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It don’t amount to a hill of Beans

Well, well, well. A famous showbusiness celebrity is making a big fuss about the crushing of dissent and the stifling of free speech.

But, this time, the claim has merit:

Blackadder star Rowan Atkinson has launched a comedians’ campaign against a government bill to outlaw inciting religious hatred.

The Mr Bean actor says parts of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill are “wholly inappropriate” and could stifle freedom of speech….

The main thrust of the bill creates a new Serious and Organised Crime Agency to tackle drug trafficking, people smuggling and criminal gangs.

Quite what religious ‘hatred’ has to do with drug trafficking and criminal gangs is quite beyond me but this appears to be another example of the government bundling up huge sheafs of seen-to-be-doing-something new laws and stuffing them altogether into one big, deliverable package. Perhaps they are trying to cut down on their printing costs.

Anyway, to the meat of the matter. I applaud Mr Atkinson for his taking a stand notwithstanding that it may be motivated by self-interest. That is still better than nothing. However, I expect that his pleadings will fall on wilfully deaf ears. HMG was rattling its sabre about new ‘hate speech’ laws even while the cement dust was still drfiting over New York. It was, near as dammit, their first response.

I have not yet read the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill but, in due course, I will. I do not expect that it will materially differ, either in theme or content, from similar recent legislative atrocities. That is to say, it will endow the state with sweeping new powers, give birth to lavishly funded and unaccountable agencies and usher in a whole raft of new laws that will be so widely and vaguely drafted as to make them dangerously open to interpretation and judicial activism.

Following the now familiar pattern of previous legislation, widespread enforcement will prove impossible. So enforcement will be selective, politically-motivated and high-profile with a handful of unlucky short-straw drawers nailed to the wall pour encourages les autres.

If that was the only outcome then it would be bad enough. That alone would be sufficiently capricious and despotic. But that is only the intended outcome. The unintended outcome could be a great deal worse.

A climate of cowed silence doth not a happy-clappy country make. The worst of it is not knowing where the boundaries are. What can we say? What can’t we say? The majority with something to lose will opt for saying nothing at all as the safest policy (and who can blame them?). Thus, there will be a Potemkin appearance of normality and what we have learned to refer to as ‘tolerance’.

But, underneath, the true picture will be much darker. The only way to successfully challenge bad ideas is to challenge them with good ideas but that is not possible to do if the bad ideas cannot be expressed in the first place. Similarly, resentments left unspoken do not simply whither on the vine and grievances (however irrational and baseless they may be) will not conveniently decay into half-lives like radioactive materials.

Instead these unstable elements will foment and fester and bubble away quietly in the dark until the solution has been transformed into a toxic and explosive substance. It will remain inert only so long as the lid can be kept firmly screwed down.

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50 comments to It don’t amount to a hill of Beans

  • Jacob Rove

    I just finished reading a great book about the real truth behind the CIA, the BUSH/CHENEY, and Tony Blair cover ups. The most devastating terrorist act in history was not the 9-11, it was the rigged voting of million of ballots behind the scene. CRIMES OF THE RIGHT by author HOPE NEWMAN hard cover ISBN is: 0595665748, and is available from: Amazon.com, barnesandnobel.com, and Borders.com.
    It is an awesome, suspenseful, and action-packed book. I know you’ll love it. Please help spread the word.

  • GILES

    James, why do you call yourself Jacob?

    Trying to drum up semitic plots or what?

  • Boss Tweed

    Jacob is only making the rounds of political blogs SPAMMING this same message everwhere. The antidote to his fever is this blockbuster.

  • Julian Taylor

    So under Phoney’s new, improved, sterilised regime, jokes starting with anything approximating, “There was a Catholic, a Jew and a Muslim…” will now have to be changed to “There was a person of a persecuted religious minority, another person of a persecuted religious minority and a terrorist .. oops … yet ANOTHER person of a persecuted religious minority.”

    Vote for Labour – putting the ‘fun’ back into fundamental at a Comedy Store near you now!

  • Euan Gray

    I suspect we are becoming steadily more Soviet-ised each day. Not so much because the state controls so much of the economy, but more because we are increasingly told what to think, to clipe on each other (even family), to obey mind-numbingly petty regulations on everything, to refrain from challenging socio-political orthodoxy, to observe the ludicrous pieties of political correctness, and so on. It is even a crime to think in a certain way – a couple of years ago there was a police initiative encouraging people who even *thought* about children in a sexual way to “volunteer” to report themselves to the cops and be placed on a sexual offenders register, regardless of whether or not they actual put into practice any of their thoughts.

