Monday 7 May 2018

Free Speech

It seems ironic that none of the mainstream press reported Tommy Robinson’s march yesterday (Sunday, May 6th). 
I err. One did, and you’ll never guess which one. The actual Guardian. 
Not the BBC, Sky, ITV, the Times - in fact, it would be much easier to just say the only other paper that mentioned it was the Evening Standard. (I say this only after a somewhat perfunctory search so do please correct me, etc.)

Why is that ironic? Because the protest was all about “Free Speech,” which the protesters (mainly critics of Islam) see as currently under threat from the increasingly totalitarian ‘hostile atmosphere’ they sense. Twitter accounts closed down, scary knocks on the door by representatives of the law and suchlike. Well, we all sense it.  And the fact that a considerable number of people were moved to rally in central London wasn’t reported by the BBC seems kinda careless of the most respected news organ in the world.

One particular feature of this event attracted my attention because it showed me how easily one’s sensibilities can turn one into a massive hypocrite. (That’s me.) 

By a strange coincidence, this matter is also related to a dog. It concerns the man who was recently fined £800 for training his dog, a pug, to raise its paw in the gesture of a Nazi salute on the command: “Gas the Jews”. 
He undertook this training, into which, I imagine, must have taken considerable time and effort, in order to annoy his girlfriend. (Why, was she Jewish or something? ) Sorry. Facetious thought.
Again, he made the unwise decision to put this feat of canine obedience into the public domain. On Youtube, I understand. Bad decision.
The ensuing pursuit by the police, the courts, and the press appear to be quite horrendous. Now, let’s look at the offence itself.  Was it a joke? Supposedly. Not a very good one in terms of wit. Was it a hate crime? Hmm. Perhaps posting it on Youtube amounted to inspiring similar Nazi-related ‘jokes’ and therefore could be said, potentially to be at risk of inciting hate. 

Now I couldn’t see any humour at all in using the phrase “Gas the Jews” as a command. It showed crass insensitivity. However, the speech made by this man at the rally went beyond the issue of the dog to make some significant points on the danger of the “totalitarian” threat to freedom of speech. What if the power was in the hands of a different political ideology? 

So my own hypocrisy is exposed. I’m all for free speech but I don’t like people training their dogs to behave like Nazis and I certainly don’t find “Gas the Jews’ remotely excusable as a command to a dog. Neither do I think this stunt had wit on its side. But I do see his point and I do understand now, having listened to his speech, why Tommy Robinson supported the principles he cites and uses to defend his actions. (Before I heard it I did think Tommy Robinson had made a big mistake aligning himself with this individual)

Now, there are lots of Hitler-related ‘jokes’ out there. There are cats that look like Hitler. There’s even a house that looks remarkably like Hitler. They’re not exactly funny, but it is a bit weird that these images resonate so vividly. It verges on ‘the piece of toast that looks like Jesus’ territory.

So I’m more offended by Hitler-saluting-dog-gate than by the racist joke I wrote about yesterday, (and by the way it disappoints me to reiterate that I said in that post: I'm not justifying the tweet, the joke or the lady, by the way. Just pointing out the way it has been, to use a fashionable term, ‘weaponised', which I fear might have been overlooked) So, if that makes me a hypocrite, so be it.
We hypocrites must stick together, especially when we’re forced to hang our coats on shoogly pegs.

It’s always risky to try to make a nuanced point, which can all too easily be misconstrued, but I have to trust (hope) that most readers out there have sophisticated comprehension abilities, which they engage to the full whenever I do risk it.  Very interesting thread on Harry’s Place  (H/T for the vid) do catch it before the comments evaporate.

Must go, someone’s knocking at the door.


  1. Monkey Brains7 May 2018 at 13:28

    Like love and marriage, a horse and a carriage, free speech and democracy go can't have one without the other. What would be the point in a parliamentary democracy if you aren't allowed to express your concerns about Sharia, mass immigration,the causes of the housing shortage etc for fear of so called "hate speech" laws?

    What's the point of democracy if such discussion is denied any significant outlet on the BBC or in the rest of the MSM (let's remember - ITV, Sky, Global News and most of the newspapers are now relentlessly pro-PC and even the Express is going to be extinguished as a lone migration-sceptic voice) or indeed on various social media platforms. We are not quite at the point yet, but we are damn close.

