United Kingdom

Britain Turns Offensive Speech Into a Police Matter

The nation that gave the world John Milton and his cry for the "liberty to utter" is now at the forefront of shutting speech down.



Which country's police force just called on its citizens to report offensive speech? Not libelous speech or death-threat speech, just plain old insulting speech. Speech that is merely hurtful or hateful. Which nation's cops instructed the citizenry to snitch on haters?

North Korea? China? Maybe Turkey?

It was Britain. Yes, Britain has become a nation in which offensive speech can become a police matter. Where, in April this year, a 19-year-old woman was convicted of sending a "grossly offensive" message after she posted rap lyrics that included the N-word on her Instagram page. Where, also in April, a Scottish shitposter was found guilty of a hate crime for teaching a pug to do a Nazi salute and posting the footage on YouTube. Where in recent years individuals have been arrested and in some cases imprisoned for making racist comments or just cracking tasteless jokes on Twitter.

This birthplace of John Stuart Mill, this nation that gave the world John Milton and his Areopagitica, still one of the greatest cries for the "liberty to utter," is now at the forefront of shutting speech down.

The latest Orwellian invitation to rat out offensive speakers was issued by the South Yorkshire Police.

These clearly time-rich coppers took to Twitter to remind people that "HateHurts". That was their actual hashtag. I'm sure hate can hurt, but not nearly as much as being burgled or beaten up or whatever other crimes these cops are probably missing as they trawl Twitter for rudeness.

"In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents," they pleaded. These non-crimes include "things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person or in writing."

It is chilling that cops, whose only business should be fighting crime, now want to hear about non-crime. Anyone who has even a sliver of respect for the ideal of liberty, for the right of people to go about their lives without being watched or narked on, should be seriously concerned that cops would want to hear about non-criminal behavior, otherwise known as everyday behavior.

Even more perversely, these non-crimes really just mean "insulting comments." So if you're in Yorkshire and someone on Facebook calls you a fat slob, call the cops. If you wear a niqab and a work colleague tells you—a la Boris Johnson—that you look a little bit like a mailbox, phone the police.

In essence, South Yorkshire Police want people to report on everyday conversations. This is Stasi territory. Coppers asking citizens to file reports on things they have read or overheard really should have disappeared from Europe with the fall of the Berlin Wall. Yet here it still is, this GDR-style instruction to eavesdrop and squeal, though now it's happening on the other side of the old Iron Curtain.

It is testament to how entrenched censorship has become in 21st-century Britain that a police force can so casually call for reports about speech.

This is a country whose communications laws and public-order legislation can be, and regularly are, used to punish hateful expression. Last year The Times reported that British police are arresting nine people a day for posting "offensive messages online." In 2016, 3,300 people were detained and questioned for things they said online. In some parts of Britain the arrest rate for offensive speech has risen by nearly 900% in recent years. We Brits are sleepwalking into a police state.

Not content with punishing people for the offensive things they say on public online platforms, now there are moves afoot to punish them for what they say privately too. This week the Labour MP Lucy Powell put forward a Bill in parliament that would ban private online discussion forums because, she says, hate speech can fester in these "echo chambers." Why not go the whole hog and mic us all up so that you can hear what we're saying at all times of the day?

The South Yorkshire call for information about "non-crimes" caused a stink in the media here in Britain, which is good. Yet while these cops' declaration of war against offensive speech may have been shocking, it wasn't surprising. It is the logical next step in Britain's ever-expanding empire of hate-policing.

We have laws that criminalize hate. We have laws against being grossly offensive. We have hate-crime laws, which mean that if you commit a crime with hatred in your mind, then you might get a stiffer punishment. Punch a Buddhist because you hate Buddhism, and you could get a longer sentence than if you punch him simply because you dislike that particular Buddhist.

This is the policing of thought. The policing of ideology.

The policing and punishment of hate by officialdom should never be acceptable. Hatred is a feeling, a sensation, a thing of the mind, and that area of life must always be off-limits to the authorities. South Yorkshire Police, here's some offensive speech for you: Fuck you and your Stasi tribute act.

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  1. Hate crimes are thought crimes. Isn’t this 34 years out of fashion?

  2. And this is what you get with an unwritten constitution and not explicitly protected rights combined with an enervated public.

    1. A written constitution is not much better protection. See also “USA.”

      1. Allowing Judges to interpret it however they wish was a mistake.
        Here in Canada, our Supreme Court has “interpreted” religious freedom, as pretty much the opposite of religious freedom.

