagine that it challenges the “status quo”, it has failed to notice that is has become the status quo. Much of today’s censorship regime is crafted by the left’s identity-and-diversity obsession, rather than by the Tory establishment of old. Today’s censorship organisations have diversity built it to their very cores. Every body that makes censorship decisions today – especially Ofcom, the UK’s super-censor – has been created for an era of identity politics, and are impeccable in their meeting of diversity targets.

And many of the censorship rules imposed by Ofcom and the BBFC are specifically targeted at protecting women and minorities from “offensive” language. The BBFC guidelines state:

Potentially offensive content relating to matters such as race, gender, religion, disability or sexuality may arise in a wide range of works, and the classification decision will take account of the strength or impact of their inclusion. The context in which such content may appear also has a bearing. Works with such content may receive a lower category where discriminatory language and behaviour is implicitly or explicitly criticised; or the work as a whole seeks to challenge such attitudes”

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

The reality of the new laws is that a massive censorship regime is under construction to increase the state’s control over free expression; not in order to oppress women and minorities, but partly under the pretext of protecting them. Tragically, the great equality battles of the 1960s have been turned into yet another excuse for state control and middle-class bullying.

My book Porn Panic! details the rise of the authoritarian new left and its determination to censor everything.

Support my fight against censorship
- become a Patron

Jeremy Hunt’s Curious Sexting Ban

(This article first appeared in the i newspaper under the title “A proposed ban on teen sexting is just another excuse to spy on our phones”)

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

Taken in isolation, Jeremy Hunt’s suggestion that teenage “sexting” should be banned might seem like one of those quaintly out-of-touch things that fuddy-duddy Tory ministers tend to say. After all, a generation of teens have had access to camera phones and smartphones, and have (unsurprisingly) used them to share photos and videos of their naughty bits. And teens were the first adopters of SMS 20 years ago, and (also unsurprisingly) used the technology to send each other dirty messages. Hunt’s target group, everybody under 18, is an odd suggestion, given the age of consent is 16.

And then, when you take a moment to consider how such a ban could be implemented, you realise just how ludicrous the suggestion is. Does Hunt seriously think that mobile phone networks, WhatsApp, Apple, Facebook, Gmail and a plethora of other platforms should all install technology to ensure that under-18s don’t send each other sexual content? And if they do, then what happens when they catch a repeat offender? Do the morality police arrest them, and perhaps take them away for a programme of modesty and decency training?

But although the temptation is to gently mock politicians who say such silly things, such outbursts should be taken seriously, especially in the current authoritarian climate. As I outline in my book Porn Panic!, sex is regularly used as an excuse to justify attacks on both privacy and free speech (terrorism being another favoured excuse). The Snoopers’ Charter represents the greatest attack on online privacy in any democratic country, ever. And the recent announcement that porn sites are to be blocked is also unprecedented in a “free” country. Britain is trying its best to become China.

If you’ve been paying attention for the past few years, you’ll have seen multiple government attempts to spy on, or block, Internet communications, using a variety of excuses. Perhaps the first example came during the 2011 riots, when the government and police blamed services like Blackberry Messenger and Facebook. Then in early 2015, in the wake of terrorist attacks in Paris, David Cameron threatened to block encrypted services like WhatsApp and iMessage. Twitter, a popular platform for free speech, regularly comes under attack by assorted moralists and control-freaks for not censoring its users enough. So far, these companies have – to their credit – largely resisted UK government attempts at intrusion, and even strengthened their encryption. They are mostly US-based, and protected by the US Constitution. This infuriates the UK authorities.

To implement Jeremy Hunt’s apparently simple anti-sexting proposal would require wide-scale automated spying using intelligent text-recognition and image-recognition technology. Such technology would, of course, be able to spot a far broader range of thoughtcrime than sexting. And once in place, of course mission creep would set in. Why not use it to identify drug users, tax evaders, or racists?

Some would argue that this is desirable: after all, if you’ve done nothing wrong, you have nothing to hide, right? But if we are to introduce automated policing of speech and behaviour, and erode our right to privacy on this scale, we need a serious discussion in Parliament and beyond. Instead, our rights to privacy and free speech are being eroded step-by-step, in a series of small, quiet nudges.

In The Press

It’s been a busy week for me, following the (totally unsurprising) announcement that the BBFC will be getting the power to block websites that breach its own rules. Or to put it another way, a private organisation is going to be writing its own law and applying its own punishments without oversight from Parliament or the courts.

