Hate Speech

U.K. Criminalization of Speech Is Really Starting to Scare Me

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Katie Hopkins/Twitter

Earlier this week, British reality TV star Katie Hopkins tweeted some fears about a Scottish Ebola patient coming to London for treatment. She's now facing a criminal investigation. 

"Inquiries are ongoing into the nature of these tweets and to establish any potential criminality," a Scottish law enforcement official told the BBC. "Police Scotland will thoroughly investigate any reports of offensive or criminal behaviour online and anyone found to be responsible will be robustly dealt with."

Here are Hopkins' possibly criminally offensive statements: 

 

More than 25,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Hopkins to be charged over her "vile racist tweets." 

Hopkins is the latest in a recent line of high-profile "hate speech" cases in the U.K., where it's illegal to use "threatening or abusive" words if they're intended or likely to stir up "racial hatred" or hatred based on religion or sexual orientation. Some version of this law has been on the books since the mid-'80s, but enforcement seems to be ramping up, or at least getting more ridiculous, in recent years. Last April, for instance, British politician Paul Weston was arrested on suspicion of religious or racial harassment after quoting a passage on Islam from a book by Winston Churchill.

Meanwhile, UK Home Secretary Theresa May wants to introduce "extremism disruption orders" for people whose words betray a lack of "respect for the rule of law" or "respect for minorities." Those served with an order would thereby be prevented from publishing anything online, speaking in a public forum, or appearing on TV. And British Labour Party politician John Mann thinks the government should be able to ban people from social media for posting offensive messages. Right now, the state can only jail people for such messages, not impede on their freedom of expression indefinitely. 

Of course, the British have always been more censorship-happy than Americans—why should we worry too much about their current speech-limiting antics? Because they come at a time when countries around the world—from Japan to India to Turkey—have been debating (and legislating) the handling of hate speech, and the European Union's Council on Human Rights has been taking up the "no hate speech" mantle more vociferously. The United Nations is also pressuring countries, particularly Japan, to enact anti-hate speech laws. I'm really afraid that speech penalties of the past are the wave of the future.

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  1. Thank fucking god we have the first amendment or we would certainly already have some laws like this on the books.

    1. We’ve got a generation coming out of the public schools who have faced suspension and expulsion for calling a retarded kid a retard. It’s only a matter of time before they as adults demand that offensive speech be criminalized for everyone.

      1. We’ve got a generation coming out of the public schools who have faced suspension and expulsion for calling a retarded kid a retard.

        Or even worse, calling Obama “just a man.”

      2. That, and history shows that a constitution is only as strong as the will to enforce it. Freedom of speech could go the way of the contract clause.

        1. So far free speech for individuals is very well protected, so I am optimistic that that will stay. While there is plenty of trickery when it comes to commercial and electioneering speech/press, it is pretty damn hard to deny the plain meaning of freedom of speech as it applies to individuals.

          1. The 2A, despite its clear meaning, has been gutted in the name of “Common Sense.”

            There’s no reason to think the 1A will not be similarly gutted.

            1. I think there is. Free speech protection has generally moved in the right direction throughout US history, while gun rights have mostly moved in the wrong direction.

              I’m going to be optimistic about this, damn you!

  2. Why? It’s not like America is ever going to adapt any of Britain’s crazy policies.

  3. Mark my words, this is precisely where the US is heading. I truly hope I’m wrong, but there are too many people who would like to see this implemented here (but selectively enforced to punish the “right” people).

    1. I think so too. The laws will all eventually be struck down by the courts (hopefully), but when has unconstitutionality ever stopped legislators from legislating? Especially when popular opinion reaches a fever pitch

      1. Even if these kinds of unconstitutional laws are eventually struck down (which seems doubtful, considering some of the idiotic decisions our Supreme Court has made recently) fighting for our basic rights can be a lengthy and expensive process that most people don’t have the ability to pursue. In the meantime, good people will be vilified and have their lives derailed.

      2. This article contained hate thoughts, which means it requires a trigger warning, which you did not provide. Therefore, you should face penalties and probably be banned from the internet.

      3. The laws will all eventually be struck down by the courts

        Yeah.

        Like Wickard. Like ACA. Like, (ah, fuck it, I could go on all day)

        1. Like ACA.

          There may yet be hope with King v. Burwell.

        2. Indeed – and even if they _are_ stuck down, the process is the punishment – you “win” many years later and are broke.

        3. Like McCain-Feingold?

          Courts do reasonably well with free speech stuff, especially for individuals.

