Now Sunak wants to extend the reach of Prevent even further. Of course, subjecting everyone who speaks ill of Britain to a ‘deradicalisation’ programme is entirely unworkable. Social media is awash with people expressing their rage at ‘rainy fascist island’. As Andrew Neil’s recent diatribe in the Daily Mail points out, some of them even publish in The New York Times.
The idea may be unenforceable, but perhaps enforcement is not the point. While the immediate purpose is to give Sunak a push in the polls by flinging some red meat to party members, the larger game here is to feed the culture wars by any means necessary. For all of the talk of freedom of speech, this government operates only through scripted set pieces. Sunak’s latest announcement is one such attempt to stage a culture war spectacle, but these rhetorical games have real consequences.
Even if this rebooted sedition law never makes it into the statute books, the very fact of resuscitating this idea will draw even more people into the orbit of Prevent. After all, Prevent does not work on the basis of intervening in genuine threats – there is already plenty of legislation that can be used to prosecute conspiracy. Instead, it relies on prejudice, paranoia, and rumour. If speaking against the nation becomes associated with extremism, more referrals will follow, using even more spurious ‘evidence’, even if the law itself remains unaltered.