    How long before we can “volunteer” to the authorities that we have had offensive or uncharitable thoughts about persons of a different religion, and have ourselves watched carefully thereafter, I wonder? Is this better or worse than waiting for our children to inform on us?

    I cannot see why a new law is required, in any case. It is already a crime to breach the Queen’s peace, or to assault someone, or to burn down property, etc. Incitement to crime is in itself a crime, as is conspiring to commit a crime (even if you don’t actually commit it). All these things have been illegal for ages. Therefore, if I address a meeting and say “I loathe Islam, let’s go and burn down a mosque,” or perhaps “let’s beat up some Moslem-looking guys in the street,” I can already be arrested and prosecuted for at a minimum incitement to conduct likely to breach the peace. I see nothing wrong with this, provided the same constraints apply to, in this case, Moslems saying they hate Christianity and let’s go burn down a church.

    But I cannot see why I should be prosecuted for saying that I dislike certain aspects of Islam because of its repression of women or barbarous penal code. I’m not inciting or conspiring, merely stating a point of view which in this case I think can be backed up with logical argument and fact. Equally, a Moslem can say he doesn’t like Christianity because everyone is born Moslem and Christians are therefore apostates. Fine, it’s only an exchange of views, not a bloody crime.

    Instead of inventing new laws, what’s wrong with just enforcing the ones we have had for years (centuries, in many cases)? Ah, yes, it means we cannot give extra protection and privilege to the favoured-minority-de-jour, or to the people we don’t like but are too scared to do anything about.

    EG

  • Euan Gray, the other problem with existing, centuries old laws is they fail the “seen-to-be-doing-something” test.

    Incidentally, I’m not entirely comfortable with the general concepts of incitement and conspiracy. Shouldn’t the law only be concerned with the people who actually committed actual crimes?

  • BT: that paranoid spamming numb-nut hit my blog as well. Its so bad its funny.

    This daft legislation is just another example of the left having no sense of humour at all. A decade ago PC-fools were passing this type of rubbish on university campuses all over the US. Its sad to see a government enact follow the lead of daft university student unions.

  • The legislation is wrong in principle, and might serve as a thin-end-of-the-wedge that makes it easier for future governments to bring about the dire state of affairs predicted by Messrs Atkinson, Carr and Gray.

    However, it *doesn’t* make mockery or criticism of Islam – however vociferous – illegal, any more than the UK’s existing ‘racial hatred’ legislation makes it illegal to mock or criticise black people or Jews.

    Do oppose this law, while also continuing to oppose Blunkett’s other fanatically authoritarian measures. But do also remember that its power is near-zero. The PCites and religious loons *want you to think* this law has the powers that you’re attributing to it, so that you’ll keep quiet out of misplaced fear.

    I’ve written about this at greater length on my site.

  • Euan Gray

    Shouldn’t the law only be concerned with the people who actually committed actual crimes?

    I believe the general idea in criminalising incitement and conspiracy is to avoid unnecessary damage, loss, distress, etc. If you knew someone was planning to burgle your house or to steal your car, would you rather they were stopped or would you prefer to wait until after they’d stolen the car and left it crashed and burned out at the side of the road, with your cremated possessions inside? Or how about if you had evidence that a group of people were planning to murder you – you want to wait until after the event? I suspect not.

    Part of the purpose of a penal code is to prevent crime, as well as just apprehend the culprits afterwards. Since you can’t very well go around nicking people on the off-chance they might at some point think about breaking the law (although I’m sure Blunkett’s working on it), you have to have a reason – and that is where conspiracy comes in.

    As for incitement, let’s have another homely example to illustrate the principle. Suppose a bunch of yobs didn’t like you for whatever reason, and the cops were aware that they were egging each other on to smash your windows. The egging on might count as incitement, rather than actual conspiracy. Perhaps you wouldn’t want to do anything, feeling that they shouldn’t be interfered with since they have not actually harmed you. Perhaps you’d rather wait until the brick sailed through the window and brained you, landing you in hospital with concussion?

    There are perfectly good reasons for making incitement and conspiracy crimes in themselves.

