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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

The silent country

As the sort-of unofficial Samizdata consiglieri, I have occasionally had to advise the editors about the laws that govern them things we can and cannot say. Fortunately, we have managed, thus far, to steer clear of unwelcome attention from the authorities.

However, that task (and my sort-of job) could be about to become a degree of magnitude more difficult:

Inciting religious hatred is to be made a criminal offence under plans unveiled by Home Secretary David Blunkett.

The government failed to get laws introducing the offence passed by Parliament in the wake of the US terror attacks in 2001.

In a speech in London, Mr Blunkett revived the proposals.

He said he was returning to the plans as there was a need to stop people being abused or targeted just because they held a particular religious faith.

As mentioned in the linked article, this proposal was first hastily put forward by David Blunkett as a knee-jerk response to the WTC attacks in 2001 and justified as necessary measure to counter the whirlwind of anti-Islamic hatred he believed was about to blow (but which never actually did).

At the time, an outcry made him back down but once these ideas get into gear it is next to impossible to prevent them trundling forward. They are like cancer; you think you may be in remission only until such time as it comes creeping back.

I have yet to see the draft legislation so I consider this to be an interim condemnation. However, if recent history is anything to go by, then the laws that finally get embossed onto the statute books will be badly drawn, inchoate and so indefinite in scope as to be open to alarmingly wide interpretation by a now thoroughly politicised police force and judiciary.

Nor can we expect enforcement to be anything like fair (insofar as I am able to use that word at all in this context). Again, precedent indicates that it will range from selective to chaotic with the really nasty creatures going unscathed while the unlucky and politically easy targets have the book the thrown at them.

As much as anyone, I love to lampoon the ‘PC’ culture but I don’t much feel like laughing anymore. Current public discourse is already sufficiently timid and amaemic without further legal mechanisms designed to lock up our minds and sterilise our conversations. I do worry that the effect of all this will be that people eventually turn inwards to small groups of family and trusted friends, eschewing any sort of public life or discussion altogether for fear that it is just too risky.

I realise that some may find these concerns a little overwrought but just as it takes time to construct the machinery of public control, so it takes time for the effects of that control to manifest themselves and a nation where people have to speak in whispers or codes is a despotic and unpleasant one regardless of how bouyant the economy may be.

This is not what the future should be.

28 comments to The silent country

  • GCooper

    David Carr writes:”…a nation where people have to speak in whispers or codes…”

    Well, indeed. But we have been at that stage for many years. One only has to even vaguely allude to immigration and some clown jumps up and starts screaming “racist!”.

    Immigration, for example, has became an issue one almost dare not talk about – and not just at Hampstead dinner parties (to which, curiously, I’m seldom invited). Even Samizdata can seem a little… umm… chilling in that respect at times. And no that is not covert support for Copeland et al.

    Blunkett will be able to get away with this because his hateful proposal will be steamrollered through by the usual expedient of throwing Blair babes into the breach.

    But there is a seething resentment at this suppression of free speech in the UK and one only hopes that, before too much longer, the worm will turn.

    Then again – we’re not the nation we once were, so that hope could well be dashed.

  • Julian Morrison

    An interesting irony: this is perhaps the second* law, where reporting a “violation” may be prosecutable under the very same law.

    (* the first being perjury.)

  • D Anghelone

    What would determine the applicability of the laws? Physical location of the server? Of the blogger?

    Can a Brit spew at will on a Yank website?

  • Isn’t sedition already a capital crime in Britain?

  • eoin

    No. Phelps. There are no capital crimes in Britain. Lots in America, though, huh?

    The best thing in the laws is to flout them, like the Pubs flouting the smoking ban in Ireland.

    Organising on the internet means nothing. If anyone on this website goes to court, all go to court, get a group of people to demonstrate outside, and make a speech on conviction asking why the Mullahs are allowed to practice hate speeches against the West. Read from translations of said speeches. Ask why a religion can legally attack secular beliefs, but secularists cannot attack religious beliefs.

    Keep going to court. Fill them up.

