Conservative party to kill free speech in Great Britain?

November 11, 2014
And he's driving, too.

So speak only approved thoughts.

First it was the police raiding your home for telling politically incorrect jokes on the Internet.

Now, under a law proposed by Home Secretary Theresa May to control “extremist speech,” people who say things others find offensive could be served with an “Extremism Disruption Order” and be forced to clear with the police first anything they want to publish online or say in a public forum — even a simple tweet or a Facebook post:

Last month, May unveiled her ambition to “eliminate extremism in all its forms.” Whether you’re a neo-Nazi or an Islamist, or just someone who says things which betray, in May’s words, a lack of “respect for the rule of law” and “respect for minorities”, then you could be served with an extremism disruption order (EDO).

Strikingly, EDOs will target even individuals who do not espouse or promote violence, which is already a crime in the U.K. As May says, “The problem that we have had is this distinction of saying we will only go after you if you are an extremist that directly supports violence. [This] has left the field open for extremists who know how not to step over the line.” How telling that a leading British politician should be snotty about “this distinction” between speech and violence, between words and actions, which isn’t actually some glitch in the legal system, as she seems to think, but rather is the foundation stone on which every free, democratic society ought to be built.

Once served with an EDO, you will be banned from publishing on the Internet, speaking in a public forum, or appearing on TV. To say something online, including just tweeting or posting on Facebook, you will need the permission of the police. There will be a “requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web, social media or print.” That is, you will effectively need a licence from the state to speak, to publish, even to tweet, just as writers and poets did in the 1600s before the licensing of the press was swept away and modern, enlightened Britain was born (or so we thought).

What sort of people might find themselves branded “extremists” and thus forbidden from speaking in public? Anyone, really. The definition of extremist being bandied about by May and her colleagues is so sweeping that pretty much all individuals with outré or edgy views could potentially find themselves served with an EDO and no longer allowed to make any public utterance without government approval.

So you won’t have to incite violence to be labelled an extremist —in May’s words, these extremism-disrupting orders will go “beyond terrorism.” May says far-right activists and Islamist hotheads who have not committed any crime or incited violence could be served with an order to shut the hell up. She has also talked about people who think “a woman’s intellect [is] deficient,” or who have “denounced people on the basis of their religious beliefs,” or who have “rejected democracy”—these folk, too, could potentially be branded extremists and silenced. In short, it could become a crime punishable by gagging to be a sexist or a religion-hater or someone who despises democracy.

In other words, say or write something someone in government (or who can pressure government) doesn’t like, and you’ll find yourself smacked with a “Speak Only When Allowed” order. This in the land from which we inherited our beliefs in free speech as a natural right of all humans, the dogma that no person could truly be free without the ability to speak their mind without fear of reprisal, regardless of the subject and regardless of how offensively put. Once you set government up as the arbitrator of what may and may not be said, you’ve then gone from being a free-born citizen to a servant of the State, speaking only when Master gives leave.

I can see why the Conservative (1) government might want to do this; they have a hell of a problem on their hands with radical imams recruiting for jihad against Britain and the West, as well as encouraging young Muslims to go join ISIS. But you don’t deal with the problem by threatening everyone for speaking their minds. All that does is force people to guard their thoughts and “go underground.” It’s the same flaw –the criminalization of thought and opinion– that lies behind so-called “hate crime” legislation here in the United States.

Rather, the way to deal with so-called extremist, hateful speech is to expose it in the marketplace of ideas and show how fallacious it is. Tolerating people saying things we don’t like is a small price to pay when compared to what we lose when we repress the right to speak freely at all.

Great Britain is the land that gave birth to free speech; it would be a shame if she were also the first Anglospheric nation to put a stake in its heart.

Footnote:
(1) The irony is knee-deep here.

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Victor Davis Hanson on the new Inquisition and freedom of speech

April 10, 2014
"The new liberal tokerance"

“The new liberal tolerance”

And even freedom of thought.

Writing at National Review Online, Dr. Hanson reviews recent incidents of people being hounded for their political opinions or scientific skepticism –among others, Brendan Eich at Mozilla; Dr. Richard Tol for not towing the party line on global warming; antisemitism at a major university that only draws a slap on the wrist;  and let’s add Brandeis University’s disgusting insult to Ayaan Hirsi Ali– and then argues that the president has enabled or encouraged this behavior both actively and passively. (And I do believe Hanson is right.)

After all that, VDH offers this about how civil liberties will die in America:

All of that them/us rhetoric has given a top-down green light to radical thought police to harass anyone who is open-minded about man-caused global warming, or believes that gay marriage needs more debate, or that supporting Israel is a legitimate cause, or that breaking federal immigration law is still a crime and therefore “illegal.”

Our civil liberties will not be lost to crude fascists in jackboots. More likely, the death of free speech will be the work of the new medieval Torquemadas who claim they destroyed freedom of expression for the sake of “equality” and “fairness” and “saving the planet.”

