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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Well written defence of civil liberties that falls short., 5 Oct. 2010
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This review is from: Liberty in the Age of Terror: A Defence of Civil Liberties and Enlightenment Values (Paperback)
AC Grayling eloquently condemns and brings to our attention how our civil liberties are being eroded under the pretext of the 'War on Terror'. He points out that many of the invasive laws in the UK were brought into being before the terrorist catastrophes of 9/11, such as the Terrorism Act and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act of 2000. Grayling does point out how 9/11 has made things worse with even more irrational, draconian, covert and intrusive laws being passed - very much a victory for the illiberal terrorists who crashed the planes and carried out subsequent attacks in Bali, Madrid and London. Now we are all potentially sleeping terrorist timebombs.

Another of Grayling's strengths is to show that radical Islamism is very much a product of the liberal West, as it is a violent reaction against it by people who have been exposed to western liberal education and lifestyles. However, Grayling does not adequately criticise the weaknesses of the political left and anti-war movements, who come up with the over-simplistic arguments that the war in Iraq was about oil (which Grayling agrees with) and that the wars the UK is fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq are inextricably responsible for terrorist atrocities carried out in the West or against Western tourists in Bali or Mumbai

The central weakness of Grayling's thesis is his belief in legalistic measures - he supports the arbitrary and draconian smoking ban; believes libel is an adequate legal redress for 'false' allegations - he should note how wealthy foreign celebrities like Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie, thanks to the UK libel laws, can sue British newspapers even though they are not UK citizens or residents. On a broader note, his support for an International Criminal Court does not come with any questioning of the rights of Western powers to intervene in foreign conflicts e.g. Yugoslavia, and does not examine the possible motives and interests of Western powers (the very people who set up bodies like the ICC) in taking sides in these particular conflicts. That is not to say that the idea of all 'war criminals' being brought to justice isn't a bad thing, but somehow I can't see the day when any American, British or Western leaders or officers will be put in the dock. He fails to see the ICC for what it is: a symbol of Western dominance, and an expensive, bureaucratic and undemocratic mess.

In spite of the book's flaws, its greatest strength is the polemic against the UK government's undermining of our civil liberties and our privacy. However, Grayling falls short by advocating legalistic measures to problems that themselves have been exacerbated and brought into being by too much unwarranted legislation.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 9 Aug 2012, 19:23:39 BST
Last edited by the author on 9 Aug 2012, 19:25:15 BST
Simon Peters says:
This criticism is flawed because the writer has not taken sufficient trouble to analyse exactly what Grayling actually says. Regarding smoking he does NOT support a draconian ban, and in fact a draconian ban does not exist in the UK. As he explains "The ban was introduced for well-grounded health reasons, and far from outlawing smoking itself which would itself be a violation of personal freedom) it protects the increasing number of non-smokers from inhaling second-hand smoke which after all consists of alveoli-damaging particulates to which the moist contents , including microbes and viruses, of other peoples' exhaled breath adhere. As I said - NO draconian ban.

Later in the book he supports the idea of an International Criminal Court, but acknowledges that it is "an infant that does not yet walk". However, as he points out, it is far too early to give up on something that is such a good and worthwhile idea.

Careless reading of a text results in careless criticism, and careless criticism is basically without value; Mr Cox is talking about what he thought he read, or perhaps what he hoped he'd read, and has done neither the book nor himself any great service by his slapdash analysis of what is an extremely interesting, cogent, and worthwhile book.

In reply to an earlier post on 10 Jan 2013, 09:05:54 GMT
Last edited by the author on 8 Nov 2016, 08:17:42 GMT
A. J. Cox says:
I read the book very clearly and carefully, Mr Peters, and the views expressed are my honest opinions. I think the International Criminal Court is a travesty created by western powers to justify their own moral and military superiority over the rest of the world, effectively victors' justice, and I sincerely believe Mr Grayling is mistaken to think that it has the potential to be anything more than that. Regarding the smoking ban, as it affects smoking in public places, it is draconian and Grayling supports that ban. Not a single theory about the effects of 'second-hand smoke' has been proven, yet they are given greater exposure and more credence than they deserve because of the moralistic nature of the debate around smoking. However, I do agree with you that it is an interesting and well-written book and there are many things on which I agree with Grayling, particularly his criticisms of how the state is undermining our civil liberties. This is an important book by a very talented and intelligent man, but not everything he writes is exempt from shortcomings or from the kind of constructive criticism that I have put forward.
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