Below are some press links from the Guardian, Huffington Post and the Independent. These are article I’ve written or in which I’ve been quoted. I’ve also been on the radio, and have made a video on this subject.

Support Sex & Censorship:
Buy Porn Panic! - The Book

 

Donald Trump, the Identity Candidate

Watching the past four years unfold in western politics has been like watching a train wreck in ultra-slow motion. It’s been painfully obvious where all this is leading, and equally painful that the people who created the wreck were – and still are – utterly oblivious to what they were doing. President Donald Trump (and Brexit, come to that) could have been avoided, in theory.

I fully woke up to the sickness on the political left in 2012. My awakening had been coming for many years – I can look all the way back to the 1980s, and see the sickness there – the signs were there for all to see; but as the working class gradually abandoned the left, so the left gradually abandoned the working class. As progressive class politics died, regressive identity politics filled the void.

I’ve witnessed so many signs of this growing problem. I vividly remember one moment: a huge anti-Apartheid march and rally in Hyde Park, circa 1989. This was a moment in British history when, for the first time, gay men could openly hold hands and kiss in public. It was a warm summer day; I was sitting on the grass with my young son. And nearby, a gay man was viciously assaulted by a young black man for daring to kiss his partner in public. Marchers were confused; surely blacks and gays are both oppressed groups? Why would they turn against each other, at an anti-Apartheid rally of all places? Perhaps the black man had been programmed by the white supremacist state to hate other minorities? Here was the white, middle-class identity-obsessed left in action, unable to see the simple truth: a bigot (colour irrelevant) had assaulted a man for being gay. They couldn’t see the black man as aggressor, because they could only understand black people in one role: victim. They couldn’t see that a black bigot is every bit as responsible for his actions as a white bigot. They couldn’t deal with the bigot, because he was black. They couldn’t see beyond skin colour. Here was an early sign of something that is today rampant: left-wing racism.

But 2012 seems to be a particular turning point. At that moment, it became generally acceptable – for the first time in generations – to openly express bigotry. New, racist ideas suddenly became fashionable: among the most dangerous was that black people were incapable of being racist: only whites were afforded this right. Although I’d been involved in the anti-racism movement since 1979, I had never before heard such a divisive idea. Racial bigotry had never been tolerated on the left, by anyone, or towards anyone. And yet now, for the first time, the left was creating a racial hierarchy, and assigning different rules of behaviour to different people based on nothing more than their skin colour. The most fundamental value of the civil rights era, racial equality, was under sustained assault by white, middle-class people masquerading as liberals.

Although this superficially looked like an attack on white people, it wasn’t. It was an assault on that most hated of all groups: the working class. The mostly white, middle-class new left – which had long ago been rooted in the industrial labour movement – had declared class war. Even the anti-racism movement joined the fight against the working class. I had been heavily involved in countering the anti-Islamic propaganda of the English Defence League, but I became uneasy with the people who I thought were on my side. As I recount in my book, Porn Panic!

[Many] EDL supporters apparently joined simply for a social life. Coaches were chartered from working-class towns and estates to take supporters to each protest. Thanks to the wonder of Twitter, one could see them on their way to demonstrations, boasting about how many cans of beer they were bringing, how many lines of mephedrone or cocaine they had consumed on the way. Here were young, white, working-class people finding a rare opportunity to assemble and feel pride in their own beleaguered identities: hatred of the white working-class is, after all, the last acceptable prejudice. And online, I began to feel uneasy about my own Twitter followers. I saw middle-class student leftists mocking working-class people for their poor spelling rather than their racist views, telling them they were scum; those EDL supporters who tried to explain why they were uneasy about immigration were told they were racists, and blocked. Many of those I spoke to were clearly not racists, though they had absorbed lies about Muslims that needed to be countered. How were we to defuse the EDL if we refused to speak to them?

Twin narratives – feminism and black nationalism – declared identity war, and the left became apologists for an outpouring of bigotry from these two groups. For feminists, “patriarchy” (i.e. men) was to blame for everything. For black nationalists, “white supremacy” (i.e. white people) was the cause of all evil. In practise, the two narratives borrowed heavily from each other. Feminists would silence men by accusing them of “mansplaining”; and then black racists would attack people for “whitesplaining”. Ultimately, the identity fascists united around a belief that white men were the greatest evil in the universe – and their class bigotry was hidden beneath this veil.

