Opinion: Against Liberal fundamentalism

Centre Forum recently chose the “Naked Rambler” as “Liberal Hero of the Week”. The Naked Rambler is a man who fights for his freedom to walk naked in public wherever he chooses.  Lib Dem Voice also carried an article robustly asserting that liberals should oppose interference with that freedom.

Many fundamentalist liberals wrote in to applaud.  More moderate respondents pointed out that young children might well be upset or even traumatised, while their parents could reasonably fear that a naked stranger might be a paedophile.

Steve Way explained that the police offered the Naked Rambler three options – change direction to avoid a children’s play park, cover up, or accept a lift around the park.  They arrested him only when he refused all these options.  Despite this devastating evidence, no fundamentalist liberal wrote back to dissociate from the comment that a “mob” had demanded that the Naked Rambler must “subjugate himself to the state”.

Clearly, this heroic “campaigner for free expression through nudity” appeals so strongly to fundamentalist liberals because he makes a perfect test case for their beliefs.  Only someone who believes that freedom transcends every other consideration, including major concerns around child safety, could conceivably call the Naked Rambler a hero.

The liberal fundamentalists had found a cause to celebrate their beliefs.  Like religious fundamentalists, they rejoiced in their separateness, in their adoption of a stance they knew was anathema to the majority.  So, while centrists may be caricatured as boring second-raters with no real ideas or ideals, fundamentalists see themselves as special, exceptional people.  After all the compromises which Liberal Democrats have made over the last five years, it is not difficult to see the appeal of finding political territory upon which to stand tall, defiant, principled and alone.

It will not work well.  To identify with oddball behaviour, assert that human rights dwarf responsibilities, and promote freedom above all else, achieves only one political end.  It sends a clear signal to voters: “We are not like you.  We have strong beliefs which you think are crazy.  We also want to run your economy, organise your schools, and tackle your crime problems, in our own special way.  Here’s our slogan: “Winning Here – Coming From Another Planet!”

Further, the Snowden case starkly demonstrates how liberal fundamentalism is failing us.  Despite the revelations of secrecy and illegality, many agree with Hague that we should take “nothing but pride” in a security state which keeps us safer from terrorism.  Opponents rightly point to what happens when policing and security become secretive – the smear campaign against the Lawrence family and army atrocities in Iraq being only the most recent examples.

Securocrats argue “We have to do it.  If we didn’t mine internet data, the Chinese would simply beat us to it.”  The response from fundamentalist liberals is essentially “It is wrong.  It should all stop.  Never mind the Chinese.  As for terrorists, let’s leave things to the bobby on the beat.”  Game, set and match to the securocrats!

We desperately need strong, rational liberalism.  We should shine a light on the security state, bring in professional independent inspectors, insist on strict judicial oversight and governance, and thereby minimise the risks of misuse.  It will not be easy.  Clegg made a stand against writing the snoopers’ charter into law, but has said less about the continuation of snooping outside the law.  Fundamentalist liberals have nothing practical to offer.  Without a stronger response from rational liberals, Snowden’s revelations will be a nine-day wonder and his sacrifice will have been in vain.

* David Allen is a member of the Rushcliffe Local Party

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65 Comments

  • I think of myself as very liberal, I draw the line as liberal as is almost reasonable, but it should remain criminal to shout ‘FIRE’ in a crowded theatre (unless there is a fire) because panic could cause crushing, sprained ankles, and worse.

  • It’s a pity that you chose to make what it overall a sensible and important point with such scaremongering nonsense. There is no child protection issue involved with the naked rambler.

  • As a liberal I have no problem with him. I do however a problem with the burka being worn – its oppressive to women.

  • I agree with Andrew Ducker – why would seeing a naked man traumatise children? And what evidence suggests that naturists are more likely to be paedophiles?

  • Richard Wingfield 12th Jul '13 - 11:25am

    I have to admit, I’m not entirely sure what point this article is trying to make.

    The first six paragraphs appear to be a criticism of those who defend the naked rambler as “liberal fundamentalists” making some rather exaggerated claims that a naked person in public could lead to “major concerns around child safety”. This is nonsense. The vast majority of adults would be slightly amused at the sight of a nudist. A few might be offended, but there is much in society that is offensive. Some people are offended by burqas and niqabs, some by kids wearing jeans so low their underwear is on full display, some by same-sex couples holding hands or kissing in public. We’ve all seen naked people so I hardly think seeing another naked person can be that shocking or offensive.

