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How to tell when a politician is lying about freedom of speech…

How to tell when a politician is lying about freedom of expression: the key is the use of the word ‘but‘…

Newport city councillor, Majid Rahman said: “I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, but once it starts offending people then it’s a police matter and it’s up to them whether they think it’s broken any laws.”

… the first fifteen words are negated by everything after the ‘but’, which is to say Newport city councillor Majid Rahman very explicitly does not believe in T-shirt printer Matthew Taylor’s freedom of speech and rights to say what he wants. No, he believes in state regulated speech enforced by the police and that he is only ‘free’ to say things that do not offend certain categories of people. And that is not freedom of speech.

Personally I would like to see Newport city councillor Majid Rahman arrested and thrown in jail, not because he offends me (although such view do indeed offend me) but because a politician threatening people with the police because of a T-shirt should be regarded as a crime. Do you think if I called up the Plod in Newport and complained that might happen? ;-)

If I was Matthew Taylor I would say “Get stuffed you nasty little thug, it stays in the window and if you don’t like that, I suggest you arrest me and charge me so we can run this past a jury of my peers.” I know quite a few people who would be able to find a pro bono lawyer who would delighted to take such a case.

50 comments to How to tell when a politician is lying about freedom of speech…

  • bob sykes

    So, you do not have freedom of speech. Wake up, you have never had freedom of the press. Nowadays you do not have freedom of religion, the right to assemble peaceably to protest government actions, freedom from warrantless searches of property and papers, and, of course, the right to keep and bear arms. I don’t know whether you still have a right to a trial by a jury of your peers or the right not to self-incriminate, but I would bet against it.

    You are actually living in a full-blown fascist police state. Germany lost WWII, but the fascists clearly won.

    And you willing voted for all this.

    I am often ashamed of my English ancestry. You are a country of crazy aunts in the attic.

  • llamas

    @ bob sykes, who wrote:

    ‘. . . or the right not to self-incriminate, but I would bet against it.’

    And you would win.

    Here’s the warning:

    ‘You do not have to say anything, but it may harm your defence if you do not mention when questioned something which you later rely on in court.’

    In other words, if you choose not to answer police questions, that may be used to impugn your testimony at trial.

    The UK is so hosed, when petty officials blithely assert that offending people should be a matter for the police. And it is so far gone that you can’t even make the liberty argument in the UK anymore – people just don’t grasp the principle. They simply accept that it’s OK to restrict the speech of people whose opinions they don’t like. This mindset had its genesis 30/40 years ago, when the demand was ‘No Platform for Racists and Fascists!’ and it has now completely saturated UK public opinion. Most Brits just look at you with bovine incomprehension when you try to make the argument that speech should be free – ‘what, you mean, let people say what they think? But what if they don’t think nice things! It’s perfectly reasonable to stop people from saying not-nice-things!’ The cause is lost.

    llater,

    llamas

  • OK, now having bashed the fascist Britain, lets look at the US? Just saying.

  • So, you do not have freedom of speech. Wake up, you have never had freedom of the press.

    You don’t read this blog much eh? Who exactly are you addressing?

    You are actually living in a full-blown fascist police state. Germany lost WWII, but the fascists clearly won.

    No we are not “living in a full-blown fascist police state” even if ‘police state’ is indeed how things are heading very rapidly. The most egregious manifestation in the UK are the anti-free speech laws. In the USA it is asset forfeiture, the mind boggling use of ‘eminent domain’ and the fact that country locks up more people than anywhere else in the world. It varies depending on where you are but intrusive regulatory statism is the trend pretty much everywhere.

    And you willing voted for all this. I am often ashamed of my English ancestry. You are a country of crazy aunts in the attic.

    This is the kind of error into which statist thinking can lead you. No I didn’t vote for it and I rather doubt all that many of the people who read Samizdata did either. Indeed I generally vote for “none of the above” as it makes not a jot of difference which of the realistic options occupy Downing Street (or Pennsylvania Avenue for that matter). And what does your ancestry have to do with anything? And no, I am not a county and neither are you.

  • How do you tell if a politician is lying? His lips are moving.