The left became obsessed with the idea that sexism and racism were everywhere, based on the flimsiest of evidence. Racism was found where none existed: Twitter storms raged over imaginary problems, such as the alleged under-representation of black people in the 2016 Oscars (actually, it turned out that black people were slightly over-represented, but screaming had taken over from fact).

A growing, once united movement against police brutality was suddenly hijacked by identity fascists, and became Black Lives Matter; and yet, 76% of police shooting victims were not black. Police brutality affected poor white men as well as poor blacks, but an opportunity to create common cause was lost. In this Kafkaesque nightmare, to suggest that All Lives might Matter became “racist”. And so the anti-racists had become the racists.

Many liberal black commentators tried to speak out against the rising black racism, but were screamed down. Racist language was deployed against black people who refused to accept their victimhood. They were told they were not “pro-black”, or that they were “self-hating”, or (in the UK) they were labelled “coconuts” (an old term of black-on-black abuse, suggesting they are white people in black skin). Morgan Freeman suggested that the way to end racism was to stop talking about it, upsetting those who were revelling in their self-declared oppression. Whoopi Goldberg mocked the “cultural appropriation” idea, again to derision from black people who were using the idea to attack white people for their musical or clothing tastes. And when the actress Raven Symoné decided she no longer wanted to be labelled as African American, she was again attacked by bullies who refused her right to self-determination. Black self-pity was increasingly mocked by black people (such as in this amusing video by the rapper Doc Brown); but identity fascists missed all this, because it didn’t match their deep belief that people are mostly defined by their race or gender. Like all authoritarian movements in history, they rejected individuality for group identity.

And meanwhile, rage grew among some of America’s poorest people, who (in the new left narrative) were dismissed as privileged and entitled, on account of being white. There can be few sights more vile than a wealthy person attacking a poor person for their “privilege”, but this was now becoming normal.

And nobody understood all this better than Donald Trump. His racist and sexist remarks were designed to mock an identity narrative that was (for good reason) becoming widely hated beyond the liberal echo chamber. His “pussy grab” comment was ugly and childish, but the hysterical response to it was laughable, and only bolstered his position. Liberals assumed that no woman would vote for someone who talked in this way, which only underscored how completely out of touch liberals had become. Many women did vote for him, because women didn’t see themselves as the downtrodden victims of patriarchy that feminists had declared them to be. Many Hispanics voted for him, because (to the surprise of identity fascists) people are defined by more than their race and colour. Even a good number of black people voted for him, perhaps sick of being told how black people should behave. And many working class white Democrats who once voted for Barack Obama now voted for Trump. Predictably, liberals are accusing these people of racism or sexism, only underscoring how out of touch they are with reality, and helping to demonstrate why Donald Trump won.

Rather than sit back and wonder why voters didn’t behave as they were told, identity zealots have doubled down, deciding that the Trump victory proves that everybody is sexist and racist. A particularly silly post in (supposedly liberal) Slate attacks white women for betraying “the sisterhood”; demonstration, if any, of the left’s loss of class consciousness.

Trump is a deeply dangerous man, and not because he’s racist or sexist. He is dangerous because he intends to attack free trade and disrupt the world order. He is dangerous because he denies climate change, because he will empower dictators in Russia, China, and other countries. He is dangerous because he will undermine the global shift towards democracy and international law. His election unleashes a new era of nationalism that ends the globalist era of the past four decades.

I warned in a post in June that identity politics was fuelling fascism. We learned the truth of that with Trump’s election, and will continue to learn it as fascists triumph in Europe in the coming years. This will continue until the left rids itself of identity politics and nationalism, and once again learns the lesson of the liberal movements of the 1960s: to treat people as equals, irrespective of race, colour, gender or sexuality.

My book Porn Panic! is available from Amazon and all good bookshops

(Image By Transition 2017)

Porn Panic! Reviewed at Spiked Online and Elsewhere

Porn Panic! – my book on sex, censorship and fascism – has been on sale for two months, and is receiving strong reviews. You can support my campaign against censorship by buying a copy, and spreading the word to your social networks. In fact, since Christmas is almost upon us, why not buy copies for your politically-minded friends and family?

Below are three recent reviews of the book.

1. Spiked Online

The latest review was written by Helene Guldberg for Spiked Online:

Barnett recognises that to defend free speech we need to wholeheartedly defend the right of those with whom we disagree to say and think whatever they want. We have the right and capacity to challenge or ignore them, as we see fit. ‘Only a true elitist could try to dictate which ideas other people have access to, rather than join the debate and win by force of reason’, he writes. The most shocking aspect of the new forms of censorship for Barnett was the near silence on this issue from so-called liberals. ‘I found many apparently liberal people were only opposed to censorship of things they enjoyed, but would not extend that principle to things they disapproved of.’

