‘Democracy is in far greater peril than the complacent West realises’

Your digest of analysis and commentary from the British and international press

rump supporters clash with police and security forces as they storm the US Capitol.
Roberto Schmidt/AFP via Getty Images

1. Democracy is in far greater peril than the complacent West realises

William Hague in The Daily Telegraph

on the threat to free societies

“Complacency about democracy is too easy. We all believe the 20th century made the world safe for it and the Cold War proved its timeless superiority. And in the decades since, we have felt able to get on with our inward-looking disagreements without worrying about its future. We reassure ourselves that democracy has proved its resilience time and again. Isn’t it great that the courts in the US refused to entertain the baseless arguments of Trump’s legal team? Didn’t the Republicans do well to finally turn against him, rather than set aside the outcome of a presidential election? The system did indeed hold up. But we cannot be sure that it could withstand another president trying to stay in office whatever the cost, or another time that vast numbers of people believed an election was stolen.”

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2. The delicate balancing act of lockdown messaging

Isabel Hardman in The Spectator

on the vaccine rollout

“If ministers are so anxious about people being too relaxed and not following the rules, why is Hancock so keen to talk about the progress of the vaccine? Boris Johnson today warned that there was a risk of people seeing the rollout of the vaccination programme as a reason to grow complacent when, in fact, the UK was in a ‘perilous moment’. So why be upbeat? There are a number of reasons, the first being that ministers hope the public will see that this lockdown cannot go on forever as the vaccine is going to bring an end to the pandemic. The second is that within the Conservative party, there is a great deal of pressure on the government to roll out the vaccine as quickly as possible so that the restrictions can start to lift.”

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3. We can’t regulate our way out of online anarchy

Hugo Rifkind in The Times

on Trump’s Twitter ban

“When it comes to Twitter and Trump, as I have written before, my own view is that they can kick him off if they like and should have done so years ago. Yet when it comes to Google and Apple banning the wilder Twitter alternative Parler from their stores, my certainty begins to ebb. Yesterday it fell from the internet altogether, due to Amazon unilaterally refusing to host it and that, I’m pretty sure, is a free speech catastrophe. Yet I’m also well aware that there is close to zero public or political comprehension of what most of this paragraph even means, and nor is there likely to be for years. If it helps, it’s like the difference between banning somebody from using your car, refusing to sell them another car and banning them from using the roads.”

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4. We are Israel’s largest human rights group – and we are calling this apartheid

Hagai El-Ad in The Guardian

on injustice in the holy land

“Although there is demographic parity between the two peoples living here, life is managed so that only one half enjoy the vast majority of political power, land resources, rights, freedoms and protections. It is quite a feat to maintain such disfranchisement. Even more so, to successfully market it as a democracy (inside the ‘green line’ – the 1949 armistice line), one to which a temporary occupation is attached. In fact, one government rules everyone and everything between the river and the sea, following the same organising principle everywhere under its control, working to advance and perpetuate the supremacy of one group of people – Jews – over another – Palestinians. This is apartheid.”

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5. Mass arrests point to Hong Kong’s quickening transition to a second-tier Chinese city

Peter Kammerer in the South China Morning Post

on dying democracy

“Before the national security law was introduced, I still had hope for the city. But in the wake of mass arrests, often on what appear to be spurious grounds, the rabid hubris of officials here and in Beijing, and the lack of awareness of the importance of diplomatic language, I am fast rethinking my position. I’m starting to agree with a belief that we’re fast sliding and becoming a second-tier city alongside the likes of Wuhan and Hangzhou. The death knell will be sounded if any attempt is made to shut out or censor internet giants like Google, Facebook and YouTube. We now know the national security law is less about subversion than preventing criticism of the authorities. In other words, democracy is now a dirty word.”

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