And either the irony is lost on them, or they don’t give a damn.

UPDATE: And just like that, another example — the progessive, tolerant, open-minded mob has gone after Dropbox for adding Condoleezza Rice to their board of directors. Can we call them “racists,” yet?  (h/t Stephen Kruiser)

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


Free speech, Saudi-style

January 13, 2011

In the totalitarian religious tyranny Islamic state of Saudi Arabia, bloggers are free to write about whatever they wish — as long as it’s off the Kingdom-approved list of topics and you get a license, first:

Saudi Arabia has enacted stringent new regulations forcing some bloggers to obtain government licenses and to strongarm others into registering. In addition, all Saudi news blogs and electronic news sites will now be strictly licensed, required to “include the call to the religion of Islam” and to strictly abide by Islamic sharia law. The registration and religion requirements are also being coupled with strict restrictions on what topics Saudi bloggers can write on–a development which will essentially give Saudi authorities the right to shut down blogs at their discretion.

The new regulations went into effect on January 1, 2011. Fast Company previously reported on the law’s announcement this past autumn, but the actual reforms enacted were far more punitive than we were earlier led to believe. The exact specifics of the new regulations were not previously announced by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

What the new regulations center around is a legal redefinition of almost all online content created in Saudi Arabia. Blogs are now legally classified as “electronic publishing” and news blogs (the term is not explicitly defined in the Saudi law) are now subject to the same legal regulations as newspapers. All Saudi Arabia-based news blogs, internet news sites, “internet sites containing video and audio materials” and Saudi Area-created mobile phone/smartphone content will fall under the newspaper rubric as well.

Under the regulations, any operators of news blogs, mobile phone content creators or operators of news sites in Saudi Arabia have to be Saudi citizens, at least 20 years old and possess a high school degree.

At least 31% of Saudi Arabia residents do not possess citizenship; these range from South Asian migrants living in poor conditions to well-off Western oil workers. All of them will find their internet rights sharply curtailed as a result of the new regulations.

I wonder if this would make the approved list for a Saudi-licensed blogger?

Nah. Might corrupt a person’s mind, and then what? Genuine respect for individual liberty?

Perish the thought.

via Jihad Watch

(Crossposted at Sister Toldjah)


A big victory for free speech

July 21, 2010

A rare bit of great news out of Congress: the Senate has unanimously passed a bill protecting Americans against libel judgments rendered in countries that don’t have our protections for free speech:

On July 19, 2010, the U.S. Senate Senate passed the Bipartisan HR 2765 (as amended by the Leahy-Sessions SPEECH Act) by Unanimous Consent. The House of Representatives, which already passed HR 2765 introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) by 433-2, has indicated that it will pass the same bill within days.

The bill was introduced by the Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont) and Ranking Member Senator Jeff Session (R-Alabama). The legislation is cosponsored by Senator Arlen Specter (D-Pennsylvania), Senator Chuck Schumer (D-New York) and Senator Joe Lieberman (I-Connecticut).

At the vote, Senator Leahy noted: “I would like to recognize Dr. Rachel Ehrenfeld, Director of the American Center for Democracy, who herself has been the victim of a libel suit in the United Kingdom, and has been a tremendous advocate for Congressional action in this area.”

The SPEECH Act will uphold First Amendment protections for American free expression by guarding American authors and publishers from the enforcement of frivolous foreign libel suits, filed in countries that do not have our strong free speech protections. Such lawsuits are often used by “libel-tourists” in an effort to suppress the rights of American scholars, writers, and journalists to speak, write and publish freely in print and on the Internet.

The Act grants “a cause of action for declaratory judgment relief against a party who has brought a successful foreign defamation action whose judgment undermines the First Amendment,” and provides for legal fees. These measures will help diminish the severe chilling effect such suits have already had on journalists, researchers, the general media, particularly on matters of national security and public safety.

“The freedoms of speech and the press are cornerstones of our democracy,” said Senator Leahy.  ”They enable vigorous debate, and an exchange of ideas that shapes our political process.  Foreign libel lawsuits are undermining this informational exchange. While we cannot legislate changes to foreign law that are chilling protected speech in our country, we can ensure that our courts do not become a tool to uphold foreign libel judgments that undermine American First Amendment or due process rights.  The SPEECH Act is an important step in putting a stop to this chilling of American free speech.”

Cultural jihadis and terror supporters have regularly used the libel laws of other countries, especially Britain, to attack authors critical of Islam and the jihad against the West. The phenomenon is called libel tourism and is itself a form of terrorism. My congratulations and thanks to the senators of all parties for raising a shield to protect our 1st Amendment rights.