      2. Yes, the USA has had hate crime legislation for some time. I wonder if we taught it to the UK, was it the other way round, or did both think it up independently? It is a very natural outcome of governments and politically correct fashions.

        1. The US does not criminalize hate speech; the US uses hate speech, i.e., intent, in the determination of punishment for other crimes.

          That may or may not be a good idea, but it started long before hate crime legislation: intent matters for distinctions as basic as that between murder and manslaughter.

      3. So far hate crimes have not been expanded to speech.

    2. I think that a bigger problem is that the British are subjects, not citizens.

      They must obey the Queen and her government. The Home Secretary has control of police and security

      1. And you don’t have to obey the President and his government?

        There is functionally no difference.

        1. In America, we vote our lizard into office.

          1. Choose the form of the destructor.

        2. No, no one has to obey the President as a private citizen. However, if you work for the government, the President is your boss, so during work hours you are required to follow them, or I’d it is work related. If President Trump’s told me I have to wear green tomorrow I could tell him to go fuck himself and have no repercussions. The Government is not able to make rules or laws that hinder my natural born rights. While it is true they have, I also have the ability to challenge these laws in court. And have at least a 50/50 chance of being freed if the courts rule such laws violate my rights. Unfortunately, the courts have been stacked against individual citizens but we are starting to see some reversal of this trend. It is why we are a republic and not a democracy. Out system is set up so that the people can correct the government, but also set up so that super population centers do not get the final say. It isn’t perfect but far better than a parliamentary system with a monarchy.

          1. 1. Yes, private citizens are required to obey the lawful orders of the President.

            2. ‘Work for the government’ doesn’t mean that. Not only are there different levels of government – a county employee is not a subordinate but even inside the Federal government, Legislative and Judicial branch employees are not subordinates of the President either.

            3. “The Government is not able to make rules or laws that hinder my natural born rights.” Except for the tons of laws that already restrict your rights.

            4. The only difference, funtionally, between the US and UK is that the US has a written constitution and a greater attachment to individual liberty over the collective than the UK culture has.

            1. 1. No, civilians are not required to follow the orders of the President. The President can not go up to a private citizen and give them a direct order and force them to follow it.
              2. Kind of proves my point.
              3. I admitted that legislation does exist, however, I also pointed out we, as citizens, have the means to challenge those laws.
              4. Proves my point again.

      2. This is ironic, because the Queen rules thanks to the DNA she inherited from the leader of the ethnic group that successfully colonized England in 1066.

        1. Actually, for the most part, her heritage is mainly German, it wasn’t until the last couple of her Grandmother was the first English woman in the family line (her great grandmother was Danish and the rest of the royal spouses prior to that were German as was the royal family).

          1. Pretty sure “War of the Roses” makes it ‘way more complicated than that:

            1. House ‘Windsor’ (actually Saxe-Coburg and Gotha) had effectively nothing to do with the War of the Roses.

            2. The house of Windsor is German and wasn’t involved in the War of the Roses. They did not obtain the throne until George the 1st was coronated on the 20th of October, 1714.

              1. The house of Tudor hasn’t been on the throne since 1603.

              2. George I was of the House of Hanover. The first Saxe-Coburg and Gotha/Windsor was Edward VII.

          2. All these are essentially correct.

            However it is worth pointing out that the Angles and the Saxons are in fact both Germanic tribes anyway… So it’s a minor distinction. It’d be like bitching about having an Austrian running Germany! Well, come to think of it, that didn’t work out terribly awesome last time Germany did that… But that’s besides the point!

            Genetically, the royal family is probably slightly more Germanic than the average Englishmen, because a lot of the pre-Germanic invasion Celtic/Briton DNA still floats around in the population, but they’re probably not a TON more Germanic.

        2. “Supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses. You can’t expect to wield executive power just because some watery tart threw a sword at you!” -Dennis the constitutional peasant, to King Arthur.

          Monty Python and the Holy Grail.

          -disturbingly relevant here.

    3. The E Plebnista are holy words! Meant only for Chiefs, and sons of Chiefs!

    4. The Constitution is nothing but a stack of papers, if the people in power choose to not adhere to it.

      1. The people who work for government get their jobs from the Constitution’s legal authority to carry out duties.

  3. I am 100% certain that there is an ulterior motive to all of this. Authorities are gearing up for what they actuallly want.

    Today it’s reporting someone for calling you a fat slob, but tomorrow it will be someone criticizing politicians or accusing the police of brutality or corruption. The SJW stuff is just a smokescreen, it’s really about ending dissent.