    “The secret of success is sincerity. Once you can fake that you’ve got it made.” — Jean Giraudoux

  • The Sanity Inspector

    Maybe a suitable punishment would be to take the beginning of that sentence and change the ‘but’ to ‘therefore, ““I believe in freedom of speech and defend his rights to say what he wants, therefore…” and have Mr. Rahman complete the sentence in 100 different ways.

  • Paul Marks

    Perry is correct “I support freedom of speech, BUT…..” is the same as “I hate freedom of speech and will do everything I can to make people slaves” – accept the latter is more honest.

    Mr Rahman is clearly a nasty individual – and a dishonest one.

  • Steven

    I support freedom of speech, BUT…..” is the same as “I hate freedom of speech and will do everything I can to make people slaves” – accept the latter is more honest.

    Not always. “…but giving out classified information is a national security risk” or “…but we can’t release information about that murder without jeopardizing the case the police are investigating. or “…but the public has no right to know about Mr. Marks health records” or “…but yelling fire in a crowded theater when there is no fire risks a panic and puts people in harm’s way”

  • Andrew

    Rothbard gives the “yelling fire” nonsense a kicking here:

    I would like to take this opportunity, once and for all, to set the record straight on the famous old cliché: “after all, no man has a right falsely to shout fire in a crowded threatre.” This formula of that old cynic, Justice Holmes, has been used time and again as an excuse for all manner of tyranny. Just exactly why does no man have this right? Is this really a case where libertarian principle must give way to a diluting “prudence”? There are two possibilities: either the shouter is the owner of the theatre or he is not. If he is the owner, then he is clearly violating the evident contract which he made with the patrons: to put on a play which the patrons can watch – a contract which they executed in cash. By disturbing this performance, he is violating the contract. If the shouter is not the owner, then he is clearly trespassing on the owner’s property. He was permitted on that property on the ground that he would peacefully watch the play, a contract which he is obviously violating. The false shouter of “fire,” therefore, is punishable not because free speech should be restricted, but because he is violating the property right of others. And property right, in libertarian principle, is one of the basic natural rights of man.

    The other examples can be dealt with in the same way: through contract.

  • Sam Duncan

    None of your examples is actually about freedom of speech though, Steven. They’re all cases of property rights.

    So yes, it’s acceptable to say, “I support freedom of speech, but this isn’t about freedom of speech” (especially when you’re discussing the insidious fire-in-a-crowded-theatre fallacy, because that needs to be busted at every opportunity; it’s been covered here before). However Mr. Rahman couldn’t do that, so he lied instead.

  • RAB

    First off, Newport is the armpit of Wales and offensive in its own right.

    Now then the words… Obey our Laws, respect our beliefs or get out of our country… Are probably the least offensive words I have ever read on the front of a T shirt. Best of luck with Plod getting a conviction in court for that.

    There should be no right, legal or otherwise, not to be offended. Giving and taking offence should have no part in English Law. There are plenty of other laws that protect against real harm that can be used if needs be.

    Plod are just making it up as they go along now. Never the sharpest knives in the draw, they think they can intimidate us into doing what they wish us to do without us having done anything in the slightest bit illegal. Think the trying to stop the taking of photographs in public places, think that the Plod went round to put the frighteners on a little old lady who makes the cheese that those nutters run down a hill after. They said she could be sued and better not to donate the cheese. Well I suppose she could be, but what the fuck has it got to do with Plod? It’s a Civil matter and nothing to do with them. Completely out of control.

  • The Sanity Inspector

    The only place the police have an easy job is in a police state.

  • Would the politicians be protesting if the T-shirts had been in Welsh, directed at the English?

  • The politician is just being a typical politician. It’s the man selling the T-Shirt and others like him who are a bigger problem, with their trite cliches and seeming inability to form coherent thought.

    If you’re going to try to sell a T-shirt that says “Obey Our Laws” then first of all, you should probably think about whether selling that item is in compliance with those laws. If you don’t and subsequently find yourself on the wrong side of the law, maybe you should retract your demand for obedience. Certainly don’t say “I can’t see why I can’t share my beliefs,” because that would make you look foolish and incapable of grasping the fact that part of the belief you wanted to share was that you shouldn’t share your beliefs.