You can read her full review at Spiked

2. Emmeline Peaches

Porn Panic! was also recently reviewed by Emmeline Peaches, a sex blogger, feminist, and social and cultural historian. While she finds areas of disagreement, she concludes:

Porn Panic! is an indisputably addictive read and I loved every minute of it. Porn Panic!isn’t just a book—it’s a call to arms (or activism) for anyone who is truly passionate about the adult industry or our freedom as a nation.

As soon as I was done reading Porn Panic! I couldn’t help but recommend it to others, I want everyone I know to read this book and I want to discuss it with them and hear their own thoughts and opinions. For a book that rails against our culture’s current attempts to keep sex and pornography hush-hush I cannot think of more appropriate nor higher praise than that.

Read her review in full at Emmeline’s site

3. Jay Blevins of Awen Therapy

Jay Blevins is a sex-positive therapist who deals with a wide range of issues including: depression, anxiety, marital and relationship issues, personality disorders, low self esteem, stage of life issues, compulsive behaviors, divorce, parenting and co-parenting issues, physical and sexual abuse, trauma and with  alternative lifestyle clients and issues including transitioning transexuals, coming out, polyamory, fetishes, kink and bdsm.

I’m grateful that he took time out to read and review Porn Panic! He writes:

Barnett’s book is in some ways a brutal, but thought-provoking, read. While much of the focus of the book is on efforts to censor porn, the best part of the book is how Barnett looks at the historical perspectives on porn while it deftly intertwines critical analysis of those perspectives. And when I say brutal, I mean Barnett pulls no punches. He clearly shows how the ongoing battle against porn is fueled by emotion, moral judgment, and religion as opposed to research, evidence and logical, rational thought…

I doubt this book will do much to change the hearts and minds of the most strident anti-porn crusaders. However, for anyone open to critically thinking about the issue, this book is fantastic. It is thorough, thoughtful, and easy to read. Both porn and censorship are important topics of great relevance. I encourage everyone to read this book!

Read the full review at Jay’s website

Interview with Polyamory.org.uk

I was interviewed for polyamory.org.uk about my book Porn Panic!, fascism, censorship and anti-sex morality:

“As part of Polyamory UK’s support of freedom or speech, sexual expression, and anti-censorship principles today I am speaking with veteran activist Jerry Barnett from the Sex & Censorship group.

To begin the interview I would like to ask you what your definition of pornography is?

I think porn is simply erotica that people are uncomfortable with. And since that applies to all erotica, then porn and erotica are basically the same thing. As the quote goes: “What I like is erotica. What you like is porn.”

In reading the opening of your book, it’s interesting how you frame the current situation over free speech, censorship, and pornography within a historical framework. You see the main groups attacking pornography as being on the left now, is that correct?

Yes, the worst attacks on porn (and all free expression for that matter) today are on the left, whereas that wasn’t always the case. My book looks at fascism in a historical context. The fascism of the 1930s was right-wing in nature. Today’s fascists are on both wings of politics….”

Read more at polyamory.org.uk

When Feminism and Science Collide

Among the signals of fascism is a deep anti-intellectualism; and in particular, a backlash against scientific reason. So one of the most frightening twists in modern politics is a rising anti-science trend in discourse. Even more worrying is that, over the past half-century, this anti-science trend has firmly established itself in parts of academia, the mass media, and in politics. While the political left was once wed to progress and to the science revolution, now it is the left that has turned most strongly against science.

In this extract from my book Porn Panic!, I look at one of the most popular and dangerous attacks on science of all: the idea, popular among feminists since the 1960s, that behavioural differences between men and women are primarily due to recent social developments rather than ancient biological ones.

***

“To understand why porn viewing might be linked to a decline in sexual violence, it is worth visiting some simple questions about sex itself. Sex is such a deeply politicised subject that, despite the fact one can find ‘expert’ comment everywhere, few people understand the most basic aspects of our sexual behaviours. Sex has always been a subject where the science clashes with deeply-held feelings, and so the science of sex regularly comes under attack for reasons of superstition and dogma. The rapid recent decline of religion has (unfortunately) not been matched by a rise in scientific literacy. New, God-free myths about sex have been created to replace the old religious ones.