    The same is true for children. I seriously doubt that children would be traumatised by the sight of a naked person. As with adults, they might be confused or amused, but all it takes is for the parent to say that some people don’t wear clothes in public, but that most people do, and I suspect they won’t give it much more thought save to snigger about it when they’re a bit older.

    The claim that parents might think that they’re a paedophile is, I guess, a possibility. The rambler should have used some tact, but unless he was lingering around a children’s play area, I don’t see that they should be any more concerned than there would be with any other adult. Being clothed does not make you less likely to be a paedophile.

    Those of us who defend the naked rambler are not “identifying with oddballs”. I do not identify myself with nudists at all. What I will do, however, is defend unpopular or minority groups against unnecessary interference. This may be same-sex couples, asylum seekers, prisoners, or any other group which is treated unfairly. Read our Constitution: “The Liberal Democrats exist to build and safeguard a fair, free and open society, in which we seek to balance the fundamental values of liberty, equality and community, and in which no one shall be enslaved by … [b]conformity[/b].” We believe that people should be free to live their lives how they wish, even if society views them as “oddballs” without interference unless they cause others harm. People taking offense as to how you look is not harm that should be limited, or else we will start legislating about what clothes people can wear, what body modifications they can have, tattoos and piercings and so on.

    The last three paragraphs are about something completely different, the relationship between the state and the citizen over personal data and privacy and probably best deserve a separate response.

  • Well written article. The offenders are out in force denouncing it.

    First;y, with regards to the naked rambler, there are geographical areas people can go to in this country if they want to be naked and outside. They are reasonably accommodated. Secondly, there are people out there who obtain sexual gratification by exposing themselves to other people. I have no wish for myself or my family to come across such people. Having nudist areas and making sure there are decency laws elsewhere is a pragmatic solution between the rights, responsibilities, liberties and will of the people (people on here are always going on about liberalism/illiberalism without regard to the word Democrat in the party’s title, as if their theory of liberalism trumps everything).

    More importantly, for a political party concerned with liberalism, surely it is important to concentrate your (I’m not a party member) efforts on the critical liberal issues of the day rather than this kind of nebulous nonsense about someone that has been given reasonable alternatives and is almost certainly nothing more than an attention-seeking individual. Such an issue is the corruption in our police force *- this is currently a major issue with the voting public across the political spectrum and one for which none of the three main parties appear to be advocating solutions. Surely, this is the kind of thing that a Liberal Democrat party should be addressing at the moment as it would (a) really get your message across to the public about what you’re about and (b) have a positive impact on society if you could find a solution. Keep prattling on about naked ramblers if you want, or, alternatively, just get worked up about the legalisation of heroine in the traditional manner, and the voting public will put you in the fruity pigeon-hole forever.

    *Hillsborough, Orgreave, Ian Tomlinson, Plebgate, Phone-Hacking, Stephen Lawrence, etc.

  • George if you have been indoctrinated into oppressing yourself then is that not still oppression? Stockholm syndrome anyone? The religious issue is irrelevant, it is a public safety issue as demonstrated by the bomber who fled to Somalia wearing a burkha, If I wanted to walk around a shopping centre wearing a motorcycle helmet I wouldn’t get 10 metres before I was apprehended by security yet for some reason it is fine to cover your face as long as you say “it’s my religion, you must respect it”, no we must not. The Burkha should absolutely be banned, it is more much more offensive and damaging to our way of life than some oddball walking around naked.

  • haha Alex, you are spot on! He’s a bloody weirdo no doubt but to say that what he is doing is particularly harmdul to society is ridiculous. If he was running around naked in a park then that would be one thing but he’s not. We all need to grow up.

  • George Potter

    In what sense do such women choose to wear the burka? Is freedom merely the right to live your life anyway you want or is freedom more demanding i.e. a way of life which requires constant revision of one’s views, questioning of oneself, not neccesarily changing one’s views but being open to it etc, that is to say a Million version of freedom. I take it you reject this latter view and favour the former or perhaps you approve of the latter way of life for yourself but not for muslim women.