    1. “I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”
      ? James Madison

    2. The people of Britain should violently overthrow their socialist government.

      The handwringing and pantshitting from progtards on this side of the pond would be epic to watch.

      1. +1

  4. “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
    ? George Orwell

  5. This birthplace of John Stuart Mill, this nation that gave the world John Milton and his Areopagitica, still one of the greatest cries for the “liberty to utter,” is now at the forefront of shutting speech down.

    When people make “great cries” for something, it’s usually because they are lacking it. So, rather than telling you that the UK used to be a bastion of free speech but now is not, it tells you that free speech always was precarious in the UK.

    1. The Areopagitica is from 1644, Einstein. That’s almost four hundred years ago.

      1. The Areopagitica is from 1644, Einstein. That’s almost four hundred years ago.

        So, Mr.-Born-Yesterday, Mr.-Culturally-Illiterate, do you think that culture doesn’t persist for centuries? Do you really want to argue that between 1644 and now, free speech wasn’t under frequent, serious attack in Britain? Do you really want to claim that German Nazism was an aberration lasting a couple of decades, rather than a centuries-long German tradition of anti-Semitism, collectivism, anti-capitalism, and Germanic superiority?

  6. But they have such great health care! /sarc

    1. hmmmm A single payer government run healthcare system from the government that thinks you should be punished for your words. What can go wrong with that? 😉

  7. Um…

    “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.”
    ? United Nations, Universal Declaration of Human Rights

    1. European Convention on Human Rights

      ARTICLE 10

      Freedom of expression

      1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This Article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.

      2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.

      1. Paragraph 2 is a gigantic “BUT.”

        They like big “but”s and they cannot lie.

        1. +1, Eddy

        2. You are right. It’s like Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown. I wasn’t aware of Par 2.

      2. You could accurately rephrase paragraph 2 as “Just kidding!”

      3. “The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities,”

        No, it does not.

      4. So 2 utterly negates 1.

      5. So 2 utterly negates 1.

    2. yeah, and the Soviet constitution promised freedom of speech, and the USSR was one of the founding members of the UN.

      Words don’t mean squat when governments interpret them to define themselves.

  8. HateHurts?

    StupidfascistassholeswhosuppressfreespeechHurts MORE.

  9. Now that the UK knife ban has eliminated violent crime, the police have lots of extra time to work on eradicating violent crimethink

    1. Since it is illegal to defend yourself, thugs simply knock on the door and when you answer they barge in, beat you and steal your stuff. Home invasions in UK are many times higher than in US.

  10. As a left-libertarian, I wish Reason would have presented both sides of this issue. There is a compelling case to be made that hate speech does not deserve “free speech” protection. See, for example, Reason contributor Noah Berlatsky’s Is the First Amendment too broad? The case for regulating hate speech in America


    1. “B-b-b-b-but nazis”
      Fuck off authoritarian slime, and take your poorly-reasoned, draconian agitprop article with you.

      1. Don’t be too upset with OBL.

        He (or she, or perhaps Xe) is a satirical troll, and a pretty good one. He merely showcases the absurdity of the progressive left.

        1. This is generally how I decide he’s done a great job. If my instinctive reaction is “Oh, fuck you…” then I know he hit the right nerve. 😀

      2. That kind of crimetalk is going to get you in trouble.

    2. Marxist-oriented… What a great starting point. Who are the “oppressors”?

      Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

      “political philosophy: Critical theory. Critical theory, a broad-based Marxist-oriented approach to the study of society, was first developed in the 1920s by the philosophers Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno, and? international relations: Constructivism. ?is formed by postmodernism and critical theory.”

    3. The Frankfurt School:


      “The Frankfurt School and Critical Theory

      The Frankfurt School, known more appropriately as Critical Theory, is a philosophical and sociological movement spread across many universities around the world. It was originally located at the Institute for Social Research (Institut f?r Sozialforschung), an attached institute at the Goethe University in Frankfurt, Germany. The Institute was founded in 1923 thanks to a donation by Felix Weil with the aim of developing Marxist studies in Germany. After 1933, the Nazis forced its closure, and the Institute was moved to the United States where it found hospitality at Columbia University in New York City.”

      This is why Jordan Peterson is a “phenomenon”.

      1. Fun fact, my graduate research was an attempt to figure out the most effective way to spread memes.

    4. I have to disagree. See the case mentioned above, where the man tried to make his dog a Nazi as a comedy act. The introduction said explicitly that he was trying to make his dog the worst thing in the world. He then proceeded to mock the entire thing for laughs. It was an act that would have gotten him executed under the Third Reich.

      Yet somehow it was decided that it was hate speech, and he was convicted and his appeal denied. For comedy.