This was perfectly illustrated when I participated in a 2015 porn debate at Cambridge Union. Three comments from participants summed up the current mythology surrounding sex, even among those presenting themselves as experts. A student speaking from the floor demanded I apologise for claiming a correlation between porn viewing and a decline in rape; then, an anti-porn speaker pointed out that the vast majority of rapes are committed by men, and presented this as evidence of insidious patriarchal influences; and finally, a pro-porn feminist speaker declared that the world could never be equal until women watched as much porn as men.

All three statements are based on the same popular myth: that differences in sexual behaviour between men and women are entirely social rather than biological in origin, and can therefore be ‘fixed’ – in much the same way that the American religious right declares homosexuality to be a choice, and therefore curable. Just as religious zealots cannot imagine a God who would create homosexuals, so certain feminists cannot tolerate a Mother Nature who would make men and women in any way different from each other.

The demand that I apologise for mentioning the reverse correlation between rape and porn was not issued on the basis that my information was inaccurate. My crime was far more serious than one of merely getting my facts wrong: I had blasphemed. It has become an article of feminist faith that ‘rape is about violence, not sex’. The student’s reasoning was correct: if (as she had been taught) rape is primarily motivated by a misogynistic desire to harm women, implanted in young men’s minds by an entrenched system of patriarchal oppression, then porn-aided masturbation should not result in a steep decline in rape. Here was a classic problem: fact clashing with dogma, the unstoppable force meeting the immovable object.

There is, of course, no contradiction between human biology and the classic feminist demand for equal rights. Whether or not men and women are biologically different is irrelevant: equal rights are an ethical construct, not a natural one, and do not depend on people being identical. However, once equal rights had been won in law by the mid-70s, sections of the left set out to go further and demand equal outcomes. This required a belief that significant biological differences between sexes did not exist, which set feminism – or at least some strands of feminism – on the course from political movement to religious one. Now, any scientific research finding differences must, of necessity, be denounced as heresy.”

Porn Panic! is available in paperback and ebook formats. Donors to this campaign will receive a signed copy.

The Great Sex Work Decriminalisation Swindle

As reported here last week, a parliamentary committee issued a report calling for sex work decriminalisation. My own reaction was somewhat sceptical; in contrast, sex worker activists and commentators rejoiced at a “historic victory” which, to me, didn’t seem much like a victory at all. This rejoicing led to deep confusion among observers, many of whom mistakenly believed that Parliament had rejected the “Nordic model”, which criminalises the purchase of sex.

In the intervening days, my scepticism has deepened. The sex work author and researcher Laura Agustín also questioned the report, referring to it as “meaningless”, and writing on Facebook:

“My advice is do not rejoice: This is stage one of making an anti-sex-buying law in which women selling are decriminalised while men buying are criminalised”

I agree: last week’s announcement was not a win for decriminalisation, but simply a deferral of the key decision wrapped in confusing language. And while, yes, the way is still left open for the committee to back decriminalisation, that isn’t what happened last week. Nor, I suspect, will it be the committee’s final verdict.

No decision has yet been made

First of all, the committee (as it made clear) has not reached a decision on whether to follow the New Zealand model (decriminalisation), the Nordic model (criminalise buyers) or some form of legalisation. Since this is the only decision that matters, then nothing of substance has yet happened. All the committee announced was that, whichever decision it eventually makes, it recommends the reform of laws on brothel-keeping and soliciting. But this is just stating the obvious: whether the committee favours New Zealand, Sweden, Germany, or some other model, there will be no point maintaining existing restrictions on brothels. So the lip-service paid to decriminalisation is – as Agustín says – meaningless, and apparently designed to mislead.

“Decriminalisation” has changed meaning

A good way to tell if you’re winning is to watch the reactions of your enemies. If – as sex worker campaigners claim – this is a victory, then prohibitionists will be fuming, right? Except… they aren’t. What the campaigners seem to have missed is that both sides have embraced the language of “decriminalisation”. Here, for example, is Vera Baird QC:

“Regardless of whatever brings women into sex work … I fully back the notion of decriminalising sex workers”

Yet Baird is a staunch prohibitionist. This is politics: when your opponent has succeeded in setting the narrative, steal their narrative. Note the subtle use of “workers” rather than “work”. Similarly, the Christian Tory MP David Burrowes has called for soliciting to be decriminalised. Both Baird and Burrowes went on to call for the Nordic model to be implemented in the UK: which is semantic nonsense, since the Nordic model criminalises sex buyers.

