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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 08:51 
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http://politics.guardian.co.uk/columnis ... 55,00.html

They call themselves libertarians; I think they're antisocial bastards

The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act

George Monbiot
Tuesday December 20, 2005
The Guardian


The road-rage lobby couldn't have been more wrong. Organisations such as the Association of British Drivers or Safe Speed - the boy racers' club masquerading as a road-safety campaign - have spent years claiming that speeding doesn't cause accidents. Safe Speed, with the help of some of the most convoluted arguments I've ever read, even seeks to prove that speed cameras "make our roads more dangerous". Other groups, such as Motorists Against Detection (officially known as Mad), have been toppling, burning and blowing up the hated cameras. These and about a thousand such campaigns maintain that speed limits, speed traps and the government's "war on the motorist" are shakedown operations whose sole purpose is to extract as much money as possible from the poor oppressed driver.

Well last week the Department for Transport published the results of the study it had commissioned into the efficacy of its speed cameras. It found that the number of drivers speeding down the roads where fixed cameras had been installed fell by 70%, and the number exceeding the speed limit by more than 15mph dropped by 91%. As a result, 42% fewer people were killed or seriously injured in those places than were killed or injured on the same stretches before the cameras were erected. The number of deaths fell by more than 100 a year. The people blowing up speed cameras have blood on their hands.

But this is not, or not really, an article about speed, or cameras, or even cars. It is about the rise of the antisocial bastards who believe they should be allowed to do what they want, whenever they want, regardless of the consequences. I believe that while there are many reasons for the growth of individualism in the UK, the extreme libertarianism now beginning to take hold here begins on the road. When you drive, society becomes an obstacle. Pedestrians, bicycles, traffic calming, speed limits, the law: all become a nuisance to be wished away. The more you drive, the more bloody-minded and individualistic you become. The car is slowly turning us, like the Americans and the Australians, into a nation that recognises only the freedom to act, and not the freedom from the consequences of other people's actions. We drive on the left in Britain, but we are being driven to the right.

It is not just because of his celebration of everything brash and flash that Jeremy Clarkson has become the boy racer's hero. He articulates, with a certain wit and with less equivocation than any other writer in this country, the doctrine that he should be permitted to swing his fist - whoever's nose is in the way. For years he has championed the unrestrained freedom of the road. He takes it so far that from time to time he appears to incite his disciples to vandalise and even kill.

"If the only way of getting their [the government's] attention," he told the readers of the Sun in 2002, "is to destroy the tools that pay for their junkets and their new wallpaper, then so be it. I wish the people from Mad all the very best." In February this year, he suggested that speed cameras might be "filled ... with insulating foam that sets rock hard". After the London bombings in July, he observed that "many commuters are now switching to bicycles ... can I offer five handy hints to those setting out on a bike for the first time. 1. Do not cruise through red lights. Because if I'm coming the other way, I will run you down, for fun. 2. Do not pull up at junctions in front of a line of traffic. Because if I'm behind you, I will set off at normal speed and you will be crushed under my wheels ... "

Clarkson wants society out of his way when he's driving, and he isn't too particular about how it's done. One day, one of his fans will take him seriously.

But, doubtless cheered by the response of his readers, he has expanded his journalism from attacks on "the Lycra-Nazi sandalistas of Islington" (cyclists) to polemics against every kind of government intervention. He now rails against "nannying bureaucrats sticking their index-linked snouts into the trough" (health and safety inspectors); complains that he has to tell the police why he wants to keep a gun; appears to champion the right of householders to shoot burglars in the back; and ponders the use of landmines to deter ramblers.

His acolytes are also venturing on to new ground. The website of the Association of British Drivers carries the usual links to campaigns against humps in the road (yes, people really are that sad), speed cameras and the congestion charge. But it also directs its readers to about 50 sites claiming that global warming is a fraud and a lie, several tirades against the evils of the nanny state, and an article by John Redwood calling for lower taxes. Libertarianism has left the road and is now driving down the pavement.