    EG

  • Euan Gray

    But do also remember that its power is near-zero

    I think David is right in the original article, in which he clearly shows that his concern is more related to the unintended consequences of the law rather than its formal sanctions. With respect, I think you’re being a tad naive if you think this law won’t be misused and won’t result in a tacit understanding not to say anything controversial about religion. This is precisely the kind of theoretically benign and well-intended law which in practice ends up suppressing liberty of speech.

    It’s not so much the law itself, but the way it’s used. The USSR, recall, had a very advanced liberal and democratic system from the 1930s, providing for the election of representatives at all levels – more so, in fact, than almost all western countries with the exception of the USA. However, the downside was you could vote for anyone you wanted as long as he was the pre-nominated CPSU candidate. This is the difference between the law in theory and how the law is in practice enforced.

    EG

  • EG – this is not the case on race in the UK, where existing law is almost identical. Why do you believe religion will be different?

  • john b,

    Yes this is different. Religion is a form of ideology and ideas must always be open to criticism, dismissal and ridicule.

    You do not need incarceration or even prosecution in order to achieve censorship. The mere threat of these things is enough to induce self-censorship among people who cannot afford to take the risk.

    Do you favour the traditional English law of Blasphemy? If yes, then at least you are consistent. If no, then why are you so sanguine about its revitalisation and extension?

  • Sylvain Galineau

    That very first comment is priceless. Don’t people realize that talking up the “real truth” gives them away ?

    As to what religious hatred has to do with criminal gangs, the 9/11 Commission Report would be a good start. Of course, I doubt the intent or letter of this bill is to limit itself to crushing the former when and if it relates to the latter.

  • toolkien

    EG,

    The points on conspiracy and incitement are well founded.

    But doesn’t it seem too many times that there is a none-to-fine line between free association and freedom of speech and conspiracy and incitement? That’s really the rub.

    Is a person guilty of conspiracy simply for having been in the same house? Is expressing a dislike for a group incitement? It is already difficult enough to find the guilty after an actual crime against property or life has been committed, it is even more difficult to apply standards to plotting.

    Liberty evaporates the more proactive the law desires to be. In fact the explosion of statutes of late is mostly in the proactive category. Basic laws emenating from a ‘common law’ are likely already on the books, though some new laws come into being as defintions of property change due to technology. Otherwise it is a group trying overly proactive, and make stringent laws that encompass too many innocent people. It is the attempts at ending every and all risks that endless laws have been dumped on the books, at every level and (seemingly) in every ‘advanced’ country. Yet not much really has changed, and one could assert that people are less secure (e.g. the bi-monthly commentary on gun laws here).

    So we all can clearly see the ‘yelling fire in a crowded theater’ examples, but how really common is that? How common is the man on the street corner inciting a crowd? Not very common, and more likely during times of major turmoil (civil war, food riots, etc). One can even invent more subtle fictional scenarios such as Agatha Christie’s Curtain, where right and wrong become very blurry.

    More specifically, in a free society, how are conspiracies uncovered without trouncing liberty? Conpiracy can certainly be cited after the deed is done, and all the malefactors need to be removed from open society, and those who do the deeds try and cut deals by ratting on the others. There are only two ways to nail conspiracy beforehand – someone squeals or the government plants operatives. The first is simply the course of events, the second leaves me a bit chilled. Who draws the line as to who should be monitored?

    As for incitement, when does free speech end, and a true call to action start? When does a heartfelt speech become marching orders? And at the end of the day, incitement has much more to do with majorities and minorities. Obviously the instigator, unless just purely evil, is striking at a (subjectively) unjust situation. But I guess that’s pretty much the same as the argument between freedom fighter and terrorist.

    Simply put, proactive laws are hard to write and enforce. And it isn’t made easier when the impulse is born from a theocratic or quasi-theocratic subset.

    *****************************************

    As for Mr. Black A. Bean,

    “To criticise a person for their race is manifestly irrational and ridiculous but to criticise their religion, that is a right. That is a freedom.

    “The freedom to criticise ideas, any ideas – even if they are sincerely held beliefs – is one of the fundamental freedoms of society.

    I’m curious how he diffentiates between statements against race versus religion. I agree hatred based on color is irrational, but race is much more than genetic codes, it has a large cultural component, which is fairly similar to religion as both are simply a held set of paradigms and ideas amongst a subset of people. That, after all, is what separates us from each other, having our own internal value system, and those with whom we desire to associate . And whether rational or irrational, the individual is welcome to his ideas and has the liberty to express them, and behave accordingly to their profit as long as they honor life and property. Simply because it may be a .0000001% additive element to someone else harming anothers life or property is not cause for State sanction.