    Essentially the burka issue seeks to answer the question: how should liberals respond to illiberal cultures and practices? Liberals should not support practices which deeply ingrain systematic oppression of women to the extent that they internalise – they begin to idenfity with their oppressors. Its the same reason why I oppose the whole glorification of size zero models and the idea that is what a woman should look like – it oppresses women in a subtle but very effective way. I guess your view would simply be ‘if that’s how women want to be let them’. Problem of course is that its not an equal fight – one side has advertising and a whole image to sell while the other side is people who are often insecure. The same applies to the burka issue – one side has the power, the social expectations and more and the other does not. What sort of free choice is that?

  • correction – Millian version of freedom.

  • @Dave Page
    “causes actual harm”

    Is that the only criteria that applies? How about:

    Having sex in the street.
    Masturbating in the park.
    Defecating in the street in your own portable potty.

    None of these causes actual harm. Out of interest – are you happy for these activities to be legalised?

  • Geoffrey Payne 12th Jul '13 - 12:36pm

    I am perfectly OK with parts of the country being designated as being for naturists, but I am not in favour of public nudity being allowed everywhere. I am not aware of a serious campaign anywhere in the world that wants to make this happen.
    I think it should be up to local councils to decide where public nudity is allowed and it is up to local communities to decide through the ballot box whether that suits them or not.

  • “why would seeing a naked man traumatise children? And what evidence suggests that naturists are more likely to be paedophiles?”

    I accept, because I happen to know the case, that the Naked Rambler is not an actual threat to children or anyone else. However, if you are out and about with a child, you should be watching for potential dangers. A man waving an axe might well be just an actor practising his lines, but you don’t know, so you probably run like hell, and then get aggrieved that you had to do it. A man walking toward you on his own, naked, might be harmless, or might not. You don’t know. Your freedom to walk out with your child, and feel unthreatened while doing so, is being taken away by this man.

    In the previous thread, Matthew Huntbach sensibly expanded on these concerns, and ended by commenting “I would have thought that this is fairly obvious, and did not need to be spelled out.” Well, Matthew, I think the reason why some people manage to miss your “fairly obvious” points is that they are blinded to them, by something. That something is what I call liberal fundamentalism.

    http://www.libdemvoice.org/are-we-seriously-going-to-lock-up-the-naked-rambler-for-the-rest-of-his-life-35002.html#comment-253717

  • David Allen ‘A man walking toward you on his own, naked, might be harmless, or might not. You don’t know. Your freedom to walk out with your child, and feel unthreatened while doing so, is being taken away by this man’.

    Perhaps such people need to stop being so ignorant than. Some people feel threatened when black people come near them but that’s their problem.

  • “It’s a pity that you chose to make what it overall a sensible and important point with such scaremongering nonsense. There is no child protection issue involved with the naked rambler.”

    It’s true that the example I chose was in some ways not ideal. It has diverted discussion into the details of what might or might not be sexually threatening behaviour, when the real point was to talk about an excessive belief in freedom at the expense of all other considerations.

    The trouble is, by its nature, this problem only arises when there is a big conflict between the freedom principle and something else. If there isn’t a conflict, there isn’t a problem. We can all readily agree that individuals should be free from political or religious persecution. You can be as blinkered a liberal fundamentalist as you like, and you still won’t get me annoyed, if you stick to subjects like that! It’s when there’s a conflict of principles that things get sticky.

    For example, I might have chosen the subject of terrorism, torture, and Abu Qatada. The problem with that subject would have been (a) I think rational liberals as well as fundamentalist liberals should be against torture, (b) the subject would assuredly be even more of a distraction from liberal principles than the naked rambler!

    So if anyone can think of a better subject around which to frame the debate, do please give it a go. But it may not be that easy.

  • Seems to me to be one of those irregular verbs:

    I have firm principles
    You have some unconventional views
    He is an extremist fundamentalist

  • Graham Martin-Royle 12th Jul '13 - 1:15pm

    ” respondents pointed out that young children might well be upset or even traumatised,”

    And why would children be upset or traumatised by the sight of a naked body? Because we’ve educated them to be so, because we’ve taught them that the naked body is obscene, nasty, horrid and should be shut away and not seen. What a stupid idea this is. We all have bodies, we’re all naked under our clothing, why should we be offended by something that we all have. Maybe if we didn’t teach such nonsense to our children they would just find the sight of a naked body no more upsetting than the sight of a naked dog.