Of course, these politics are possible only while we have a state capable of picking up the pieces. If there were not a massive hidden subsidy for private transport, those who decry the nannying bureaucrats couldn't afford to leave their drives. Speed cameras, according to the government's study, now save the country £258m in annual medical bills: a fraction of the billions in health costs inflicted by Clarkson's chums. Just as the leftwing movements of the 1970s, in the geographer David Harvey's words, "failed to recognise or confront ... the inherent tension between the quest for individual freedoms and social justice", the new libertarians fail to recognise the extent to which their freedoms depend on an enabling state. They hate the institution that allows them to believe that they can live without institutions.

It is strange to see how the car has been overlooked as an agent of political change. We know that the breaking of the unions, the dismantling of the welfare state and the sale of council houses that Margaret Thatcher pioneered made us more individualistic. But the way in which the transition from individualism to the next phase of neoliberalism - libertarianism - was assisted by her transport policies has been largely ignored. She knew what she was doing. She spoke of "the great car-owning democracy", and asserted that "a man who, beyond the age of 26, finds himself on a bus can count himself as a failure". Her road-building programme was an exercise in both civil and social engineering. "Economics are the method," she told us, "the object is to change the soul." The slowly shifting consciousness of the millions who spend much of their day sitting in traffic makes interventionist government ever harder. The difference between the age of Herbert Morrison and the age of Peter Mandelson can be accounted for, in part, by the motorcar.

It shouldn't be hard to see how politically foolish are the current government's transport policies. The £11.4bn that it is spending on road building is an £11.4bn subsidy to the Conservative party. However much Blair seeks to accommodate the new libertarianism, he cannot consistently position himself to the right of the opposition. The longer he sustains Thatcher's programme of social engineering, the more trouble he stores up for his successors. Every branch line that is closed, every bus that is taken off the road, every new lane that is added to a motorway hastens the day when the Tories get back behind the wheel.
====================================

Safe Speed issued the following PR at 07:32 this morning:

PR270: George Monboit: Debate Challenge

news: for immediate release

Writing in today's Guardian, George Monboit, erroneously brands the Safe Speed
road safety campaign as 'anti social', 'libertarian' and 'a boy racer's club'.
It is none of those.

And he says: "Safe Speed, with the help of some of the most convoluted
arguments I've ever read, even seeks to prove that speed cameras "make our
roads more dangerous."

Paul Smith, founder of the Safe Speed road safety campaign
(www.safespeed.org.uk) said: "George is wrong on all counts. He's wrong in his
descriptions of the Safe Speed campaign. He's wrong to take government figures
on speed camera benefits at face value and he's wrong to assume that he
understands the road safety consequences of the infernal devices."

"I challenge George to debate the issues of road safety and speed cameras in
any print or broadcast medium."

<ends>

Notes for editors
=================

See today's Guardian:
http://politics.guardian.co.uk/columnis ... 55,00.html

===================================

To comment about the debate challenge please reply in topic: http://www.safespeed.org.uk/forum/viewtopic.php?t=5267

To comment on the Guardian article, please reply in this topic.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 09:50 
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I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quotation “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” If Monbiot feels the need to resort to crude abuse, it is a sure sign he is rattled.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 09:55 
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PeterE wrote:
I am reminded of Mahatma Gandhi’s famous quotation “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.” If Monbiot feels the need to resort to crude abuse, it is a sure sign he is rattled.


:yesyes: Exactly the same thought occurred to me.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:17 
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The loonie left is alive and well. The above rant has nothing to do with road safety or environmentalism and everything to do with back door Communism. Monbiot is an eloquent nutter and nothing more.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 10:45 
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r11co wrote:
The loonie left is alive and well. The above rant has nothing to do with road safety or environmentalism and everything to do with back door Communism. Monbiot is an eloquent nutter and nothing more.