      Now, consider the number of people who have actively said that disagreeing with political opinion X is hateful. (immigration policy comes to mind). You literally have a perfect opportunity to declare disagreement on a political issue criminal.

      Hate speech laws universally become censorship against unpopular opinions or criminalizes dissent.

    5. It’s official. Free Speech is too old fashioned for the left.

    6. In their new book “Must We Defend Nazis?: Why the First Amendment Should Not Protect Hate Speech and White Supremacy,” they argue that in fact regulating hate speech would make the United States a fairer, more equal and less hateful place.

      Good idea, let’s do what the progressive Germans did. They had strong limits on free speech in order to protect fairness, sensible political discourse, and public order. In the 1920s. How did that work out?

  11. There’s no money in protecting people’s feelings. So why is the prosecution of hatred invading our freedoms?

    Hatred is undefined. Lobby groups with power and money intentionally intimidate governing bodies and courts to rule that anything that contradicts their agendas as hatred. To complete the circle, courts rule that the truth is no defence. So much for justice.

    Hatred is conflict, in speech represented ONLY by lies.

    But that’s truth and inadmissible in this environment.

  12. If you wear a niqab and a work colleague tells you?a la Boris Johnson?that you look a little bit like a mailbox, phone the police.

    “Hate? No, no! I’m actually sexually attracted to mail boxes!”

    1. At the rate we’re going there will be laws against sexual attraction before you know it.

      1. Laws against heterosexual attraction. Not being receptive to a homo come on will be criminalized as hate speech.

        1. “Stupid, white, male, cis-gendered, xtian bigots! Not offering up their brown stars for a rodgering upon request. They should be burned as heretics!”

    2. “Can I put my package in your mailbox?”

  13. “In addition to reporting hate crime, please report non-crime hate incidents,” they pleaded.

    “Somt bloke looked at me funny!”

    1. *Some*

      *** gets coffee ***

  14. And he didn’t mention Nazis once. Sounds like he’s slipping.

    1. I’m in SF. It sure could happen *here*!

  15. Fucking fathead bogbonking Brits!


  16. Must remember that from now on, when in Britain, one should not signal something is okay with the fingers, lest a visiting American liberal accuse one of white supremacy dog-whistling.

    1. Alternatively, one could spend time drinking coffee on Tyrone’s couch the day before your flight. But I wouldn’t wish that fate on any city. Miasma is a horrible thing.

  17. Shhhh…..if the Libs get a hold of this, we will probably start extraditing American offenders.

  18. Yeah, when Reason posted about the British MP who wanted to violate freedom of expression and freedom of association, I commented some retorts in the relevant posts of her Facebook page. I think that was a week ago. A couple of days ago, I had a conversation with a detective from the New Jersey office of the Department of Homeland Security …

    Long story short, that detective now knows the location of that off-Broadway drug den in Paterson. It’s scary to think that the Department of Homeland security couldn’t find a terrorist organization if the terrorists painted lines in the street to warn the cops to avoid that block.

  19. a Scottish shitposter was found guilty of a hate crime for teaching a pug to do a Nazi salute and posting the footage on YouTube.

    I will admit that those memes I made of a singer accidentally giving a Nazi salute during the national UK Eurovision competition and defending that YouTuber were bad enough to make it into my “offensive” folder on my computer. My ass selfi pics are still in the “ass selfi pics” folder, and the Mohammed cartoons are still in the “Mohammed Cartoon” folder, but some graphics cross the boundary and make it into my “offensive” folder.

  20. It is testament to how entrenched censorship has become in 21st-century Britain that a police force can so casually call for reports about speech.

    European politicians are human. They like stay alive through the end of the day. They saw what life became like for Gerrt Wilders. Can you blame them for turning their backs on freedom?

  21. There’s a reason why we rebeled against these monarchist scum.

    1. When we were in England several years ago, we decided to short our inheritors and stay in very expensive hotels. In England, that does not always imply “good”, which is another issue.
      Regardless, we knew they were expensive as there were many visitors from near-Eastern (oil – I’m guessing) countries wearing watches the value of SF homes and the hotel bars dispensed as much coffee as booze.
      Wife was king enough to restrain me several times when I really wanted to shout “Take that damn rag off your head, lady!”
      I’d prolly be in the Tower.

      1. When we were in England several years ago, we decided to short our inheritors and stay in very expensive hotels. In England, that does not always imply “good”, which is another issue.

        Money in England doesn’t buy you luxury–the British are incapable of providing comfort, luxury, good taste, or even straight teeth–it buys you segregation from the riff-raff.