  • David Allen 12th Jul '13 - 1:44pm

    “I think it should be up to local councils to decide where public nudity is allowed”

    Underpinning these sensible and balanced comments, I think, is the implicit recognition that nudity isn’t a threat if naturists just take reasonable care to make sure that it isn’t. A naturist march through the streets does not look like a gang of people out to cause harm to anyone else. If you know that a local beach is naturist, you are free to choose whether or not to go there.

    Naturism as a social activity is essentially harmless. An individual who is on his (or her) own, acting strangely, and acting in a way that could reasonably be perceived as threatening, is not harmless.

  • “more complex than simply dismissing anything you don’t happen to like as “fundamentalist”.”

    That’s strange. From where I’m sitting, it is you that is taking a complex subject and reducing it to something extremely simple and then dismissing anybody else’s view based on a quasi-religious belief in the writings of someone in the 19th century. Except, the belief only seems to fit some of your opinions. When it comes to football supporters you are quite happy for them to have their liberties curtailed on the remote off-chance that they might be commit criminal act, but you seem to be more concerned about the harm that might be caused to one individual if he forced to put his pants on.

  • “Whether those activates you list cause harm is debatable, and that’s the ground on which the debate should be had ”

    They are no more or less debatable than public nudity. Can you actually answer my question please – since they cause no harm to others should they be legalised?

  • @Dave Page
    I’ve given you a list of current activities that would result in prosecution that do harm to anyone else. Here’s another one – drinking in a public place: There are many streets in this country where I could be prosecuted for drinking alcohol as I’m walking down the street, despite the fact that I am doing no harm to anyone. Does your dogma imply that you think these by-laws should be revoked or do you think that the situation might be slightly more complex?

  • David Allen 12th Jul '13 - 2:14pm

    “It is far more complex than simply dismissing anything you don’t happen to like as “fundamentalist”.”

    A question for you then. Is it ever legitimate to use the word “fundamentalist”?

    Could it be used to describe those who ban women from going outdoors without a male escort, because of their religious beliefs? Could it be used to describe those who would deny a child a life-saving blood transfusion for religious reasons? Could it be used to describe George W Bush and his modern-day “crusaders”?

    Could it be used to describe someone who believes in the freedom to be a loan shark? Or the freedom to travel by Tube and never to wash? Or the freedom to shout insults at a funeral?

  • “There are various perfectly legal things like large crowds of drunk football fans”

    Sorry for the multiple postings here, but getting back to that football thing again. You seem to be implying in your statement that football crowds are legal and the fact you don’t like them should have no bearing on their legality, however this completely contradicts your previous comments on LDV where you have stated that you are perfectly happy for the police to incarcerate football supporters on their journeys to/from matches – i.e. you have explicitly promoted arguments in favour of curtailing the freedom of others based on nothing more than your feelings about football crowds. You are now contradicting yourself by claiming that you think football crowds should be free to do what they want provided they don’t do harm to others.

  • The point I was trying to make in the original post regarding this was not surrounding his right to be naked, rather that he had been given an opportunity to exercise that right whilst respecting others. It’s interesting that some of the same people who feel that it is OK to compromise if it means reneging on the fees pledge or allowing TIPIMS and secret courts do not feel it is appropriate for an individual to compromise on the route they are walking to consider the sensitivities of others.

    Think for a moment of the Orange Order and their marches. Personally I feel they should avoid areas they are not wanted, it is a fair compromise. The same way I abhor the EDL but have no issue with their right to demonstrate as long as their march routes are moved around flashpoint areas such as Mosques.

    Compromise makes the world go around and if one is offered that allows all parties to co-exist it should be grasped.

  • LDProfessor 12th Jul '13 - 4:42pm

    The phrase “liberal fundamentalists” is poor. A better phrase is “libertarians”.

    1. I understood liberalism to mean that the individual had freedom to do as he/she liked as long as it was not deemed harmful to their community.

    2. How the harm could be determined would be by laws democratically arrived at- some centuries old.

    Do 1 and 2 refer to Liberal Democracy – I think they do.

    Liberal Democracy like the current security/freedom debate is one of balance and getting the balance correct.

  • I’m not convinced that its unreasonable to question the involvement of the state when there is little, if any, evidence of threat. The examples in the article centre on the assumptions of others on motivation, and one could reasonably challenge the prejudice demonstrated.