  • Adhib

    I’m interested by this ‘seen-to-be-doing-something’ test a couple of commenters mention: it reveals that the rot runs right through political life, not just through elite PC prejudices. How? Because it acknowledges that the purpose of all this lawmongering is performed mainly to impress the public with the Bleagh Brigade’s responsibility and authority.

    None of it would happen if we could eradicate that strand in the British political psyche that howls for government action whenever someone grazes their shins. EG’s first response is in the right direction, methinks. Expose the implication of all these ‘protections’ – that the law is coming to treat you, me and everyone else as if the mildest niff of criticism will have us swooning in despair. Appeal to people’s sense of self respect – most Brits still have one.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    As David Carr said, religion is a form of ideology. What next, laws banning “hate speech” against Marxists and libertarians?

    One of the reasons for such a daft proposal is simply fear. It is moral cowardice of the worst kind, however, to try to overturn our liberal heritage to placate religious fundamentalists.

  • Tim in PA

    I’ve been to many parts of Europe, but never Britain. Perhaps this explains, in some small part, why I cannot for the life of me understand why a large part of HMG is not swinging from lightpoles by now.

    Said it before, and I’ll say it again; if you listen closely enough, that sound you hear is Orwell laughing his ass off, 6 feet under.

  • David –

    I’m not claiming people should have the right to criticise different religions but not different races, I’m claiming:

    1) that people should have the right to do both

    2) that under the UK’s incitement to racial hatred legislation, the right to make any racist statement of your choice is preserved (both in theory and in practice) in cases where this statement is not also likely to cause a breach of the peace. [*]

    3) that under the proposed religious hatred legislation, this right will also be preserved.

    I think the existing blasphemy laws are utterly stupid, and I think that these laws are utterly stupid. However, they’re not the Taliban-esque threat to freedom of speech that people are claiming them to be.

    [*] If you walk through Brixton wearing a placard saying “I hate niggers”, you can be arrested for incitement to racial hatred. If you address a BNP gathering and say “I hate niggers”, not only will you not be arrested, you won’t be guilty.

  • (clarification: if you address a BNP gathering and say ‘kill all niggers’ then you will be guilty, which seems fair enough)

  • Euan Gray

    Why do you believe religion will be different?

    Militant Islam.

    The case of race is different. A tiny minority of people are openly racist, but it is unlikely in the extreme that there would be widespread violence or intimidation over the issue – they aren’t going to riot and burn down things to make their point, although you get the odd march. And this should be allowed, as should the right to march against them.

    However, Islamists are another matter. They consider murder, arson, kidnapping and extortion quite in order to make their point. They can and will use any tool available to advance their cause, and they will I am convinced twist law to suit their ends. This, of course, doesn’t apply to all Moslems, but experience suggests it’s true of the militant loony tendency, which is distressingly large.

    Is a person guilty of conspiracy simply for having been in the same house? Is expressing a dislike for a group incitement?

    No and no. Obviously enough, you need evidence of intent, and simply holding an opinion or being in the same house isn’t such.

    More specifically, in a free society, how are conspiracies uncovered without trouncing liberty?

    Depends on your definition of trounce, I suppose. In practical terms, the price you pay for order is a certain limitation on what you can do. Most people would in the examples I gave earlier prefer that something was done BEFORE they got burgled or ended up in hospital. This inevitably means there must be a degree of monitoring – but if this is done under the rule of law and where there is probable cause, then most people will accept moderate constraint on their liberty in return for not being burgled or mugged so often. As I have said many times before, I do not think you ever can have absolute freedom because it entails the absolute freedom to be killed by someone who doesn’t like you.

    when does free speech end, and a true call to action start?

    Free speech is “I think militant Islam is a danger.” Incitement is “I think militant Islam is a danger, therefore let’s kill the buggers before they kill us.”

    incitement has much more to do with majorities and minorities

    Like the majority who wish to walk to the shops without molestation, and the minority who wish to relieve them of their wallets in the process? Or “it’s ok for me to promote violence, I’m a Moslem/Jew/Christian/atheist/insert-philosophy-of-choice?” Incitement is encouraging someone to break the law, irrespective of minority or majority. If we start applying majority and minority to the enforcement of the law, then the rule of law has disappeared – regardless of numbers, all should have equal status in law and the law should be impartially applied to all. Believing something to be unjust is one thing, advocating crime to change the situation is another.