    What's the point if parties are prevented from standing (the Electoral Commission took their time over registering the For Britain Party and this sort of obstruction is only going to get worse)?

    What's the point of democracy if parties such as UKIP who win national elections for the European Parliament and score at times 13% of the General Election vote are treated with contempt, ridicule and denial of publicity by our publicly funded broadcaster?

    What's the point in democracy if the result of the biggest even referendum vote gets overturned?

    Free speech is the bedrock of democracy and normally precedes formal democratic structures.

    We need to embed free speech rights in our constitution (they currently have virtually no protection) and we also need an Internet Bill of Rights so the very large social media platforms are treated like public spaces.

  2. Hate speech has become a kind of modern day conundrum, magnified by the explosion of social media and its whole army of professional offence-takers. In principal at least, I find the concept abhorrent . It will always come down to the simple question: who decides what is hate speech? The state? The person who is offended? It hardly seems worth pointing out the flaws in both those solutions, yet that is basically the position in many Western countries in the 21st century. Then of course there is the selectivity in the process i.e. some groups, for a variety of politically motivated reasons are deemed more worthy of victimhood than others. A hierarchy of offence. I think there needs to be a distinction between inciting a criminal act and expressing a view that some people might find unpleasant. Social media specifically has created a whole new theatre for general nastiness, and we are going to have to find ways of dealing with it. I know it is a much more nuanced problem than I have suggested, but I don’t think hate speech laws are the answer.

    It does seem to me that liberal democracy is a very fragile thing and to undermine free speech is to chip away at its foundations.

    1. Monkey Brains7 May 2018 at 18:55

      I agree with all you say Terry. Hate speech laws are not the answer to extremism and even more so is that the case for

      Where people are actively conspiring to replace democracy with an extreme political system, I much prefer the way the Germans do things: they have a strong office for protection of the constitution that can and has disbanded parties and movements and confiscated all their assets (after due legal process). That's the way to handle threats to the democratic state.

      As regards "offence" - people should be taught free speech at schools and made to understand that they must be prepared to be offended in order to preserve free speech.

      I would remove all hate speech laws and substitute some clearer definitions of what can be construed as incitement to violence.

  3. I don't believe in racism.

  4. I think what we are experiencing in Liberal democracies is the steady erosion of freedoms because of the limitations being put in force by those in power.

    Using the two tests of whether harm or offence is being caused by speech or actions means that the ever expanding list of rights and protections is used by the establishment to restrict freedom of speech and thought.

    You see the results everywhere and the liberal elite (including the BBC) adhere to its rules and promote it.

    Democracy itself is diminished by these restrictions because it emboldens the power elite.

    Two examples we witness currently is the refusal of some in power to accept the will of the people with the Brexit referendum result and the US presidential election result.

    1. Monkey Brains8 May 2018 at 00:45

      Agreed. PC multiculturalism is so at variance with reality that it can only be imposed by lies and deceptive propaganda. The ideology determines what we have to believe e.g. that mass immigration has been of huge economic and social benefit to the UK; that the EU is a progressive, democratic and benevolent institution; that the Brexit vote has unleashed hate and violence; and that Islam is a progressive and peaceful religion. (Just to name a few central articles of faith.)

      Such ideological beliefs are so at variance with reality that it is necessary to censor counter-information to ensure that no opposing evidence finds its way to the public at large.

  5. "It’s always risky to try to make a nuanced point, which can all too easily be misconstrued"
    It is in the WILL of the reader
    - These days the lib mob stand ready to identify you as not of their tribe and board the OUTRAGE BUS
    .. Instead of taking time to try to understand your position.
    Amazing how little empathy they demonstrate.

    1. There is a line where freedom of speech becomes incitement to hatred, especially if emphasised and repeated again and again over a period of time by the BBC and others in different ways. .

      Nuances in speech are not relevant when we are discussing the very real issue of incitement to hatred. Prof Irwin Cotler former Canadian Justice Minister starkly said “the Holocaust did not begin in the gas chambers –it began with words”.