      4. Who can truly say they’ll be struck down as unconstitutional, with the track record of the SCOTUS as it stands today.

        Kind of like the ‘ignorance of the law is no excuse, unless you’re a cop’ ruling. Or the ‘forcing purchasing health insurance because of commerce clause and tax authority’ ruling. Or…. I need a drink.

    2. Tolerance means not tolerating intolerance.

      Good tolerant people do not tolerate intolerant racists, homophobes, Christians, conservatives, libertarians and such.

      Intolerant speech and ideas must be squashed in the name of tolerance.

      1. Unfortunately, it only goes one direction. It’s OK to condemn ME for being being a white, heterosexual male (seriously, I’m OK with whatever anyone wants to say about me), but the slightest criticism of a ‘protected group’ cannot be tolerated, and the offender must be punished. It’s the arbitrary enforcement of these laws that annoys me the most…

        1. The very term “protected group” is an affront to liberty.

          1. I thought equal protection under the law forbid such things, but then I have a much too rational mind to understand this.

            1. Sure, just ask the wedding cake makers if they are protected.

              1. But that’s different – they were big meanies who hurt someone’s feelings by refusing to do what they want

            2. That presumes that everyone is equal. Some people are inferior, and because of this they need special protections. Like those inferior blacks people who cannot survive without a helping white Progressive hand.

              1. Like those inferior blacks people who cannot survive without a helping white Progressive hand.

                True. It’s a burden.

  4. The United Nations is also pressuring countries, particularly Japan, to enact anti-hate speech laws.

    And the US can politely tell them to fuck off like we do in so many other ways. I’m not terribly worried about this.

    1. Just evict the UN already.

      1. One can dream.

    2. Massachusetts Senator Edward Markey (D) and New York Representative Hakeem Jeffries (D) have introduced the Hate Crime Reporting Act of 2014.
      Read more at http://godfatherpolitics.com/1…..QgMYBr2.99

      Just a first step

  5. Calling Scots “jocks” is vile racist hate speech?

    Oy.

    1. There is a man you don’t meet everyday named Jock Stuart, and he shot his dog, so every reference to anyone or anything named Jock should be outlawed.

      1. +1 Pogues Song (actually I believe the song is traditional, but for me it is ever associated with The Pogues)

    2. “Jock” is a derogatory term for Scots. And while Ms. Hopkins is a jerk as evidenced by her tweet, I don’t think this rises to the level of vile hate speech.

      1. Scottish is its own race now?

        Maybe a different species, what with the man/ewe interbreeding…

  6. I have this theory. The more government takes over daily life, the more people make the rational decision that controlling government is more important than minding their own business, because otherwise other people will control government to their detriment, what you might call a negative sum game.

    I also believe that people don’t like this tussling over government, that they really would rather mind their own business, because that at least is productive rather than defensive. But because we all get different benefits from government, the only acceptable cuts would be *everything* (which would suit me fine). Any partial cut will only affect some people, and we are all loathe to give up our hard-won benefits when other people get to keep theirs.

    Along with this is that the more government controls, the more it restricts us in twiddly little ways, as illustrated by this story, and the more frustrated we are, every day, all day long. This builds up as anger and outrage, but we know fighting government is a losing proposition, so we lash out at everyone who rocks the boat and tries to assert any independence that we ourselves are too timid to assert.

    1. The more government takes over daily life, the more people make the rational decision that controlling government is more important than minding their own business, because otherwise other people will control government to their detriment, what you might call a negative sum game.

      I’ve had similar thoughts re business lobbying in the U.S. While there certainly are businesses that seek to profit from cozy ties with the political class, many others likely try to blunt government action that would effectively steal their money and generally complicate their abilities to carry on business.

      1. Yah, my employer has lobbyists – a fairly recent turn of events and I got the clear impression that it was “we have to, we don’t want to”.

        1. I got the clear impression that it was “we have to, we don’t want to”.

          This. Have a friend in the same boat. Taking the moral high ground takes a back seat to living in a van down by the river. Once your competitor does it, you have little choice if you want to stay in business. Just one more reason I say limit the government, not the people.

          1. The new VP-Government Relations is likely hired based on his political connections, will want to keep sinecure, and expand his future (lobbying related) job prospects so has exactly the opposite incentives as his employer. Absolutely does not want to get rid of the system that provides his bread.