    I guess the more significant point not yet brought out in the comments is the q:-) question of how we as Lib Dems promote liberalism in a country that’s in practice hostile to expressions of liberalism. How do we combat the inherent illiberalism of the man in the street?

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jul '13 - 7:18pm

    Well said David Allen.

  • I thought one of the principles of liberalism is the freedom to do things that don’t cause harm to others.

    Is the wearing or non-wearing of clothes harmful to those who sees one. I don’t think so.

    David Allen then used the example of carrying an axe. The issue becomes threatening behaviour and not feeling threatened as Dave points out, “Some people feel threatened when black people come near them”. The threat has to be violence and must be made towards another person and it must be reasonable to see this as threatening to personal safety.

    It is legal to be nude in public the test is the intention to cause alarm or distress so I do wonder why an anti-social behaviour order (Asbo) was ever issued. I thought we were against Asbos. I do wonder why a magistrate court decided that a naked body would be likely to cause alarm or distress. Maybe Asbos should be issued to those who wear sandals with socks because it can cause distress to some people!

    @ Steve implies that democracy trumps liberty.

    I agree with Dave Page – “An important part of liberalism is defending the minority from the majority”. Democracy should not be the dictatorship of the majority.

    The protection of minorities should to be included within a democracy and there are often problems when this does not happen. Maybe democracy only really works in a liberal pluralistic society.

    @ Steve

    “Having sex in the street.
    Masturbating in the park.
    Defecating in the street in your own portable potty.

    None of these causes actual harm. Out of interest – are you happy for these activities to be legalised?”

    I would not like to see these done in public so I would be interested in the liberal case for making them illegal. I also wonder if they are in fact illegal I think the test might be the reasonable expectation of not being seen.

    Animals can do all these things in public so what is different about humans doing them in public?

  • “Steve implies that democracy trumps liberty.”

    I would say that democracy is a consideration in addition to ‘liberty’. However, if the majority wanted to prevent black people from walking down the street then I don’t think it would be reasonable to go along with their view or have separate areas for the black people to stick to. There are some absolutes, but in the case of someone wanting to walk down the street in the nude, their decision is elective and asking them to wear some pants is hardly thwarting their enjoyment of life. I have a problem with people treating ‘liberty ‘ as a piece of doctrine when in fact there are many small compromises necessary for people to live harmoniously together.

    A fundamentalist is someone who sticks to a hard and fast rule without allowing any form of compromise or acceptance of an alternate view. The description seems to fit.

  • “reasonable expectation of not being seen.”

    That’s what I was trying to imply with ‘in the street’, ‘in the park’ – i.e. in public view.

  • Eddie Sammon 12th Jul '13 - 9:12pm

    Let me highlight was Amalric has just said regarding humans masturbating in public:

    “Animals can do all these things in public so what is different about humans doing them in public?”

    One thing the Chinese have got right is the idea that if you open the windows you need to make sure the flies don’t get in, which in this case is the liberal fundamentalists who think it’s possibly fine to masturbate in public, because animals do it.

    We seriously need to be able to cancel party memberships for people who seriously threaten the party’s electability.

  • Andrew Hickey,

    “As for the main article here, perhaps it would be a good idea not to insult everyone who disagrees with you by calling them “irrational”, at least until you learn how to build and sustain a rational argument yourself, rather than getting repeatedly sidetracked and resorting to ad hominem nonsense?”

    Devastating riposte. Except that you made it all up. I did not use the word “irrational”.

    Oh, granted, I used the word “rational” to describe a viewpoint I supported. It does not follow – unless you are a professional twister – that I called anyone “irrational”.

    Ad hominem nonsense? Who has resorted to that, pray?

  • “David Allen then used the example of carrying an axe. The issue becomes threatening behaviour and not feeling threatened as Dave points out, “Some people feel threatened when black people come near them”. The threat has to be violence and must be made towards another person and it must be reasonable to see this as threatening to personal safety.”

    Except that I said “waving” an axe. You have felt impelled to weaken my remark by changing “waving” to “carrying”, implying that the guy might just be bringing the thing home from the shop. Then you have pointed out how the legal criterion is precisely defined in terms of it being reasonable to see the behaviour as threatening to personal safety. Clearly you were concerned that it might indeed seem reasonable to fear someone “waving” an axe, so you changed it. You put a different word into my mouth, in order to rubbish a statement which I didn’t make.