Hitler was an eloquent nutter too. Unfortunately some people will listen to and believe what these people say.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:19 
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Read all about it...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Monbiot

Not always popular....

http://www.webspawner.com/users/notrensecom/

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:43 
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Gizmo wrote:


Quote:
Monbiot's father, Raymond, is the deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and Chairman of the National Convention. [1] His mother Rosalie is another staunch Tory who led South Oxford district council for a decade.


Hmmm. Methinks someone is hitting out against a privileged background. Freud could have made a wonderful case of him.

Monbiot's extremist incitement reminds me of another famous 'black sheep' of a high profile family....


Last edited by r11co on Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:49, edited 2 times in total.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:46 
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Gizmo wrote:

Another "Champagne Leftie" writing fodder for the unthinking lentellistas of the Grauniad.

I stopped reading when I reached the 42% claim - which proved that he, like all the other bone-idle hacks, hadn't read the report around which he based his argument.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 11:53 
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pogo wrote:
like all the other bone-idle hacks


Quote of the day!

:clap:


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:10 
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The sad and dangerous thing is that well respected and widely read publications such as the Guardian choose to print this untruthful rubbish.

Its slander IMO... :D

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 12:12 
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Sixy_the_red wrote:
Its slander IMO... :D

Point of Order Mr Chairman... It's "libel".. :twisted:

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 13:17 
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The man is, IMHO, an idiot. The implication that libertarianism is a right wing point of view, is incorrect, ignorant, and, to a left-wing libertarian such as myself, offensive.

As a Gruaniad reader, I'm appalled that a paper which is normal "liberal" (with a small "L") should give this man, who basically a green fascist of worst sort, space to print such specious authoritarian nonsense.

Still, as has already been said, if he has resorted to name-calling he must be rattled!


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 13:53 
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It reads like he swallowed the fourth year report and it's spewing from every orifice!

Also what is is argument for the claim about the "massive hidden subsidy for private transport"? He mentions it but doesn't expand on the claim.

I was under the impression that even on a purely financial level car owners were a net contributor to the transport system, let alone the economic benefits of individuals owning their own vehicles.

Some friends of my parents visited this week, their son moved to London to work and gave up his car because all his work was within central London and it wasn't much use. Then he moved to do PR work for another organisation (a very large national youth group) which involves a lot of travelling, his mother was crowing about how one day he is up north, the next down south. My mum said "oh, so he's got a car again then?". "Oh no" she repied, "he gets the train and taxis". I dread to think what his monthly travel expenses must be!

Gareth


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 14:04 
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I think by his 'massively hidden subsidy' quote he is possibly referring to the 11 billion or so spent each year on the roads - while forgetting that motorists contribute about 5 times that amount each year in taxes.


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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 14:09 
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Paul,

Surely this is a golden opportunity for you to write a letter in response setting out the key points of the Safe Speed campaign and have it published in the Grauniad. They can’t deny you a right of reply. Perhaps you could ask whether, the view of the fact they have now expressed serious concern about current camera and speed limit policy, the IAM are “antisocial bastards” too. Run it by us and we’ll help you knock off any rough edges :)

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 14:11 
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Parrot of Doom wrote:
I think by his 'massively hidden subsidy' quote he is possibly referring to the 11 billion or so spent each year on the roads - while forgetting that motorists contribute about 5 times that amount each year in taxes.

Or possibly the specious figures bandied about concerning the estimated "environmental impact" of road transport.

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 16:41 
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PeterE wrote:
Paul,

Surely this is a golden opportunity for you to write a letter in response setting out the key points of the Safe Speed campaign and have it published in the Grauniad. They can’t deny you a right of reply. Perhaps you could ask whether, the view of the fact they have now expressed serious concern about current camera and speed limit policy, the IAM are “antisocial bastards” too. Run it by us and we’ll help you knock off any rough edges :)


Oh yes. Quick draft:

Sir,

George Monbiot couldn't be more wrong. The Safe Speed road safety campaign
isn't for boy racers. It isn't libertarian. And we don't believe that the
government sanctions speed cameras to raise taxes.