      2. But I mean this on every level, including city councils, building inspectors, licensing boards, and everyone. We can yell at insurance investigators because we can always switch insurance companies. But we can’t yell at the clerk who takes forms for business licenses because our form just might get lost or come in for extra processing.

    2. This, very well put.

    3. Counterpoint: very little of human history seems to resemble this in practice. Most places have many areas where law regulated sweeping areas of human life starting very early on in the course of civilization, with post-Christian Europe (particularly the feudal/city-state dominated West) perhaps being one of the few regions with two magisteriums governing human affairs (church and state) rather than the state being the sole plenipotentiary. If it were the case that people enjoyed minding their own business and only took to controlling government, then who is the first mover which causes the reaction and why is it the case that he (or she) is so universally dominant in virtually every form of human society, to the point where even civilizations proposed on the lines of classical liberal values must inevitably pay homage to him?

      If this desire to control is so foreign to humanity as a first impulse, how is it that this impulse is more dominant than its opposite?

  7. my co-worker’s step-sister makes $74 an hour on the computer . She has been fired from work for nine months but last month her paycheck was $16572 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read Full Report…………
    ????? http://www.netjob70.com

  8. When I was young, I thought the term “thought police” was an exaggeration.

    Boy, was I wrong.

    More than 25,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Hopkins to be charged over her “vile racist tweets.”

    Those people deserve a slow, Ebola-infected death. Seriously, these thought police are the scum of the Earth.

  9. More than 25,000 people have signed an online petition calling for Hopkins to be charged over her “vile racist tweets.”

    Oppress us, oh government masters, oppress us.

    /Limey scum

    So this is how liberty dies… with thunderous applause.- PA

    1. This is the way freedom ends
      This is the way freedom ends
      This is the way freedom ends
      Not with a bang but with a right not to be offended.

    2. Last night, I watched a lecture by Judge Nap given at the Mises Institute.

      He concludes be saying that he expects to die peacefully in his bed surrounded by those people who love him. Some of the young people in that room had better prepare themselves to die in a government prison or in a town square.

      Heavy stuff.

      1. linky, please.

  10. Another good article ENB. Thanks!

    1. Her articles are always worth reading, which is not something I can say for other writers on this site.

    2. Agreed, one of the best at Reason for sure.

      1. You guys should quit sucking up, it won’t get you anywhere.

        1. Does ENB even host cocktail parties?

          1. These dirty old men are just trying to flirt. They’ll bring the Boone’s.

        2. Life is for kicking ass, not kissing it, that’s what I always say.

  11. Earlier this week, British reality TV star Katie Hopkins tweeted some fears about a Scottish Ebola patient coming to London for treatment. She’s now facing a criminal investigation.

    Words can turn people into victims!

    See this person? See? He’s offended, so he’s a victim. See the victim now? See? He’s offended.

    Meanwhile, UK Home Secretary Theresa May wants to introduce “extremism disruption orders” for people whose words betray a lack of “respect for the rule of law” or “respect for minorities.”

    Aren’t Fabians patient? It took them 120 years but the waiting is finally paying off.

  12. We already have hate speech laws, you know.

    Some of them are dressed up as equal employment opportunity laws, with the penalties directed (at one remove) to the employer.

    Others are dressed up as penalty enhancements. Kinda like how seatbelt laws started out as purely secondary violations. That didn’t last, did it?

    We’ve already crossed the Rubicon. Its just a matter of tweaking current laws to “close loopholes”. For great justice.

    1. I think that the word “hate” is really overused. Hate is a strong word. I don’t think I hate anyone or anything. And I’m sure some people who use racist or offensive language are hateful people, but for the most part they are just jerks, or just don’t care what other people think of them.
      But somehow not being nice or sufficiently sensitive to stupid people is “hate speech”.

      1. Speaking of marriage in terms of “husband and wife” instead of “spouse and spouse” is considered to be hate speech, because the only reason why anyone would do so is a deep and seething hatred of homosexuals.

        1. Which is also completely stupid. Even among people who think being gay is sinful, I doubt many actually hate.

          I guess it goes along well with the animism of the left. They think that the words can be hateful all on their own without regard to the intentions of the speaker.

  13. I don’t see this coming to the United States anytime soon. Have there been any assaults on speech lately? Things seem to be headed in the opposite direction here, if you ask me. Campaign censorship is actually being reversed.

    Of all the rights specifically protected in the Bill of Rights, speech seems to be the one few serious comers can successfully get at. (I think it helps that it’s wrapped up with the rights journalists particularly enjoy.)

