Another excellent appraisal of the ongoing attempts to shut down free speech worldwide by the Saudi Arabia based Organisation of Islamic
Countries Criminals, by the atheist polemicist Pat Condell.
Mr Condell is right when he says that if free speech is successfully attacked by ‘devious religious fascists’ then all our other freedoms, which have been dearly bought by previous generations, will crumble. He is also right when he says that it is only ‘freedom of speech that keeps the claw of Islam from our throats’
Fortunately as Mr Condell said due to the 20 years of Islamic bullying and whining, people are waking up to the danger that Islam poses to Western society especially to our long held freedoms. Hopefully this awakening of people to the dangers contained within will encourage more people to stand up for their right to speak their views even if it does offend the backwards followers of a 7th Century warmongering paedophile.
In a similar vein the Institute for the Study of Civil Society (Civitas) has highlighted a new book, Feel Free to Say It: Threats to Freedom of Speech in Britain Today, by Philip Johnston, which I hope to get soon, on the threat to free speech in Western civilised nations from religious fascists and others who want to outlaw the giving of offence and the useful idiot supporters of speech suppression who are to be found mostly, but not always, on the political Left.
A precis of the book by Civitas said:
“Britain is steadily sacrificing its centuries-old commitment to freedom of speech simply to protect people from hearing views they do not like, a new book published today by the independent think tank Civitas warns.
In a careful examination of the history of free expression since the 17th century, journalist Philip Johnston describes how a raft of laws from recent decades are having “a significant and deeply chilling effect” on public speech.
Public order legislation and the hate crimes introduced by the last Labour government are being abused by police and prosecutors to circumscribe the long-cherished freedom of UK citizens to speak their own minds without fear of arrest, he says.
In his book, Feel Free To Say It, Johnston charts how Section 5 of the Public Order Act, originally introduced to stop Oswald Mosley’s Blackshirts inciting violence against Jews in the 1930s, has come to be used as “an instrument of thought control”.
Without the right to say things many find offensive, we have no freedom at all
While the law has always been used to proscribe language that is likely to lead to a breach of the peace, Johnston says, legislation is now being used to constrain opinions “because some people may not like them”.
Warning that the UK is in danger of “throwing away the freedom that makes all other liberties possible”, he calls for a wide-ranging review of the law – including the repeal of Section 5 of the Public Order Act – to reassert the importance of free speech.
“In pursuit of a more open and tolerant society in which people of all ethnicities and religions can feel comfortable, we are in danger of throwing away the freedom that makes all other liberties possible,” Johnston writes.
“Free speech must include the right to say things that most people don’t like or find offensive, otherwise it is no freedom at all.”
“More people are being jailed or arrested in Britain today for what they think, believe and say than at any time since the eighteenth century,” Johnston writes.
Johnston cites the examples of the Oxford University student who was arrested for calling a police horse “gay”; the teenager who was arrested for barking at two dogs; the woman found guilty of racially abusing her New Zealand-born neighbour by calling her a “stupid, fat, Australian bitch”; and the Christian preacher arrested for saying that homosexuality is a sin.
“Surely, legislation that permits the arrest of a Christian preacher in an English town for quoting from the Bible needs to be repealed,” Johnston writes.
While many public order cases do not result in a conviction, Johnston says, that is not the point.
“There have always been laws in the UK that proscribe free speech if its exercise is likely to lead to a breach of the peace. What we have seen introduced in the past 15 years are laws that constrain the expression of opinions because some people may not like them. They do not even need to be especially traumatised but merely feel aggrieved,” Johnston writes.
“If we are concerned primarily with the social policing of behaviour is that not better achieved through exhortation and general public disapproval than by sending people to jail?”
‘Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely’
Johnston charts the progress of thought and legislation around freedom of speech in England since state licensing was abolished in the seventeenth century. In 1644, John Milton wrote in Areopagitica: “Give me the liberty to know, to utter, and to argue freely according to conscience, above all liberties.”
The Public Order Act introduced in 1936 – in response to Mosley’s Blackshirts – criminalised behaviour that was “threatening, abusive, insulting or disorderly” and intended or likely to cause a breach of the peace.
Margaret Thatcher’s government amended Section 5 of the Act half a century later, in 1986, in the wake of the Toxteth and Brixton riots and industrial actions like the miner’s strike and the Wapping dispute.
“The two major pieces of public order legislation, 1936 and 1986, together with new laws of recent origin seeking to constrain hatred against others on the grounds of their religious belief or sexuality, have had a significant and deeply chilling effect on freedom of expression,” Johnston says.
He argues that the problem with constraining free speech for “apparently benign” purposes is that it makes it easier to restrict expression to “close down debate or cut off dissent”.
“The arguments in favour of doing so are deceptively attractive to right-thinking people who want to see minorities treated decently and are appalled by the abuse they have to endure,” he says.”
Institute for the study of civil society
Latest Pat Condell video on You Tube