Papers Profile Paul Staines

As Bonfire Night draws near, journalists use the occasion as an hook on which to write profiles of Paul Staines, who blogs as Guido Fawkes. The Catholic Herald has piece in which Staines discusses his cultural Catholic background (he admits to no longer having a “personal relationship with God”) and offers up some mysterious assertions about how the Catholic Church supposedly relates to the UK government:

New Labour, he says, is anti-Catholic fundamentally because it dislikes any moral opposition (this is classic Popper).

“New Labour see the Catholic Church as a rival institution. Ideologically they sees themselves as the political arm of the British people. The Catholic Church is a rival hierarchical structure with a different social philosophy. Bertrand Russel compared the Communist Party and Catholic Church’s structure. Modern management consultants talk about flat management structures, and the Church is a good example. How many levels are there from Pope to laity? Seven? Six? From customer to CEO in six levels. That’s fantastic.

“Obviously you have the abortion issue, and their secular religion about homosexuality. The Church’s position is ‘we’re not anti but we’re not pro’. The Labour party’s position is they’re pro.”

There is also this baffling claim:

Along the way Staines has had his legal problems, although he is a famed opponent of libel lawyers and difficult to sue, so complicated has he made his dealings.

In fact, Staines is a very poor champon of free speech against libel laws. Although the Libertarian Alliance, whom he used to work for, calls for an end to defamation laws, Staines has more than once waved lawyers around at bloggers when it has suited him to suppress information (see here), or when he has felt particularly riled (see here). It’s also questionable whether he would himself be as “difficult to sue” as he thinks. Although he mainly lives abroad, his use of foreign hosting services for his blog is of no relevance given that it can be accessed in the UK. He defends himself in a new Guardian profile:

“People say to me, ‘You’re a libertarian. People should be able to tell lies about you and you should put up with that,'” he says, his slack body language suddenly stiffening at the cafe table. “I don’t mind being called an extreme rightwinger. I can put up with being called sexist, because I probably am . . . But my reputation is my property.”

That might cut more ice if he had actually been accused maliciously of something that was untrue – but he has never brought a case, just used lawyers (in particular Donal Blaney) to make threats over matters that in the USA would be regarded as fair game for discussion given Staines’ position as a public figure.

The Guardian also has more details about his 1980s libertarian activism:

As a teenager in London in the early 80s, he rebelled against his leftwing father by devouring libertarian books and joining the Young Conservatives. Mainstream Toryism soon seemed too tame: at university in Hull, he joined the then-notorious Federation of Conservative Students. The FCS “spoke a language I could understand – Thatcher on drugs . . . anti-Communist, anti-Wet and mainly reactionary,” he wrote later. “I never wore a ‘Hang Mandela’ badge but I hung out with people who did . . . We were so obnoxious that the Conservative party decided to close [us] down.”

At Hull, Staines even wrote a letter suggesting that the FCS had “some common ground”, as he puts it now, with the British National party. He justifies the letter, rather cryptically, by saying that he wrote it as an “agent provocateur . . . to smoke people out”, but concedes that his father, who is Anglo-Indian, was “absolutely aghast”. In the late 80s Staines was also a supporter of the apartheid government in South Africa. He says he now regrets it: “I think perhaps we were taken in. We were sold the line that ‘[Apartheid] South Africa is a bulwark against communism.'”

Conservative libertarians and South Africa in the 1980s is a subject which I wrote about in February last year; many libertarians were “taken in”, although there were reports as early as 1987 claiming that supposedly “independent” groups in South Africa with which British and American libertarians were making links (in the latter case through Jack Abramoff) were in fact receiving funding from the regime. It’s good that Staines shows some self-criticism on this issue at least  – some other “libertarians” of the era could follow his example here.

More on right-libertarians here.

4 Responses

  1. Well that all makes for deeply unsettling reading about a deeply unsettling man.

    I do wish people wouldn’t run pieces on him though.

  2. Try asking him if there were elections in Nicaragua in 1984, then watch the reaction.

  3. […] One LA activist of the era, Paul Staines, has since said that he thinks he and others “were taken in” by South Africa’s claim to be an […]

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