      This is a good example from the past ( But there are current ones) shows clearly how the BBC has encouraged others to hate Jews and Israel. Radio 4’s programme “What the Papers Say” where Jeremy Bowen was permitted to quote in full and with emotion in his voice from the editorial of an English Lebanese anti Semitic newspaper containing outrageous accusations against Jews (including the use of the Holocaust turned against the Jews)

      Despite the help of a brave Member of Parliament who wrote directly to the Chair of the BBC , it was deemed acceptable to cite vicious words against Jews that was likely to confirm existing prejudice and provoke feelings of hatred against Jews. And the BBC clearly realised that the hatred in his voice was inflammatory as it was re-recorded so his voice was calm and devoid of emotion.

    2. The BBC have no shades of grey, everything is black and white, good and bad.

      Culturally they have developed very clear positions on most social, political and economic issues.

      And I'm afraid to say that one of them is that Israel is bad.

    3. Anon,

      The flaw in your argument is revealed in the first sentence. Who decides where that line is, or more specifically who decides exactly what is incitement to hatred?

      The Holocaust began with words - but doesn’t everything. The Holocaust happened under a regime where there was no freedom of speech.

  6. It has to be up to individuals to inform the BBC that they have crossed that line when freedom of speech becomes incitement to hatred. If the majority just accept this in silence than freedom of speech is able to become abused on a regular basis. This is a major issue as getting people motivated to complain is difficult.

    With TV it is not just the words but the images eg contrasting fat Jews enjoying a large meal at a restaurant with images of impoverished and unhappy Palestinian Arabs.

    My friend was asked if she was a Jew by children at a local council summer play scheme where she was teaching. She was kicked and hit as a direct result.It was the day after a particularly nasty lies were told about Israel on a BBC TV programme at prime time. This was no coincidence.

    1. Monkey Brains8 May 2018 at 18:22

      I've never seen a malnourished-looking Palestinian! This is part of the problem: the Palestinian economy and the incomes of individual Palestinians now depend on maintenance of their victim status. A peace settlement which would jeopardise the billions of dollars in aid becomes problematic for them on economic grounds, leaving aside all the ideology for a moment.

    2. Anon,
      What happened to your friend is utterly appalling. Until recently I would never have believed such a thing was possible in a modern Britain. But I think there is a distinction between what is perceived as hate speech by politically motivated groups who have cultivated a culture of offence and the lies and disinformation in the BBC's reporting of the Israel/Palestinian conflict. There is no question that the BBC is hugely culpable. As are much of the MSM and left leaning academic institutes. Interestingly the very people who have so wholeheartedly embraced the offence culture.

    3. Monkey Brains8 May 2018 at 23:09

      Heard Mishal Hussain on Radio 4 (Today) making the argument for allowing assault on Israel's border with Gaza with no military response and sounding v. angry with Mark Regev in a way she never sounds angry with spokespeople from the world of Islam. I reckon if you asked 100 people in the British high street whether Israel occupies Gaza, probably 70% would say yes, thanks to the mood music of BBC, ITV and Sky coverage.

    4. The BBC has a particular kind of rudeness they reserve for Israeli politicians and spokespeople.

    5. Or maybe some BBC journalists of a particular faith have an inbuilt visceral hatred of Israel and that sets the tone.

    6. Monkey Brains9 May 2018 at 08:07

      When it comes to the USA, where American journalists speak the same first language as BBC reporters, they send mostly UK BBC reporters there to report. In the Middle East where English is not people's first language and most people follow ideologies antithetical to democracy, free speech and liberty, they employ locals. Incidentally I often find it literally hard to follow the reports of "locals" in places like India, Africa, Pakistan, the Far East and the Middle East, their local accents often being so pronounced. Surely the BBC is failing in its duty to the licence fee payer in that context.

      It would be interesting to know what the BBC's policy on all this is...Why have Indian and Pakistani reporters but not Chinese or Russian reporters? Why have so many African reporters but not so many Latin American reporters?

  7. Monkey Brains9 May 2018 at 23:13

    Free speech in the UK is not quite dead long as there are sensible people prepared to stand up for it and defend it:


Note: only a member of this blog may post a comment.