    1. If you need to function in certain social settings then deviation from the orthodoxy will isolate you. Try voicing non-orthodox opinions as a non-tenured academic. Unpopular personal opinions will lose you a job on Wall Street – yes, Wall Street.

      Initially, it’s not about regulation via law enforcement; it’s the use of powerful institutions controlled by right thinking persons. See Orwell.

    2. I haven’t seen much in terms of actual government laws or action, but the ground work has been done socially. Look at the rhetoric surrounding income inequality, hate speech, racism, sexism, privilege, healthcare, etc.

      If you started a similar petition to the one in the article, you’d definitely get a solid response in terms of numbers, but the courts wouldn’t carry it through.

      Since government always lags society, it’s just a matter of time before our government starts codifying what our society believes. So, we need to start changing society before that happens.

    3. I agree with Fist. Free speech is still highly valued here and most people do get that you need to protect awful hateful speech too. Sure there are some restrictions that there shouldn’t be. But you really can say or publish whatever the fuck you want without fear of criminal penalties.

  14. The orthodoxy must be enforced.

    How long before climate change or gun control denialism becomes “illegal”.

    Currently, doubts about these topics are forbidden in polite social settings.

    1. Or college campus rapes. Or school lunches. Or the safety of the children. Or the police.

    2. A few years ago I had dinner with some friends of mine and some other people.

      I mentioned that I was skeptical of the studies “proving” man-caused global warming because it was being politicized with so much money backing the research, recent e-mail scandals, incestuous peer review processes, etc.

      They looked at me like I had 3 heads. I’ve lost friends over political discussions because talking about white, male privilege is easy when you discuss it in the abstract or in an academic setting, but it turns nasty really fast when you start applying it to people you actually know.

  15. The United Nations is also pressuring countries, particularly Japan, to enact anti-hate speech laws.

    The usual defense for the protection of free speech under the first amendment is that speech that needs protecting is the speech we hate, not the speech we like. But under the guise of protecting “minorities” and disfranchised groups from the attacks of truly-awful people (i.e. white European males), a lot of citizens are entertaining the notion that speech needs a control or a limit.

    How many times have you heard the same canard repeated over and over, that speech is limited because “you can’t yell ‘fire!’ in a crowded theater”? The argument for limiting speech that sounds hateful is framed in the same terms: you should not yell hateful things in a crowd because they may act like animals, or Thou Shall Not Hurt Thy Neighbor’s Feelings.

    These notions sound cogent to the uninitiated in critical thinking skills, because people learn to be polite with one another and hateful speech is, well, not polite. It is thus easy to bamboozle people into giving away their right to express themselves in any way they want.

    Of course, there’s hate speech and then there’s intelligentsia-approved hate speech; you know, the kind that attacks Christians and conservatives and what have you. That’s good hate speech. What should be banned is bad hate speech.

    1. Of course, there’s hate speech and then there’s intelligentsia-approved hate speech; you know, the kind that attacks Christians and conservatives and what have you.

      Who is offended matters more than the actual act of saying something offensive.
      Principals trump principles.

  16. WOP’s up? How’s your dago?

  17. “U.K. Criminalization of Speech Is Really Starting to Scare Me”

    An “Up-worthy” Headline?

    Not, “Scotland Police Threaten X for Speech” or, “Tweets Result in Accusations of…”…but,

    “Oh, noes, mah feewings?”

    I appreciate there may actually be sincere cause for fear. because ENB is a dual citizen?…? maybe? Something?

    I can see how the UK’s lack of speech protections might be seen as ‘deplorable’; ‘scary’? not so much, unless we were assuming the potential for rejoining the Empire.

  18. It sure scares the hell out of me and I live here.

    The Brits are a long way from seeing the light on this. There is still a lot of sectarian hate speech in this country and no one seems to have any better idea than to forever try to ban it. So to take one example, football fans go to jail for singing a song that was anti-Catholic 100 years ago, and no one ever gets along any better. This is also the country with some of the Western world’s worst libel laws.

  19. my co-worker’s step-mother makes $82 /hour on the laptop . She has been fired from work for ten months but last month her pay was $13096 just working on the laptop for a few hours. check here……..
    ?????http://www.netjob70.com

  20. I’m sorry, are those tweets supposed to be in English?

  21. You have freedom of speech as long as you agree with me. That is how all freedoms are lost.

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