Last week the government published a report into the effectiveness of speed
cameras. Buried at the back of the 160 page report, in Appendix H, are figures
that inform us that the main benefits of speed cameras have been exaggerated
by a factor of four. That appendix was written by Dr Linda Mountain. Other
work published by Dr Mountain at the Royal Statistical Society warns us that
half of the remaining benefit is due to traffic avoiding the cameras. So it
isn't the 42% that george claimed - it's only around 5%.

Even 5% would be worth having if that was the end of the story. But it isn't.
Speed cameras come with side effects. They damage the Police / public
relationship. They distract drivers from the road ahead. They have allowed
effective traffic policing to decline. They give us some rather dangerous
false safety messages.

Drivers know as if by instinct that speed cameras are the wrong road safety policy. Safe Speed's extensive research demonstrates that drivers are right to be suspucious.

But George did get one thing right. Safe Speed does claim that speed cameras
make the roads more dangerous. I couldn't be more certain. Two weeks ago the
Institute of Advanced Motorists president, John Maxwell, said: "Speed cameras
are continuing to damage road safety."

Yours faithfully,

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 16:53 
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Nice, but surely it's worth speaking to the editor and asking if the Guardian would give you a similar amount of space to the Monbiot piece for your reply? I know he was only attacking Safe Speed for a small part of that, but why not try to get the space to set out more of your stall?

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 18:58 
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Gatsobait wrote:
Nice, but surely it's worth speaking to the editor and asking if the Guardian would give you a similar amount of space to the Monbiot piece for your reply? I know he was only attacking Safe Speed for a small part of that, but why not try to get the space to set out more of your stall?

It might well be worth pursuing this line as in the past the Guardian have published "response articles" which are maybe half the length of the original piece, but much longer and more prominent than a letter.

Some interesting comments from Peter Briffa of www.publicinterest.co.uk today - he is a longstanding adversary of "Moonbat".

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PostPosted: Tue Dec 20, 2005 19:03 
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A few typos highlighted:

SafeSpeed wrote:
Quick draft:

Sir,

George Monbiot couldn't be more wrong. The Safe Speed road safety campaign isn't for boy racers. It isn't libertarian. And we don't believe that the government sanctions speed cameras to raise taxes.

Last week the government published a report into the effectiveness of speed cameras. Buried at the back of the 160 page report, in Appendix H, are figures that inform us that the main benefits of speed cameras have been exaggerated by a factor of four. That appendix was written by Dr Linda Mountain. Other work published by Dr Mountain at the Royal Statistical Society warns us that half of the remaining benefit is due to traffic avoiding the cameras. So it isn't the 42% that george claimed - it's only around 5%.

Even 5% would be worth having if that was the end of the story. But it isn't. Speed cameras come with side effects. They damage the Police / public relationship. They distract drivers from the road ahead. They have allowed effective traffic policing to decline. They give us some rather dangerous false safety messages.

Drivers know as if by instinct that speed cameras are the wrong road safety policy. Safe Speed's extensive research demonstrates that drivers are right to be suspucious.

But George did get one thing right. Safe Speed does claim that speed cameras make the roads more dangerous. I couldn't be more certain. Two weeks ago the Institute of Advanced Motorists president, John Maxwell, said: "Speed cameras are continuing to damage road safety."

The ending seems to tail off a bit. Maybe you could end by saying "This is a view that is increasingly being taken up by established road safety organisations; for example, only two weeks ago, John Maxwell, the President of the Institute of Advanced Motorists, went on record as saying "Speed cameras are continuing to damage road safety."

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Any views expressed in this post are personal opinions and may not represent the views of Safe Speed


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