There's a worrying trend emerging among leftist apologists for authoritarian regimes and movements. Apparently it's OK to limit basic freedoms if you can show that those freedoms are enjoyed mainly by an 'elite'.
Richard Gott used this argument the other day in The Guardian, suggesting that it was all right for Venezualan leader Hugo Chavez to close down a TV station because it not only supported anti-Chavez forces but was also apparently unrepresentative of the class and ethnic make-up of the country (hmm...perhaps there's case for getting rid of Radio 4 then...?). In today's Guardian, Jonathan Steele accuses Turkey's secularist movement of representing the middle and upper classes and of demonstrating 'class prejudice' in their fears of creeping Islamisation.
These appeals to class interest are a neat way of dismissing concerns about infringements of human rights, without having to engage with the substance of those concerns. It's becoming a familiar side-step, which enables commentators to avoid committing themselves. Does Gott believe in the freedom of the media to express views that might be uncomfortable for the government, even if that government is 'progressive'? And does Steele support the campaign to keep Turkey a secular and pluralist society? I think we should be told.
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