  22. This week the Labour MP Lucy Powell put forward a Bill in parliament that would ban private online discussion forums because, she says, hate speech can fester in these “echo chambers.”

    Great Scott. I clicked the link and read her piece and in her own words, she is absolutely proposing that without backing up any of her claims about these boogeymen of “hate”, and she has bipartisan support from the slaver despots on both sides of the creepy old Hogwarts-like “corridors of power” those motherfuckers strut about in. It’s definitely going to get passed. The UK really is a dystopian anti-liberty nightmare.

  23. 16 September 2018. I’ve been arrested 3 times for Harassment over 6 years. The arrests were for truthful comments I have made by way of free speech on social media & in the public interest. Although the arrests were actually civil matters of alleged Defamation they were treated as criminal matters because a complainant felt Harassed by the comments. 2 of the arrests ended up in Court & the 2nd arrest was for Harassment with Violence but without a victim. Behind all 3 arrests were numerous Organisations which sought to gag me. Because the 1st arrest resulted in 4 police officers being reprimanded the police force engaged in malicious prosecution thereafter.

    The last arrest, which is ongoing, was flawed because the officer who arrested, interviewed & charged me was the same officer who I had complained about to the Chief Constable weeks before & which the PSD had since confirmed was due to be investigated. The investigation of 7 allegations against the officer have been suspended (sub judice) until after my trial. if I am found guilty the 3 computers removed from my home unlawfully due to the flawed arrest will be destroyed. Computers containing evidence against the Organisations & the police which have nothing to do with the complaint or the reasons of arrest. The complainant has since been partially discredited by the CPS after admitting the complainant was “incorrectly described” on a Welfare Panel in 2012 & did, with others, criminally abuse my late wife as a result.

    1. RE: government police destroying your computers. This is a good reason to keep your data in a cloud based storage system.

    2. England?

  24. Britain has a long history of this. See anti-popery laws for example.

  25. George Orwell was British, at home.

  26. Hate Speech Is Free Speech. # SticksAndStones.

  27. “We Brits are sleepwalking into a police state”

    This is offensive to somnambulists. O’Neill, present yourself to the local constabulary. Anti-somnambulists cannot be allowed to spew their vile, filthy hatred.

  28. I’ve been to Scotland, Britain, Ireland and enjoyed the free spirited pub culture of listening to them insulting people friends and Foes
    Alike.Too bad.

  29. I hate hate speech laws.

    Is this a crime?

    So what.

  30. “Why not go the whole hog and mic us all up so that you can hear what we’re saying at all times of the day?”

    Uh, I hate to tell you this, but Google, Apple, and Amazon have already arranged this, and in fact, are getting people not just to volunteer for it, but to pay for the privilege.

    It’s just a short step from that to the government having access to all the audio all the time. Think how long the NSA’s activities were unknown? Nobody had even heard of it until Bamford’s _The Puzzle Palace_ was published in 1982, and even then nobody believed him – thought he was a crank. What’s going on _right now_ with Alexa and Siri and Google’s assistant?

  31. Where is punk rock when you need it! The Anti-Nowhere League would be perfect for the job!

  32. It’s better to be a violent criminal in the UK than being political incorrect.
    The Thought Police are everywhere in England and are not afraid to put people in jail for such vicious and fascist crimes as speaking your mind.
    Just ask the thought criminal, Tommy Robinson.

  33. Our ancestors from across the sea in the UK need to take a page out of the Founding Fathers book and set about fixing their broken ass form of government. The Brits have a long and storied history of revolution… It may yet be time for another one.

    The same can be said of pretty much the rest of Europe. At the ballot box hopefully, and there are positive signs in many parts of Europe… But options don’t end at the ballot box should the grievances become too great…

  34. You think of yourself as a free speech warrior. But are you prepared to listen to madman claiming the holocaust never happened, or, that people never went to the moon?? This is what defending free speech actually means – the ability to listen to idiotic statements. I suppose you could mount a defence on the basis that they are adults with learning difficulties [which is a big part of the population incidentally]. In Germany, for example, denying the holocaust is a statutory crime – where does that leave your precious free speech ????

    If you really believe in free speech you have to be prepared to defend the idiot – are you ?????

  35. Wrong! It’s the right to make idiotic statements. It’s also the right to refute idiotic statements. Whether or not anyone listens is up to the individual. Yes, I am prepared to defend the right of the idiot, not the idiot.

    1. I think A lot more people would rather have peace and quiet.

  36. They are just going to resort to being annoying. Stealthy mofos.

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