  • Ah Paul, you are as dependable as a compass that always points south.

  • Perry, if you actually read and thought about what I posted, rather than instinctively resorting to petty trolling, I suspect you’d probably agree with it.

  • RAB

    Heh! They wouldn’t even have noticed Ted. Newport is hardly a hotspot of Welsh speakers.

    I saw some T-shirts in Aberystwyth once that had… Bygro oddi ar Saesneg! on them. They were selling very well to English tourists who had no idea what it meant. Er it means bugger off English.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Well now, more extensive opportunities for “semantic” discussions. (Which are very important and distinctly not mere exercises in pedantry. I shall forgo the lecture on why. *Sounds of thousands cheering*)

    For instance, falsely yelling “fire!” Yes, but “falsely” just why? Was the yeller lying or simply mistaken? Does that affect what the statute law should be, if its aim is to promulgate justice?

    And as a side issue, what about someone who yells “fire!” and is correct? The correctness does nothing to mitigate the possibility of trampling. Failure to alert does nothing to mitigate the possibility of burning to death. (Or being trampled when somebody else acts on his own reflexes and does yell.)

    As a matter of fact, about 90% of the time when people bring up the fire-yelling issue, they leave out the word “falsely.” This makes things even worse. And maxims or laws precisely thuswise, “…yelling ‘fire!’ in a crowded theatre,” I have always thought ridiculous: If you see the place is afire, what are you supposed to do, shut up and enjoy the play?

    And, a second “for instance”: Dr. Rothbard’s defense rests on the existence of implied contract, which is another can of worms. Like, does it or doesn’t it (or, a separate question, should it or shouldn’t it) exist? And if so, when: In what circumstances?

  • Mr Ed

    This has been the law since 1986, Mrs Thatcher, remember her? It is also an either-way offence so you might not get a jury.

    It is difficult to see how it incites hatred on racial grounds as it is directed against fanatics. It might also be directed against libertarians!

  • Julie near Chicago:

    And, a second “for instance”: Dr. Rothbard’s defense rests on the existence of implied contract, which is another can of worms. Like, does it or doesn’t it (or, a separate question, should it or shouldn’t it) exist? And if so, when: In what circumstances?

    I think that’s one of those issues which is difficult to give a general rule for, but is tacticly understood in a significant proportion of scenarios. When I enter a crowded theatre, it’s fairly clear that everybody is there on the understanding that they have tacitly agreed to sit and quietly watch a play, so falsely yelling fire would be in breach of that tacit agreement.

  • Tedd

    Jean Giraudoux? Damn, I always thought that quote was from Herb Tarlek.

  • Julie near Chicago

    RAB, I hope they come in seven different, attractive colors. I need to order one for each day of the week. :>)))!!!

  • Tedd

    Julie:

    Not to take away from your point, which I think is valid, but sometimes we do abbreviate phrases for convenience when we think there’s little risk of ambiguity. I might say, “As in ‘shouting fire in a crowded theater,'” without specifying “falsely,” when I assume that the person I’m talking to understands the context.

    Although I admit that can be dangerous. I used to say “democracy” all the time, assuming that the person I was talking to would understand that I meant “liberal democracy” (i.e., individual liberty first, popular government second). But then I found out that many people took me literally to mean “popular government,” so I’ve taken to being more specific.

  • Julie near Chicago

    Tedd, agreed. But the fact is that many people take us for what we say, and not for what we think we mean; and I cannot fault them for that.

    Thomas Sowell remarked in, I think, the preface to one of his books that he much preferred writing for the general audience to writing scholarly papers, because in the later he had to be so careful to be precise in his wording that it was difficult to get anything said.

    I sympathize with him, as I have the same problem.

    But in any serious discussion based upon what it are supposed to be logical arguments, one does have to be as careful as one can manage. Otherwise the discussion gets lost in a welter of misapprehensions about even what the main topic is, let alone the arguments…and clear thinking can become nearly impossible.

    Of course, not all serious discussions are intended to be a matter of logical argument. Brainstorming sessions, for instance. Or discussions that consist mostly of statements about how things strike one, emotionally or aesthetically or seemingly-commonsensically, as well as rationally.