  • Guy Herbert

    I note the Home Office website says in large, calming, purple letters “Incitement to Religious Hatred soon to be a Crime”. No indication that Parliament might have any say in the matter.

  • ernest young

    I wonder what has prompted this sudden rush to legislate, do ‘they’ know something that we do not?

    Perhaps they have suddenly realised that having such a multitude of different races and religions flocking to that International Refugee Camp in the North Sea, a.k.a.the United Kingdom, has created a tinder box which is likely to ignite at any moment, and, as usual, they are doing too little, too late.

    It will be interesting to see if this will apply equally within the locales of Finsbury and Bradford.

  • In late 2001/early 2002, a man in Britain was charged and either fined or jailed for arguing with his Muslim neighbour. The neighbour said the attacks of 11 September were a good thing, and in response he said the Muslim’s faith was sick or warped or something. As you can already be arrested for speech disrespectful towards Islam, one can only imagine how draconian these new laws will be.

    Anyone who knows history will know that a huge part of what brought to an end the great religious hatreds that fuelled Europe’s wars for centuries was the way in which religious claims gradually became matters for rational discussion and debate. How ironic that liberals now think banning such discussion is the way to end religious hatred.

  • ernest young

    Was it Ayn Rand who said that when the penalties for ‘civil’ crime became more severe than for truly ‘criminal’ behaviour, that it was the defining moment when the State finally became corrupt beyond redemption?

    It would certainly appear to be so in this instance, where calling people nasty names, and indulging in some flowery rhetoric is considered more heinous than burglary or mugging.

    The covert, introspective society you mention is nothing new, and has been around since the early days of the original laws on racism, it only really shows itself when a crowd gets large enough, so that the individual members are not easily distinguishable, and less liable to prosecution, football crowds are a good example, where insults can be thrown at players with little chance of the culprits being caught.

    This type of legislation ‘against the mind’, will do little to persuade anyone to change their minds and while it may well keep the more loud-mouthed bigots quiet, it will do little to stop the eventual explosion of hate at some later date, perhaps at a football match, or some other large gathering, when all those suppressed emotions will be vented.

    It has happened before where team rivalry has got out of hand, can you imagine the ruckus when race and religion are the motivation?

    I have long believed that the Race Relations Industry has been a major factor in inflaming racism, and I am sure that legislation such a this will have the same effect on religion.

  • Rich

    Who are the Liberati?(Link)

    Look out guys, he’s closing in on you.

  • GCooper

    To add to the fun, I have just watched the intellectually challenged Fiona McTaggart (New Labour spokesbot for the Ministry of Lies) on BBC 2, defending the decision to allow Yusuf Al-Qardawi (who is banned from entering the USA) into the country to spew yet more hateful nonsense at a conference in London.

    I have a problem with this? Only that he endorses suicide bombing, claiming it is not ‘suicide’ but ‘martyrdom’.

    So, that’s all right, then.

    The BBC, as you would expect, tied itself into knots trying to present Islam as anything other than a threat to people’s sanity (might as well get it said, while I can). Oh yes, and that this Egyptian religious maniac is, apparently, ‘a moderate’.

    Nice – and on the very day that Blunkett proposes yet further constraints on our freedom to object.

    Any takers for Blunkett’s being the first head on a pikestaff above London Bridge?

  • Susan

    It is of course, strictly forbidden, under pain of death, to criticize Islam or the Muslim prophet under Islamic law.

    Looks like Britain has become an Islamic country 50 years before the fact.

  • Guy Herbert

    ernest young: There’s no rush. There’s an endless store of controlling legislation awaiting a political pretext to be rolled forward, because the state has experts to provide the best practice and most appropriate standards for all of us in every infinitesimal detail of our lives. It helps to have a gullible and populist government.

    Thet’s why the excuse this time appears to be “hate speech” by Islamofascists, and in 2001 it was “Islamophobia”. Whatever might look plausible to the populace.

    I don’t think even Blunkett is proposing the death penalty, Susan. If Islamists become a threat to the machine (rather than, as currently, an assistance to it by spreading popular alarm), they’ll soon be locked up.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    I find it incredible that an extreme Muslim cleric spouting hatred of Jews, Christians, and sundry other “unbelievers” can be granted entry into the UK while Blunkett thinks he can get this odious piece of legislation on to the books.