    The thing is – all you twisters out there – You are clearly very aware of the weakness of your own positions. That’s why you feel impelled to bolster your cases in dishonest ways. You might impress other fundamentalists, but you won’t impress anyone else.

  • “The phrase “liberal fundamentalists” is poor. A better phrase is “libertarians”.”

    Hmm. “Libertarians” comes reasonably close, certainly. However, rightly or wrongly, I would tend to think of a “libertarian” as an extreme form of economic liberal, the sort of person who would rejoice in seeing the successful get stinking rich and the unsuccessful go to the wall. To be fair, most Lib Dems would reject that form of extremism, but some would be much more “hard line liberals” (if you want a more neutral kind of phrase) on personal liberty issues, such as the NR’s case.

    I suspect you didn’t like “liberal fundamentalists” because it is a barbed epithet with pejorative connotations. OK, yes, it’s a jibe. I think it is a merited jibe. I think that jibes are part of what politics is about, because they help make it clear what one stands for and what one stands against. I just wonder, LD Professor, if you have ever used a political jibe yourself? Like “fascist”, or “extreme left”, or “reactionary”, etc.?

  • I’m afraid I have had beer. This means that my response to this article is probably not going to be the exciting pearl of wisdom that people have come to expect from me. It will simply be thus:

    you keep using the word liberal. I do not think that word means what you think it means.

    If that makes me a fundamentalist, I’m proud to be one. I’d rather be called a fundamentalist than a small-minded conformist.

  • @Amalric
    “Animals can do all these things in public so what is different about humans doing them in public?”

    Humans have a choice, animals don’t. Black people, white people, ginger-haried people, disabled people don’t have a choice about their genetics. Someone flashing in public does have a choice about their deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction from the majority who would prefer them to be naked somewhere else.

  • Talking of liberalism – strange that all my comments are still awaiting moderation whilst others in the moderation queue have been approved to be inoffensive and published. Choosing which messages are allowed to be published on the basis of offence is of course against the liberal doctrine, as is singling out one person for exclusion. Hypocrites would be too mild a word.

  • “I do not think that word means what you think it means.”

    Someone not conforming to your definition of the word?

  • @ David Allen

    “Except that I said “waving” an axe. You have felt impelled to weaken my remark by changing “waving” to “carrying”, implying that the guy might just be bringing the thing home from the shop. Then you have pointed out how the legal criterion is precisely defined in terms of it being reasonable to see the behaviour as threatening to personal safety. Clearly you were concerned that it might indeed seem reasonable to fear someone “waving” an axe, so you changed it. You put a different word into my mouth, in order to rubbish a statement which I didn’t make.”

    It was not my intention to “twist” what you said. As you pointed out I did point out the law. I saw no difference between “waving” and “carrying” because as we both agree the test is, is it “reasonable to see the behaviour as threatening to personal safety” and not feeling threatened plus of course the threat has to be made to someone and not the air!

    @ Eddie Sammon

    “Let me highlight was Amalric has just said regarding humans masturbating in public”

    “…who think it’s possibly fine to masturbate in public, because animals do it.”

    @ Steve

    “Humans have a choice, animals don’t. Black people, white people, ginger-haried people, disabled people don’t have a choice about their genetics. Someone flashing in public does have a choice about their deliberate attempt to provoke a reaction from the majority who would prefer them to be naked somewhere else.”

    (Steve – we are not talking about someone flashing to get a reaction.)

    Both seem to have missed, “I would not like to see these done in public so I would be interested in the liberal case for making them illegal.”

    Plus of course I didn’t say humans should do them in public.

    I think my point was that seeing animals having sex or masturbating in public can be embarrassing and if accompanied by children might need explaining so why is it different for humans? I am still interested in seeing a liberal case to make them illegal. There is an argument to make them illegal but I don’t think it is liberal it is about conforming to public expectations.

    @ Steve

    “I have a problem with people treating ‘liberty ‘ as a piece of doctrine when in fact there are many small compromises necessary for people to live harmoniously together.”

    “their decision is elective”

    The argument seems to be liberty verse conformity. How free should we be not to conform?