    Anyway, thanks for your remark–it prompted me to further thought. :>)

  • Tedd

    Julie:

    I do know what you mean. It’s impossible to remove all ambiguity, and to write anything you need to make some assumptions about the reader, but it’s fraught with potential for misinterpretation.

    And then there’s deliberate misinterpretation, which I find really annoying. I saw a great comment on another blog recently. Commenter One made some comment that was fairly unambiguous. Commenter Two replied that one of the words could be taken to mean something quite different from what Commenter One intended, but it was pretty obvious this was picking a nit, rather than engaging in productive debate. Commenter One’s reply was, “Yes, you’re right, but I think the argument survives any less pedantic interpretation.” I liked that very much.

  • Richard Thomas

    The problem is that this issue is not that it’s a theater and all the contract nonsense that follows. That’s a complete red herring. The issue is that the area in question is crowded and that yelling “fire” could cause a panic that could cause harm to life and limb (If there is indeed a fire, that is a mitigating factor but as others have said, it’s pretty much assumed that there is not and therefore discussion of that aspect is likewise irrelevant).

    There are surely reasonable ways to deal with it though. Speech such as “Give me your money and I’ll earn you 10% weekly” and “Yes, I’m a doctor” when dealing with fraud and misrepresentation respectively can be handled. It’s not so different.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Hey, I’d rather wear a T-shirt that says, “No, I’m not Brad Pitt, but don’t feel too bad, everyone makes that mistake!” Still to each his own!

  • Paul Marks

    No offence to the other comments – but I like the one RAB wrote about about the “Obey our laws…. or get out of our country” and the cheese rolling best.

    In an odd way the cheese rolling(rolling a big cheese down a hill in southwestern England andc chasing after it) has become a form of political protest.

    It was just an ancient local custom – till “the authorities” (once there was no such thing in England) decided they want to stop it (for no particular reason – just to show how powerful they are). Hence the “Health and Safety Inspectorate” and the police visits.

  • NickM

    Paul,
    On. A similar note… Do you think the. Protests in Turkey are really about a planning issue in Istanbul?

  • Perry, if you actually read and thought about what I posted, rather than instinctively resorting to petty trolling, I suspect you’d probably agree with it.

    No Paul, because whilst I agree there is a degree of irony given what the T-Shirt in question says, in truth this has nothing whatsoever to do with what Matthew Taylor says or thinks, merely his right to express it.

  • Paul Lockett

    Perry, that would be a fair comment if he were producing the t-shirt for sale without necessarily supporting the opinion expressed on it, but we know from the article in the Daily Parasite that this isn’t the case, as he says “it’s what I believe.” So, far from the t-shirt having nothing to do with what he says, the t-shirt IS what he says.

    You might view it as irony; I view it as far more pernicious than that. Demanding total obedience to whatever diktats politicians can dream up is dangerous. Making that demand and then failing to display that obedience yourself is hypocrisy.

  • None of which is actually what is important here Paul. For all I care the T-shirt could say “THE WORLD IS FLAT” or “GIRAFFES EAT PENCILS” or even “HITLER WAS JUST MISUNDERSTOOD” or “LIBERTARIANS EAT CHILDREN WITH FAVA BEANS AND A NICE CHIANTI”.

    The issue here is the ability to express your views, however incoherent or odious, without the Plod threatening you. Anything else is an irrelevance.

  • Paul Lockett

    As far as far I’m concerned, it is important, because it is part of the root cause of the situation.

    It’s also important for the context of the story. There is the negative in terms of free speech, but we shouldn’t miss out on the pleasure of seeing someone hoist by their own petard.

  • Dave Walker

    Hmm. I’d say the T-shirt’s flawed; “respect our beliefs” is anti freedom of speech, in my book.

    “Obey our laws or get out of our country”, on the other hand, makes for a T-shirt which asserts a requirement to uphold the law, and nothing more.

    There are still laws which need fixing, of course…

  • RAB

    Nick, the protests in Turkey are damn sight more than protests… they are the revenge of Ataturk. An increasingly Islamist Turkish Govt thought it could tiptoe towards the Arab Spring (Islamist Winter) and side with all the new swivel-eyed kids on the block, by destroying democratic secular rights and increasing Islamisation. Wrong! Ataturk did the spade work and he dug deep. It will take a hell of an effort to uproot the tree he planted.

