Free speech in Britain not dead; just gut-shot

December 9, 2013

I’m telling you, George Orwell was a prophet:

Neil Phillips said he was fingerprinted, DNA-swabbed and had his computers seized.

The 44-year-old was held after posting: “My PC takes so long to shut down I’ve decided to call it Nelson Mandela.”

Another read: “Free Mandela – switch the power off.”

But police swooped after a councillor complained over the gags about the former South African leader, who passed away on Thursday, aged 95.

Mr Phillips who insisted he meant no harm, said: “It was an awful experience. I was fingerprinted, they took DNA and my computer.

“It was a couple of jokes, Bernard Manning type,” he added. “There was no hatred. What happened to freedom of speech? I think they over-reacted massively.”

Mr Phillips, who runs Crumbs sandwich shop in Rugeley, Staffs, was arrested after complaints by [local councilor] Tim Jones about the one-liners, aired when the anti-apartheid hero was critically ill.

Mr. Phillips “crime,” aside from telling some mildly tasteless jokes, is that he broke the 1986 Public Order Act (1), which, among other things, makes it an offense to say things that others might find insulting and distressing. And because a local pol was “offended,” Phillips was hauled in and treated like an enemy of the state.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but didn’t we get our traditions of free speech from that very same island, where now an off-color joke means an official knock at the door?

Via Charles Cooke, who has this to say about the state of liberty in his former country:

In other words, Section 5 [of the POA] allows anybody to have anybody else investigated for speaking. And they have. The arrests have run the gamut: from Muslims criticizing atheists to atheists critcizing Muslims; from a young man who told a police officer that his horse was “gay” to protesters criticizing Scientology; from a Christian arguing against homosexuality on the street to a man arrested and charged with offending a chaplain. I’ll give them this: The British are at least thorough with their suppression. 

Cooke points out that, after public outrage, the law has been amended to ban prosecutions for insulting people, but only if no particular victim can be identified. A real blow for liberty, that. It’s also a good example of why we should zealously guard our own 1st Amendment; we all know pols and academics here who’d love to have a similar law in the name of “respecting each other’s feelings.”

Britain’s Glorious Revolution resulted in the English Bill of Rights, forerunner to our own. Maybe it’s time they had another.

Footnote:
(1) Passed under Margaret Thatcher? Really?

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)

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Because nothing says “reset” like a statue to a KGB chief

December 9, 2013
"Hero of the new Russia"

“Hero of the new Russia”

Boy, that Smart Power diplomacy of Obama and then-Secretary of State Clinton worked wonders, didn’t it bring light and peace to the world? So effective was it, in fact, that the Russians are about to re-erect a statue to Felix Dzerzhinsky, the murderous revolutionary who founded the Soviet secret police:

The statue of Felix Dzerzhinsky, the founder of the Bolshevik secret police, may be restored to its “rightful” place in Lubyanskaya Square in downtown Moscow, a senior Moscow lawmaker said.

The Moscow government has announced plans to restore seven famous monuments, including the statue of Dzerzhinsky, better known under his nickname as the Iron Felix. The restoration cost is estimated at over 50 million rubles (some $1.6 mln).

“I think it could be restored and returned to its place,” deputy speaker of the Moscow City Duma, Andrei Metelsky, said in an interview with the Russian News Service radio on Friday.

“If they say they are ready to allocate the money, then the process must be completed,” Metelsky said.

In 1958, a bronze statue of Dzerzhinsky by Soviet sculptor Yevgeny Vuchetich was erected in Moscow’s Lubyanskaya Square (renamed in his honor into Dzerzhinsky Square) directly in front of the KGB headquarters.

This is some of what the Wikipedia entry has to say about “Iron Felix:”

Lenin regarded Felix Dzerzhinsky as a revolutionary hero and appointed him to organize a force to combat internal threats. On 20 December 1917, the Council of People’s Commissars officially established the All-Russia Extraordinary Commission to Combat Counter-revolution and Sabotage—usually known as the Cheka (based on the Russian acronym ВЧК). Dzerzhinsky became its director. The Cheka received a large number of resources, and became known for ruthlessly pursuing any perceived counterrevolutionary elements. As the Russian Civil War expanded, Dzerzhinsky also began organizing internal security troops to enforce the Cheka’s authority.

The Cheka undertook drastic measures during the Russian Civil War. Tens of thousands of political opponents were shot without trial in the basements of prisons and in public places. Dzerzhinsky said: “We represent in ourselves organized terror—this must be said very clearly.” and “[The Red Terror involves] the terrorization, arrests and extermination of enemies of the revolution on the basis of their class affiliation or of their pre-revolutionary roles.”

“Cheka” was the original name of the organization that eventually became the KGB we all knew and loved in the Cold War. Honoring a guy with this resume ought to send a clear message to political opponents of the regime, eh? (Come on. Sure, it’s the Moscow city council, but you just know this wouldn’t happen without President Putin’s approval, himself an ex-officer of the organization Dzerzhinsky founded.)

What’s next, the re-institution of Siberian gulags and psychiatric imprisonment?

via John Schindler