    However I am content with the law on defecating and having sex in public and I might even be content with the law regarding being naked if it was interpreted correctly so that it is recognised that being naked in public does not mean there is an intention to cause alarm or distress and if Asbos were not used on someone who just wishes to be naked.

  • Sorry I didn’t post the last part.

    Also it is likely that I would be content if having sex in public was not illegal. I suppose it would depend on how the freedom was used.

  • If a nude person comes within ten feet of me in a public place, I feel violated. I feel as if he (and it’s usually a he aged 40+) is imposing himself, not just his body, but his will and belief system, on me. I recall a couple of years ago walking along a promenade in a seaside town. To my horror, I noticed in front of me a man in a state of almost complete undress and another masturbating. My immediate inclination was to retreat. But I thought better of it. I told myself that I wasn’t going to allow deviants to tell me where I can and cannot go, so I walked straight past them and ignored them. I won. They lost.

    The pro- public nudity people on this thread are approaching it as a civil libertarian issue. Interestingly, they’re not taking the line favoured by nudists that public nudity is “natural” and it’s people who wear clothes who are weird. Defecating in the street is also “natural”. So is copulating on the beach. I mention the latter, because in 2011, a couple in their 50s were jailed for copulating on Seaford Beach in full view of the Newhaven to Dieppe Ferry, and a number of young children. Indeed, the judge was particularly concerned by the fact that a child had asked his mother what the couple were doing. Do the party’s libertarian fundamentalists find this kind of behaviour acceptable? Are people who copulate, masturbate and defecate in public “liberal heroes” along with people who merely exhibit their genitals in public?

    I agree with David Allen. Public nudity causes offence to the large majority of people. It is unhygienic, and it is unnecessary, since nudist colonies and beaches exist to cater for this particular lifestyle choice. There is no reasonable justification for imposing it on the whole community.

  • @ Sesenco

    “Public nudity causes offence to the large majority of people. It is unhygienic, and it is unnecessary, since nudist colonies and beaches exist to cater for this particular lifestyle choice. There is no reasonable justification for imposing it on the whole community.”

    Just because something causes offence to the majority is no reason to ban that action in a liberal society. If the test was causing offensive we would need a lot more laws banning lots of other parts of the body being seen in public. We could have a law that states all heads must be covered in public because some people are offended by seeing the hair of women in public.

    Maybe the argument that it is already catered for would be valid if there were large areas where it was stated nudism was acceptable. However nudist colonies and beaches are very few in number. As the naked rambler has discovered his lifestyle is not catered for. Segregation is not a liberal idea and I would be surprised if many liberals advocated it. Maybe your argument could be used to advocate having a few places where public nudity is banned while at most places it isn’t?

  • David Allen 14th Jul '13 - 7:54pm

    Mammal said:

    “I guess the more significant point not yet brought out in the comments is the q:-) question of how we as Lib Dems promote liberalism in a country that’s in practice hostile to expressions of liberalism. How do we combat the inherent illiberalism of the man in the street?”

    First of all, why be so pessimistic? If the man in the street (or the great unwashed, or whatever one might choose to call normal people not obsessed by politics!) is so illiberal, how come the rapid shift of opinion in favour of gay marriage? How come so many people applaud campaigns against police corruption, against invasion of privacy by the Press, or against ID cards?

    Most people are not opposed to liberalism. They are opposed to fundamentalist liberalism, the belief that freedom is always the only thing that matters. In much the same way, most people in this country are not opposed to Islam, but they do oppose those fundamentalists who would insist on women wearing the burka.

    Go with the grain of public opinion, not against it. When everybody seems to disagree with you, think about why they might have a point.

    Fight for the things that matter. Fight for freedom from a bullying security state, bullying police, bullying military and bullying by an over-mighty media.

  • @Amalric
    “Maybe the argument that it is already catered for would be valid if there were large areas where it was stated nudism was acceptable. However nudist colonies and beaches are very few in number. ”

    They’re few in number because nudists are few in number. You’re arguing that there aren’t enough facilities for one man (Gough) to do what he wants so there must be a deficiency of facilities for all people like Gough. I don’t actually know of anyone else like Gough. He’s one in sixty million. Nudists stick to nudist beaches not just because of the law but because they want to be in the company of other like-minded people and because they will never be in the company of like-minded people walking the streets. Even if nudity were tolerated by the authorities in the high street I’m not convinced that anyone would want to do so as their behaviour would be regarded with complete suspicion wherever they went. It is a social faux pas of the highest order to be naked on your own in a crowd of people who aren’t.