    The supreme object of the PC crowd is to create a world where selected people never need to suffer from hurt feelings. If that means shutting down debate, so be it. I personally would have hoped that there would be a backlash against all this. Sadly, that backlash is likely to take the form of rising political extremism on the Right. Expect the BNP to pick up even more votes in future elections.

    Well done Mr Blunkett. What an idiot.

  • Henry

    How’s this for incitement to religious hatred?

    “Oh ye who believe! Murder those of the disbelievers and let them find harshness in you.”
    Surah 9:123

    “Fight those who do not believe in God and the last day… and fight People of the Book, who do not accept the religion of truth (Islam) until they pay tribute by hand, being inferior”
    Surah 9:29

    “And as for those who disbelieve and reject Our Signs, they are the people of Hell”
    Surah 5:11

    “As for the unbelievers for them garments of fire shall be cut and there shall be poured over their heads boiling water whereby whatever is in their bowls and skin shall be dissolved and they will be punished with hooked iron rods. ”
    Surah 22:99

    And that’s just a small sample. I think someone should tell the Home Office about these fellows.

  • Julian Taylor

    Haha Henry,

    I look forward to the day that the Archbishop of Canterbury is seized by the Blunketts (a future British version of Saudi’s own caring, socially aware Religious Police) for daring to spew vile religious hatred in quoting Numbers 22:6 …

    “Come now therefore, I pray thee, curse me this people; for they are too mighty for me: peradventure I shall prevail, that we may smite them, and that I may drive them out of the land: for I wot that he whom thou blessest is blessed, and he whom thou cursest is cursed.”

  • Shaun Bourke


    I take it as a given that Jews peacefully protesting the burning of their homes and schools etc will be ajudged as spewing hate speech ??

  • It is rather amusing that there have been some calls for this legislation to be used against Blunkett for allowing in the judenhaas scum Sheik.

    And would Red Ken be in trouble for speaking at the same event?

  • PaleoMan

    “…the effect of all this will be that people eventually turn inwards to small groups of family and trusted friends, eschewing any sort of public life or discussion altogether for fear that it is just too risky.”

    What do you mean, eventually? Libertarians have been doing this for years.

  • The most interesting thing I find about most so-called “liberals” is that they are not. They are usually little tinpot thinkers who wish to impose their warped and twisted views on everyone else. Debate is stifled on the pretext of preventing offence to “minority” groups. This new law will be draconian, it will be anti-Christian and it will cause even deeper divisions in our society than already exist.

  • Giles

    and how is this going to affect atheists?

  • Northerner

    What do you mean, eventually? Libertarians have been doing this for years.

    Only the dysfunctional ones. The rest are busy making money, forming contacts and looking at the price of land in New Hampshire.

  • ernest young

    and how is this going to affect atheists?

    Oh don’t worry about them Giles, their fate is a ‘done deal’, they are ging to roast in Hell for evermore, and what could be worse than that? 🙂

    (Apart from living under a socialist dictatorship run by the three B’s).

  • dave fordwych

    Some won’t like this ,but Blunkett’s latest attempt to stifle free speech illustrates yet again the folly of allowing a blind man to hold a position of such power and influence as Home Secretary,in today’s world.

    To understand the modern world and- amongst other things- the ways in which the Islamists seek to close down expressions of opinion hostile to them, it is probably necessary to read widely and make an effort to study what is happening in different parts of the world.The internet is an almost essential tool for most of us to do this.

    Or perhaps there is a braille version of the net?

  • M. Simon

    Perhaps you have a case against the Koran.

  • M. Simon

    Can a Yank spew on a Brit site?

    I’m waiting for an invatation. 🙂

  • Les Nessman

    You are all cordially invited to move to America. Or stage a revolution. Your call.

    Best Wishes

  • Susan

    dave f: There are software programs that read Internet pages to the visually impaired. I don’t think Blunkett’s problem is physical blindness. It’s just the usual affliction — statism and socialism in all its forms.