    What next, laws banning “hate speech” against Marxists and libertarians?

    The same logic would apply, I suppose. I don’t see how it can be just or reasonable to prevent open discussion of a philosophical idea, even less so some philosophical ideas but not others. We should not have this law, nor should we have the extent law on blasphemy. All ideas should be open for discussion and honest debate, whether one agrees, disagrees or is neutral, and whether it is religion, politics, philosophy or the production of luminous orange bathroom suites. I don’t mind my ideas being debated, discussed, even ridiculed. As long as I can do the same to yours, of course. Unfortunately, religion is intolerant of criticism, and ascendant religions (like Islam today, unlike Christianity today) especially so.

    EG

  • john b,

    Forgive my being somewhat brusque but what you have printed above is truly complete twaddle.

    S18, Public Order Act 1986 provides:

    “It is an offence for a person to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or to displays any written material which is threatening, abusive or insulting, if;-

    (a) he intends thereby to stir up racial hatred, or
    (b) having regard to all the circumstances racial hatred is likely to be stirred up thereby. ”

    There is no mention of either incitement or breach of the peace.

    As for this assertion:

    ” If you address a BNP gathering and say “I hate niggers”, not only will you not be arrested, you won’t be guilty.

    You’d best run along and break that good news to the BNP. Mind you, I doubt whether they will take it on board as they would appear to have a far better grasp of the law than you do.

  • Julian Taylor

    As David Carr said, religion is a form of ideology. What next, laws banning “hate speech” against Marxists and libertarians?

    I rather think that it might be just a very small hop to extending an amendment to Blunkett’s intended act, presumably unopposed by the current toothless and neutered opposition, to do exactly that.

    In Ulster there is a law, known as the Prevention of Incitement to Hatred Act (Northern Ireland) introduced in 1970 and originally designed to prevent anyone from wanting to ‘stir up hatred against, or arouse fear of, any section of the public in Northern Ireland on grounds of religious belief, colour, race or ethnic or national origins’.

    History shows that it, obviously, failed to work, but I do wonder if this could form some part of the framework for Blunkett’s intended Scouring of the Shires.

  • David – you’re wrong, although I could have been clearer in my terminology.

    Saying “I hate niggers” to a group of like-minded idiots will not earn you a conviction based on the courts’ interpretation of the 1986 legislation. Successful cases under the legislation have only ever been brought where there has also been intimidation, breach of the peace or incitement to commit offences.

    The reasons BNP members refrain from pointing out to each other how much they hate niggers are to do with trying to pass themselves off as a respectable political party instead of a bunch of vile racists, not with going to jail.

  • Why do I have a feeling that the zeal with which this law will be enforced will be inversely proportional to the melanin content of the perpetrator’s skin?

  • john b,

    What have I got wrong precisely? Is my reference to S18 Public Order Act incorrect? I think you are seeing things the way you want to see them.

    If you think that these laws are ‘pretty stupid’ then why are making so much effort to try to downplay or excuse them?

    “…although I could have been clearer in my terminology”

    Which is an oblique way of admitting that you have made a fool of yourself.

  • Allan@Aberdeen

    EG wrote – Free speech is “I think militant Islam is a danger.” Incitement is “I think militant Islam is a danger, therefore let’s kill the buggers before they kill us.”
    This ‘incitement’ may become a necessity.

  • David –

    The way a law works in practice is not just what a lay observer would conclude based on the most commonsense interpretation of the words it contains (even Antonin Scalia would admit this much…). My comment accurately described the way racial hatred law actually works in the UK; hence you were wrong and misleading in describing it as twaddle.

    The major reason I’m “downplaying” this law is because I’m aware that there is a large international readership on this blog, many of whom appear to have the mistaken impression that Britain is a society where the only way to avoid being murdered in your bed by Islamofascist burglars toting an enormous array of illegal weaponry is to racially insult them, at which point the PC police will instantly arrive and drag you to re-education camp. I don’t like people having such unfair misconceptions of my country.