In other words, “decriminalisation” can now either mean decriminalisation, or the exact opposite, depending who uses it.

Why has a meaningless statement been issued?

Given that the interim report means almost nothing until the key decision has been made, the question then arises as to why it was issued at all. I asked activists who were close to the inquiry process, but none seemed able to answer the question. The report was clearly issued to get media attention; if it was intended to confuse and misdirect people, it apparently succeeded.

The political climate is ugly

As I have noted for some years, British liberalism appears to be in decline across the spectrum. This is true on both the political right and left; the liberal centre has shrunk as social conservatives and authoritarians have taken over both wings of politics. In this climate, it would be surprising if a radical decision – such as decriminalising sex work – were to take place.

I hope Augustín and I are wrong, and the sex work representatives are right; but as things stand right now, it seems to me that we have been witness to the Great Decriminalisation Swindle.

Britons Light Fuse With Brexit

This article was first published at XBIZ.com on Friday.

In my new book, Porn Panic!, I recount the rise of a new British fascism. What began a few years ago, for me, as a campaign against anti-sex feminists who were trying to censor pornography, grew gradually into a realisation that free speech and other fundamental underpinnings of liberty were under fierce assault from all sides. This new authoritarian movement, which is taking over both wings of politics, has been slowly gaining ground over the past 10-15 years. But with yesterday’s Brexit vote, the way is clear for an explosive rise in fascism across Europe – and beyond.

Having stayed up most of last night to watch, with increasing incredulity, the EU referendum results, I’m still reeling. It’s not that the result was especially unexpected; but the scale of the catastrophe that is now – in real time – engulfing the UK and European economy is staggering, and dwarfs the 2008 meltdown. And if the economic fallout is massive, the political implications will be even more so. Yesterday, the British people lit the fuse. The explosions are only just beginning.

For months, most people with any understanding of what has been unfolding have just looked at each other and said “But we’d never actually vote to leave the EU, would we?”, and we’ve reassured each other that, no, when it comes to the crunch, the British people would pull back from the brink. And so this morning’s news – that the UK population voted by 52% to 48% to exit the EU – is hard to stomach.

From the perspective of the goals of my campaign, Sex & Censorship, the news is very bad. Many of the protections of free speech, net neutrality and human rights that exist in British law have been passed down to us from the EU. EU law offers a good deal of protection against the anti-sex and anti-free speech laws and regulations that I’ve campaigned against. Now, those protections risk being stripped away. The British state, restrained in many ways by the liberalising influence of the EU, may shortly get free rein to pass laws that would not have been acceptable in a western democracy during the liberal postwar era. It’s probably fair to say that yesterday, that era came to an end.

The fact that the resignation of the Prime Minister is one of the more minor stories in today’s news helps illustrate the scale of events. It’s hard to find a comparison on a historical scale. Certainly, this crisis of European politics looks to be every bit as significant as that of the 1930s. Nationalism, which has been slowly rising in Europe (as well as globally) since 9/11, has now been unleashed in a way that few living Europeans have seen in their lifetimes. The European Union has presided over the longest era of peace in European history; the British people just voted to burn it down.

The global significance of the referendum was underpinned by the fact that Donald Trump chose today to fly in and visit the UK (he quietly pre-announced the visit a few weeks ago). Trump understands the nature of fascism, and has shown a far deeper understanding of the threat to western democracy than most of the established political class. This morning, he hailed the referendum result. Simultaneously, the odds of a Trump win in November were cut sharply. Nationalism begets nationalism, and today’s Europe provides Trump with all the nationalistic sentiment he needs to further his authoritarian bandwagon. Elsewhere in Europe, fascists are celebrating. In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders celebrated the British poll and called for one to be held locally. In France, the far-right leader Marine Le Pen did the same. Those with a knowledge of WWII history will know that the Netherlands and France were deeply infected by the fascist bug in the 1930s/40s. It is not so surprising that the anti-immigrant backlash is growing rapidly in those same countries today.

Amidst the chaos, it seems churlish to ask what this means for the adult industry. But as has been so often pointed out, sex is the canary in the coalmine of liberty. Sexual and political freedoms have always gone hand-in hand; an attack on one is an attack on the other. And so surely we all – on both sides of the Atlantic – are in for a huge battle in the coming months.

 

Jerry Barnett is an author and campaigner, and runs the Sex & Censorship campaign and blog. His book, Porn Panic!, will be published in August, and is available now for pre-order on Amazon.