  • terence patrick hewett

    I love Newport: the people are some of the most friendly and entertaining I have met anywhere. But they do have a – problem. Represented so graphically by Majid Rahman. I hope for his sake that he has not bitten off more than he can masticate.

  • doug galecawitz

    stick a fork in Britain, they’re done.

  • Julie near Chicago

    RAB, I sure hope you’re right. As I often say, ” ‘At-a-Turk!”

    (I’m sure nobody ever thought of that before me. :))

  • Fred Z

    “Majid Rahman”?

    What a shame he is abandoning his long cultural, religious and genetic heritage of freedom of speech, liberty, honour, hard work, honesty, courage and dignity.

    Yes, yes, I am a racist, et cetera, et cetera, blah blah.

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Gosh, Julie, you might have a career as a comedian! Just don’t give up your day job…

  • Julie near Chicago

    :>)!

  • Nick (nice-guy) Gray

    Q. What should you do if you find a politician in the gutter?

    A. Guide them back to their homes in the sewers.

  • Paul Marks

    Nick M. and RAB.

    Yes the protests in Turkey are against Islamism – and it is good that there are protests against Islamists.

    However, many (not all) of the protestors also have nasty collectivist ideologies of their own.

    The Turkish Republic of Cyprus is supposed to be neither Islamist or socialist – I hope that is true.

  • RAB

    Last time I was in Northern Cyprus Paul, I was having a beer across from the Mosque in Famagusta when the afternoon call to prayer went up. Three blokes answered.

  • Julie near Chicago

    ngNick, :>)! Perhaps you and I could take it on the road as a comedy duo.

  • RAB

    Unhinged and Bracket?

  • Julie near Chicago

    RAB, I never heard of “Unhinged and Bracket.” I figured you was just messin’ wit’ us.

    Nevertheless, no stone unturned, so forth. So here is the most divine photo.

    I sort of hope ngNick will let me be the cute one, but then maybe he’d rather be Laurel & Hardy. (Please, not Abbot and Costello.)

  • enbee

    The tedious appearance of the “yelling fire in a crowded theatre” canard is such a common diversion in so many debates about freedom of expression that there must surely be an equivalent of Godwin’s Law to explain it.

    It’s so frigging tedious I’d almost be willing to support censoring any numbskull that cites it (to support their own desire to impose censorship, natch) just so they’re unable to waste the time that others will spend reading it.

  • Paul Marks

    I am not shy of arguing against the positions of the late Murray Rothbard when I believe them to be wrong – but on free speech (and much else) Rothbard was correct.

    Freedom of speech (and human rights generally) are PROPERTY RIGHTS.

    If I say “X is a shit” in his home – he has every right to tell me to leave.

    If I say “X is a shit” in MY home, then he has no right to tell me to leave.

    If the owner of a theatre has an objection to people calling out “fire” – that is his choice, but it would be nice if he told people who visit his theatre that they are not allowed to warn people if a fire breaks out (it is so much better to burn to death than to run the risk of being killed in the panic to get out?).

    “But this was a shirt worn in a public street”.

    That may show up a problem with the concept of “public streets” – but they do NOT show a problem with freedom of speech in the sense of a few rather ordinary words on a shirt. The idea that such words (i.e. the ordinary beliefs of most people) can be somehow “criminal” shows the power of the Frankfurt School (P.C. ism ) and the pathetic weakness of “conservatives” who choose to oppose “Political Correctness GONE MAD” (my stress) not the PRINCIPLE of “Political Correctness”.

    By the way objections to private streets seem to be based on the idea that everywhere, and everyone, be equally poor – such as the attack on the private development in Guatemala on the Al Jazeera television network, that I have just watched…. it is so easy to attack poverty in other countries if you do not bother with WORKING, living on vast oil reserves found and developed by Western companies…. Guatemala is not in such a position).

  • Paul Marks

    Good thing RAB.

    There is no problem with a place being a Muslim country… if the locals have all the zeal of the English in the relation to the Church of England.