    Just as I’m keen to point out that Britain has low murder rates, but am still strongly opposed to murder, I’m also keen to point out that (with the exception of the – civil not criminal – libel law, which is a genuine nonsense and outrage) we’re a country where freedom of speech genuinely exists – and where the only people to be prosecuted for what they say are the people who call for “death to the (group X)”, while also opposing any moves that restrict this, even when their only purpose is symbolic.

  • john b,

    Twaddle followed by more twaddle and hogwash.

    I am not a ‘lay observer’ , I am a practising lawyer and I have observed, first-hand, how zealously the authorities will pursue the letter of the law, especially where the prosecution is politically-motivated.

    Yes, Britain is still a relatively free country but this is not an immutable and eternal fact; merely a fortunate state of affairs that can (and gradually is) being changed for the worse.

    The relative freedom we do still enjoy here will not last unless people like me try to put up some resistance to the increasing tendency of this government to close down areas of debate and try to warn people of the consequences. It’s my country too, chum.

    I was toying with the idea of asking you where you would draw the line but since your whole ludicrous apologia has been nothing but a lame attempt at keeping up appearances, I don’t expect that you have the intellectual honestly to give me anything resembling a satisfactory answer.

  • john b,

    Addendum: as I have pointed out above, prosecution is (and will continue to be) rare. It is more the vague threat and the uncertaintly that leads to cowed silence and so few prosecutions are necessary. Furthermore, people who put their heads above the parapet need only be threatened with ‘police investigation’ to back down again.

    You have some gall suggesting that I am the one who doesn’t know ‘things work in practice’. Who is the ‘lay observer’ here?

  • Verity

    Dear ‘Jacob Rove’ – in response to your courteously on-topic post, which ‘millions of ballots’ do you mean? Was this a reference to recent elections in Saudi Arabia? Oh, wait a minute …

  • DavidBruno

    David Carr,

    Excellent article. This new legislation would make it very difficult for a British equivalent of female Dutch MP Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who wrote the script for the film ‘Submission’ whose director, Theo van Gogh, was recently murdered) to openly campaign against the power of Islam over those whom sharia law – and civil non-legal community-based versions of it in Western countries – oppresses, particularly women and homosexuals. Ms Ali is already fighting a Court injunction bought by a Dutch Muslim group aiming to prohobit her from releasing a sequel to ‘Submission’ on the basis of laws similar to those that Blunkett wants to introduce in Britain.

    These laws would be extremely dangerous to the victims of violent attacks by Muslims – again, women and homosexuals who are the subject of special chapters in the primer ‘The Way of the Muslim’ which provides instructions on how to beat effectively a wife and how to kill effectively a homosexual – who decided to argue openly that certain intolerant practices under Islam are incompatible with Western values. This could easily be interpreted as ‘inciting racial hatred’.

    Such laws are cynical (buying Muslim votes), dumbfoundingly naive (as if they would actually make any material difference to the ability of a devout follower of any religion to practice that religion), and show an appalling disregard for British freedom of speech. Ms Ali is already under constant police protection in the NL as has been a Belgian female Socialist MP who raised similar issues recently in Brussels. A female British MP who decided to campaign in the same way in the UK after the enactment of these laws would find herself the object of not just death threats but a liable to prosecution under these laws with a penalty of up to seven years in prison.

    Finally, such laws would make it even more difficult for moderate Muslims to rely on the support they need from non-Muslims in their fight against Islamic extremism.

    What on earth is Blunkett thinking of? How out of touch with reality can this man get?

  • DavidBruno

    “This could easily be interpreted as ‘inciting racial hatred’.” – I meant of course ‘religious hatred’…I was typing too fast hence I also meant ‘prohibit’ and ”brought’….;-)

  • I was toying with the idea of asking you where you would draw the line but since your whole ludicrous apologia has been nothing but a lame attempt at keeping up appearances, I don’t expect that you have the intellectual honestly to give me anything resembling a satisfactory answer.

    Ad-hominems, arguments-from-authority, and deliberate misinterpretations of my position – all put together into an impressive and coherent sounding whole. If I’m ever as guilty as sin and need a lawyer, I’ll certainly hire you.

    I would, as I’ve already implied, only restrict freedom of speech by banning direct incitement to commit crimes, reckless or malicious libels against normal people, and malicious libels against public figures.

    Digressionally (and this doens’t address David’s points; I’m well aware the following doesn’t make the law any -better-), I’m willing to offer anyone a £50 bet that should this proposal become law, then one of the first four people to be prosecuted under it will be a militant Islamist.