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jul '13 - 9:52pm

    Something that has interested me recently is difference between personal and political opinions. Personally, I’m a pretty radical liberal, but politically I’m a centrist. This is because my main interest is electing a stable consensus based government because I think it’s the only way to create peace in society.

    I know I’m not as “fundamental” as many liberals, but perhaps the fundamental liberals could think more about the value of consensus government and distinguish whether an opinion is a personal preference or one that they would like to become Lib Dem policy immediately?

  • Eddie Sammon 14th Jul '13 - 9:55pm

    A great example is personally I would love to get rid of the Monarchy, but I’d be totally against it appearing in our manifesto or trying to implement it against the country’s wishes. Often the more moderate Lib Dems assume that just because someone has an opinion that they want it to become Lib Dem policy. This isn’t always the case and it creates strife where it isn’t necessary.

  • @ Steve

    “Nudists stick to nudist beaches not just because of the law but because they want to be in the company of other like-minded people and because they will never be in the company of like-minded people walking the streets. Even if nudity were tolerated by the authorities in the high street I’m not convinced that anyone would want to do so”

    You have not provided any evidence for your view and so you have not convinced me that it is true. The Naturist Action Group state, “If naturism is to claim its place as just another lifestyle among many enjoyed by the people of these islands then social perceptions need to be changed.” http://naturistactiongroup.org/. This implies to me that they are not happy about being segregated. In a press release regarding the naked rambler they state, “Naturists believe that choosing to be naked when they want to be is an important part of the way they express themselves.” http://naturistactiongroup.org/articles/nag-press-statement-on-steve-gough/. They say a poll found about 3.6 million people in Britain enjoy being naked for leisure activities. I would expect there are more people who might wish to go naked if it was accepted more. However 3.6 million is quite a substantial minority.

  • “You have not provided any evidence for your view and so you have not convinced me that it is true. ”

    The evidence is there on every high street in the country. If enough people actually wanted public nudity then it would happen.

    In fact your quote provides anecdotal evidence: “social perceptions need to be changed”. That implies most people don’t want it. Personally, I don’t think perceptions need to change any more than their perceptions need to change.

    “This implies to me that they are not happy about being segregated. ”

    The above quote implies to me that they are not going to be happy walking down the high street naked until attitudes change, which is exactly my argument. Nobody wants to walk naked alone in a crowd of clothed people. In that regard, naturists will never be able to walk down the high street naked on their own given clothing is a normal and accepted human convention across the globe.

    Can you show me some evidence about the percentage of naturists in the population? Can you tell me how many of them would be happy to be naked in a crowd of clothed people?

    In the survey NAG mention (but don’t link to)the 3,6 million represent around 5% of the population. So, 95% of the population do not want to take part in a naked leisure activity, whatever that is. I suspect most of those that do take part in a naked leisure activity have no inclination whatsoever to go shopping naked but rather prefer to do their thing in a private, secluded or social (nudist beach) space. That is completely different to wanting to be nude anywhere at any time regardless of what other people are wearing.

  • @ Steve

    “The evidence is there on every high street in the country. If enough people actually wanted public nudity then it would happen.”

    “In fact your quote provides anecdotal evidence: “social perceptions need to be changed”.”

    The evidence of the high street is that those who wish to be naked on the high street are not because of the public attitude and social perceptions of the majority and maybe the fear of being arrested. I would also suggest that a lifestyle is not just something to be done during leisure activities but something to be done most of the time.

    I recall that the law regarding the wearing of cash helmets allows Sikhs not to wear them because of their turbans (according to the 2011 census there are only 423,158 Sikhs in England and Wales – 0.8%). However we don’t know how many of these 3.6 million would like to be naked in more places it might be more than 500,000. How large does a minority have to be so that its lifestyle can be protected in law and lived out in the street?

  • Eddie Sammon 23rd Jul '13 - 1:53am

    Having once again been a victim of my own fundamentalism, I would like to emphasise the importance of this article. All fundamentalism is bad, and going fundamental on freedom is arguably anarchism, not liberalism.

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