Home Freedom of Speech Change in Free Speech Laws.

Change in Free Speech Laws.

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Free speech requires a leap of faith: a belief that even if bad speech does harm, the good done by allowing people to say what they think clearly outweighs it. You either have that faith or you do not. Unfortunately it seems that the Law Commission does not, at least if a recent document it brought out on hate crime and hate speech is anything to go by.

In England, laws governing hate speech – which make it criminal to say offensive things to particular groups – are fairly limited in scope. You must not say or publish anything threatening, abusive or insulting which is aimed at stirring up racial hatred, or which is likely to do so; and you must not say or publish anything threatening with the intent of fomenting hatred based on religion or sexual orientation. That is it. Apart from a few provisions about causing alarm or distress to people in general, and a notorious law – section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 – making it a crime to post anything grossly offensive on the internet. But keep away from these and, broadly speaking, you can say what you like in Britain.

But is the Law Commission troubled by the existence of this degree of freedom? Its 530-page consultation paper is replete with references to hate crime reported to police and the awful effects of insults on members of marginalised and oppressed groups. Having turned to a detailed listing of the limits which the European Convention on Human Rights allows states to place on free speech (unfortunately a rather long list), its preliminary prescription is drearily predictable. The problem is the lack of proper controls on hurtful speech. The solution? An enormous extension of what we are not allowed to say about each other. If you have followed the difficulties surrounding the Scottish hate crime bill, all this will be depressingly familiar.

First, chapter 18 of the report suggests trans people, asexuals, non-binary people and women could be added to the list of disadvantaged groups people are not allowed to insult. The latter apparently come in, not because of widespread hatred for women on account of their sex (which is vanishingly rare) but because of what is referred to as ‘gendered online harassment’, and an apparent epidemic of misogyny expressed by incels (since you asked, an incel is a bitter and involuntarily celibate man). The need for extension does not even necessarily stop there. There is, the Commission suggests in chapter 14, a case for going further and including such groups as humanists, sex workers and members of ‘alternative subcultures’ such as goths. The mind boggles.

Secondly, the current need (except in cases of race) to show an intention to stir up hatred in order to convict a person of hate speech (rather then a mere tendency of his words to do so) is brushed aside as a tiresome restriction that, in the Commission’s words, would place an ‘undue burden’ on prosecutors. If the Commission has its way, the result would be that a tweet or blog entry innocently intended could land the person making it in court on a criminal charge (and a serious one: the stirring-up of hate offence currently carries a maximum sentence of seven years in prison) if a court later decided that it was likely to incite hatred of, say, transgender people and the accused ought to have realised this fact.

These two worrying points aside, there are other remarkable features of the document.

Radio stations should have to vet every programme they buy in case it contains inflammatory material; if they don’t and it does, then they too should be guilty of a crime.

The present law takes the understandable position that the criminal law should not prevent you boring your family with your views, or barge into pillow-talk or dinner-table badinage; this means that hate speech offences do not apply to things done within someone’s house. The Commission has no time for petty protections of this sort; it solemnly suggests that if you aren’t allowed to incite someone to commit crimes merely because you do so in the confines of your own home, you shouldn’t be allowed to say bad things there either. So there.

It is depressing that the Law Commission appears to take the dismal view that free speech is problematic and the European Convention on Human Rights’ protection of it a necessary limit on people’s freedom to say what they want, rather than a minimum to be exceeded. But this is the kind of view that we have come to expect from the Commission, a congeries made up of earnest law professors.

Given that we seem to copy GB in our laws, is this the kind of law we can expect to see introduced here?

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10 COMMENTS

  1. The short answer would seem to be ‘Yes’, especially as Golly G made a comment shortly-after being elected, to the effect ( my paraphrase), that she would be working towards introducing the necessary legislation into Parliament, said legislation being intended to protect muslims and ONLY muslims from any criticism that THEIR actions might engender.

    Adherents to the islamic belief system have taken similar action elsewhere, and as their numbers in NZ increase towards the 2% tipping-point, it is now only a matter if time before the process arrives here, a process that the COL, in their pursuit of control, are quite happy to encourage…

    10

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    • I’m giving one tick to my local National MP, but the protection of free speech in NZ is the main reason I’m giving my party vote to ACT. We need them to add some spine to any right-of-centre government, and even if they only make it into opposition, I trust the new ACT team will hound/pound Angry Andy if he tries to restrict our free speech.

      6

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    • Well…the French Revolution (Reign of Terror) is basically the template for freedom-pretenders: you’re permitted only the Left’s (tiny) definition of freedom or its Madam Guillotine for you. That freedom being you have to conform in thinking to them or else. This was again replicated so terribly with the Red Terror and summed up with Orwell’s terminology of thought-crime.

      We are again witnessing thought-crime. Angry Andy hugs actual criminals (e.g. enabling criminals to vote) but wants to punish thought-crime (“hate-speech”). His mentality is exactly the same as the Bolsheviks in that regard.

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  2. The Enlightenment was propelled by the fair criticism of all things including religion.

    We must stand up for our rights to observe, develop our own opinions and voice them and not be pushed back to the middle ages by these modern day Inquisitionists.

    René Descartes’ 1637 philosophy of “Cogito, ergo sum”
    (“I think, therefore I Am”),
    In a nutshell, THINK FOR YOURSELF.

    Churchill was a great thinking man, not claiming perfection, but certainly put his mind to work on many issues.
    Not only a thinker, but a man in his younger life, experienced the rawness of life, and was able to bring that into his speeches.

    6

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  3. We may follow the Poms on many things but fluffing about with legislation on speech and what is or is not allowed is not sought by me.

    My view is simple. I do not agree there should be any legislative penalty attached to speech or thought of any type. That Ms Gharaman thinks Muslims need to be so protected is not a reason to shift my view.

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    • These retards have no comprehension of the difference between saying something thats hateful, or saying something they hate to hear. In this case “there are only 2 genders” could be construed as hate speech by trans people who hate what that implies. Where do they stop?
      And we expect this to be evenly applied across multiple language and cultural barriers? Of course not. Theres only one group that needs to be destroyed.. Conservative White People. (Liberal (((White))) People are doing it free of charge)

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