On July 19, 2010, the U.S. Senate Senate passed the Bipartisan HR 2765 (as amended by the Leahy-Sessions SPEECH Act) by Unanimous Consent. The House of Representatives, which already passed HR 2765 introduced by Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) by 433-2, has indicated that it will pass the same bill within days.

France criminalizes insults

July 1, 2010

Showing once again that Europe’s commitment to free speech is tenuous at best, the French parliament has approved unanimously a bill that makes insulting your spouse a crime:

Couples who insult each other over their physical appearance or make false accusations about infidelity face jail, under a new French law making “psychological violence” a criminal offence.

The law – the first of its kind – means that partners who make such insults or threats of physical violence faces up to three years in prison and a €75,000 (£60,000) fine.

French magistrates have slammed the new legislation as “inapplicable”, as they argue the definition of what constitutes an insult is too vague and verbal abuse too hard to prove.

Nadine Morano, the junior family minister, told the National Assembly that “we have introduced an important measure here, which recognises psychological violence, because it isn’t just blows (that hurt), but also words.”

Miss Morano said the primary abuse help line for French women got 90,000 calls a year, with 84 per cent concerning psychological violence.

And no, I’m not minimizing domestic abuse, but I have to agree with the French judges that this is just too vague to be good law, let alone the obvious problems arising from the state inserting itself into private life and criminalizing offensive speech.

So, the next time she asks “Does this make me look fat?”, think twice about your answer, Pierre; it may cost you more than just a night on the couch.

Via The Jawa Report, which has the best observation:

Of course, at the outset someone should clarify whether referring to French as “surrender monkeys” is now a crime. Surely, it’s insulting to somebody.

Nah. Not if truth is a defense.


Unclear on the concept, 1st amendment edition

May 31, 2010

We revere free speech in the United States, rightly considering it one of the essential liberties of a free people. In fact, we consider it so important that our ancestors made the protection of free speech a part of the Bill of Rights:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

(Emphasis added)

So, I have to ask, what part of “no law … abridging” does Michigan State Senator Bruce Patterson not understand?

A Michigan lawmaker wants to license reporters to ensure they’re credible and vet them for “good moral character.”

Senator Bruce Patterson is introducing legislation that will regulate reporters much like the state does with hairdressers, auto mechanics and plumbers. Patterson, who also practices constitutional law, says that the general public is being overwhelmed by an increasing number of media outlets–traditional, online and citizen generated–and an even greater amount misinformation.

“Legitimate media sources are critically important to our government,” he said.

He told FoxNews.com that some reporters covering state politics don’t know what they’re talking about and they’re working for publications he’s never heard of, so he wants to install a process that’ll help him and the general public figure out which reporters to trust.

“We have to be able to get good information,” he said. “We have to be able to rely on the source and to understand the credentials of the source.”

There’s a face-palm moment in almost every paragraph. Does it not occur to the esteemed senator that giving government, over which the press exercises a watchdog function, the power to decide which is a legitimate source of information and which isn’t might have a bit of a chilling effect on that same free press? If you say or write the wrong thing, do you lose your license? And how has that “licensed journalism” thing worked out in, say, Cuba, Senator?

Patterson’s bill, for which he can find no co-sponsors (It seems some pols still have a sense of shame), would impose the following requirements:

According to the bill, reporters must provide the licensing board proof of:

  • “Good moral character” and demonstrate they have industry “ethics standards acceptable to the board.”
  • Possession of a degree in journalism or other degree substantially equivalent.
  • Not less than 3 years experience as a reporter or any other relevant background information.
  • Awards or recognition related to being a reporter.
  • Three or more writing samples.

The article goes on to say registration with the state would be voluntary and that no one would be barred from acting as a journalist in Michigan without a license, but, come on. Inevitably, some schmuck legislator who’s mad at the press would want to make registration a requirement “for the public good.” And the very act of registration almost certainly will create a legitimate/illegitimate distinction in the mind of the public that in turn will put pressure on journalists (staff or independent)  to submit to licensing in order to maintain credibility.

Even if this doesn’t violate the letter of the 1st Amendment, it sure as the Devil goes against its spirit. And this guy practices constitutional law? Between him and con-law professor Barack Obama, maybe we should consider licensing constitutional lawyers, instead.

Really, Senator, I think the good people of Michigan are smart enough to decide what is a legitimate news source and what isn’t without the state’s help.

(via Big Journalism)


Islamic tolerance in action

May 11, 2010

All the man did was draw a mediocre satirical cartoon of Muhammad’s head on the body of a dog, yet, for that, Lars Vilks has lived for years now in fear of his life. And today, someone shouting “Allahu Akbar” attacked him:

I’m willing to bet the attacker wasn’t Episcopalian.

As Allahpundit observed:

Note to Trey Parker and Matt Stone: If you haven’t hired full-time bodyguards yet, this is your wake-up call.

But don’t you dare say Islam isn’t a religion of peace.  Not talking