  • llamas

    john b wrote:

    ‘I’m willing to offer anyone a £50 bet that should this proposal become law, then one of the first four people to be prosecuted under it will be a militant Islamist.’

    I’ll take that money! Have the good folks at Samizdata hook us up.

    Look at how laws of this sort have been enforced around the globe. They never, ever have the slightest impact on the militant, the extreme or those who truly hold hate, violence and destruction in their hearts. Without exception, they are used to suppress (in fact, or by threat) peaceful and non-violent expression of divergent opinion.

    You only have to look at how the existing laws are used in the UK today. They are not used to curb the militant Islamists, who openly preach hate and violence every day. Instead, they are used against peaceful, otherwise-law-abiding folks who dare to express opinions that some find offensive – like the pensioner who was arrested and presecuted for peacefully demonstrating against gay rights, or the CofE cleric who was ‘investigated’ by the police for preaching CofE doctrine from the pulpit on similar issues. In like manner, Ayaan Hirsi Ali (the Dutch MP) is facing prosecution in the Netherlands for stating her opinions about Islam – you’ll take note that the militants who have threatened her life for doing so have not, to this point, been charged with inciting religious hatred. The last I read of the investigation of the murder of Theo van Gogh, the police professed themselves baffled at the motives of his killer – as though the verses from the Holy Quran pinned through his chest with a knife were not some kind of clue. I confidently predict that, whatever he is charged with will not include a charge under the Dutch laws against religious hatred.

    Laws like this will always be used only against those who stand up and say what they think. They are seldom, if ever, used against those who actually hold racial or religious hatred in their hearts, because those people don’t stand up and say what they think – they operate from the shadows and spread their poison indirectly.

    So I’ll happily take your bet. You may not have been serious, but I am. And I’ll go you double-or-nothing that the first four people prosecuted under this law, if it should pass, will be white British-born citizens who will be charged with ‘inciting religious hatred’ for peacefully expressing their opposition to Islamic extremism.

    As a sidebar, I am always extremely leery of laws which attempt to control free expression. But I am twice-dyed, double-dog leery of laws which are put forward with the promise that they will be seldom if ever actually used.

    llater,

    llamas

  • Verity

    What Llamas said. Theo’s murderer will probably be charged with harrassment and be sentenced to counselling on anger management. There does seem to be a stirring in Holland though, from what I’ve read.

    Charging Hirsi Ali with anything is a crime in itself. Before the murder, she had 24 hour a day police protection and never went out unless surrounded by four bodyguards. Can you imagine the fear?

    After the murder of Theo, with the grisly note plunged deep in his chest promising that she is next, the level protection she is now obliged to received means that she can no longer attend to her duties as a representative of her constituency. She can’t go out at all.

    Llamas is absolutely correct. The first (and only) people charged under the new law will be British indigenes who had thought the freedom of speech of their forefathers still applies. For fear of stirring up the wrath of the public (that is, the 98% of Britons who are not Muslims) they will find the perp guilty but give him a suspended sentence – although he’ll be placed on a Religious Offenders Register.

    Same with the next one. Chargee number three will get a prison sentence. By the time No 4 rolls around, the public will have grown accustomed to the limits on what they’re allowed to say and no one will really notice. Samizdata will blog about it. Jonathan Lockhart will blog about it, but there’ll be a new outrage on the horizon and Blunkett’s law will be embedded.

    I’ll take Llamas’s bet one step further. I am willing to bet no adherent of the religion that preaches virulence, violence and authoritarianism will be charged. Just as that innocent boy in Strathclyde was murdered by a gang of “Asian youths” – code: Muslims – and his death will never be avenged by British “law enforcement” (you should excuse the term).

  • Fair enough. Before you take the bet, I’ll give you some data on prosecutions under the existing racial hatred law.

    According to the UK’s head public prosecutor, Ken MacDonald, there have been four prosecutions in the last three years under the existing law. This is a one of them. This is another. I’ve not been able to track down the other two, but I reckon my money is looking pretty safe.

  • llamas

    john b – I already took the bet. And offered you double-or-nothing. I stand by what I said.

    I was aware of both the prosecutions which you linked. I’ll say two things about them.

    1) In making your bet, you overlook some vital aspects of the new law that has been proposed. It goes far beyond mere expressions of opinion into matters of goods, services and public accommodations. Your own link touches on that. I predict that there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of prosecutions of based upon those aspects of the law – newspapers, businesses, clubs, colleges, what-have-you – being prosecuted for fancied religious slights. The first four people sentenced under this new law will be indigenes (thank you, Verity, the exact right word) prosecuted because they refused admission, service or accommodations to a Muslim, or used insulting or exclusionary language to wards one. Double-or-nothing. Deal?

    2) It’s pretty clear from the statements made by senior government officials that the prupose of this proposed law is to appease British Muslims and create a crime for which their fancied oppressors can be prosecuted. What makes you think that they will not take the Government at its word and demand that the law created to please them be used to please them?

    llater,

    llamas

  • Sorry, “before I accept the bet”, I meant. Fair enough, I accept the bet. If you want to get in touch to confirm, my name is john, my domain name is stalinism.com, and my email address is derived from these two facts.

  • llamas

    Done. You’ll get e-mail from me.

    llater,

    llamas

  • DavidBruno

    Llamas/Verity,

    Totally agree. Living near the Dutch-Belgian border I can tell you that popular sentiment in both countries is that those who constructed what has turned out to be the near social disaster of multiculturalism here are now worthy of ridicule and contempt. I am looking on from here in total disbelief at the willingness of Blunkett to make the same kind of mistakes in terms of legislation as have been made here. Fortunately, one of the unintended consequences is likely to be that the UK will just not be able to properly enforce these – and other – new laws thus undermining their effectiveness.

    Belgium is already increasingly called a ‘liberatarian’s dream’ because so much ridiculous legislation that is totally unenforceable has been enacted in recent years. It is the largest black economy in Europe….

  • llamas

    DavidBruno – welke kant van de grens?

    llater,

    llamas

  • ernest young

    john b,

    Just a reminder – you are already down a ‘metaphorical’ hundred, from your bet on the Monckton murder being solved in a week.

    Re your defence of ‘the peaceful life’, UK style, where all is peace and tranquility – did you see yet another home invasion results in a double murder in Wilts?. That makes four such crimes in a month, none anywhere near being solved…

    Now you were saying, – just how safe was it in the UK?

  • dsquared

    I predict that there will be hundreds, maybe thousands, of prosecutions of based upon those aspects of the law – newspapers, businesses, clubs, colleges, what-have-you – being prosecuted for fancied religious slights

    It’s too late to save your £50, but you should probably know that private prosecutions will not be allowed under the draft bill.

  • European Loser

    Ernest – “Detectives do not believe the house had been broken into and do not think the double killing was random” doesn’t imply a “home invasion” to me.

    But don’t let that stop you believing that you’re next, if that’s what you want to believe.

  • Ernest – I said “at all”, not “in a week”. I’m still confident in the police’s ability to shut stable doors post-horsebolting.

  • DavidBruno

    Llamas,

    De Belgische (Franssprekend) kant van de grens near the ‘Three Frontiers’ (B, NL, D) region. Sorry: Ik spreek goed her Frans maar Ik moet het Nederlands (Vlaams in Belgie!) uitoefenen (Ik ben ‘Brit’).

    Tot ziens en ciao.

  • John Ellis

    Small point, but in David’s original post, he said:

    I applaud Mr Atkinson for his taking a stand notwithstanding that it may be motivated by self-interest. That is still better than nothing.

    I thought Enlightened Self-Interest was your thing, guys? Mr Bean’s putative motivation would be a lot better than nothing, I should have thought.

    Or are you really a selfless supporter of/contributor to other peoples’ wellbeing? Your post on Band-Aid types today would suggest not….

  • adam

    Islam is repugnant. That much every sane person can see.

    An eye-opening website by and for ex-muslims.

  • DJEB

    There we go allan@aberdeen. You’re true colours.

  • Bert

    It is about time I stop holding back my feelings concerning colored people. No matter how well you treat them, they will attempt to steal from you when you least expect it and they are proud to seduce a fat white broad who nobody else would want anyway. Our Government iss hoving them down our throat and it is about time we revolt. One of the funniest things I have noticed is how they can graduate from High School and even colleges? We have a college here in Baltimore (Morgan State) and believe it or not, they are pushed through just top make it look good and the colored graduates can’t even read or write. Why can’t all humans realize the negro is 5 million years behind us humans in evolution and you cannot teach an ape to read let alone be in our society. Maybe that is why they want to cross breed with us, to make semi inteligent beings.