Matthew Doyle of London ruined his life when he confronted a Muslim woman in his neighborhood and asked her to “explain Brussels” — a reference to the recent Muslim-perpetrated terrorist attack in the capital of the EU. “Nothing to do with me,” the woman replied, a response that failed to satisfy Doyle. The two parted ways, which should have been the end of it.
But then Doyle made the fatal mistake of recounting the incident on Twitter. His story was not well received in cyberspace where several people tweeted their disapproval, some of them calling upon his employer, a well-known London talent agency, to fire him. Finally, Doyle did the unthinkable and — gasp! — tweeted a slur. “Who cares if I insulted some towelhead?? Really.” Shortly thereafter the bobbies were leading him away in handcuffs.
It’s not clear if he was arrested for his original tweet or any of his subsequent tweets but we do know that he was charged with “inciting racial hatred” under the Public Order Act, a regrettable abortion of a law that ought not exist in any country that claims to be free. Passed in 1986, the law originally banned “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behavior” and it was supposedly intended to curtail soccer hooliganism, though I suspect that that was actually a pretext. In 2013, the law was amended so that speech that is merely “insulting” is no longer a crime as long as no specific “victim” can be identified. If the Doyle incident is any indicator, the change was merely semantic. Whiners have simply learned to describe offensive speech as “abusive” rather than “insulting,” two words that mean more or less the same thing.
You’d think that the cops would have bigger fish to fry. This is Britain, after all, which happens to have the highest violent crime rate in Europe. Shouldn’t the police concern themselves with street gangs or something? It might free up some of the cops’ time and resources if they’d quit policing internet thought crimes for a while. Just a suggestion.
It bears remembering that this is the same country where multiple child sex rings were exposed starting in 2013, the largest and best known of which was centered on the city of Rotherham. The Rotherham scandal involved mostly Pakistani men trafficking school-aged white British girls. Authorities were alerted to the existence of the sex ring in 2002 but chose to do nothing for fear of inciting hatred against religious and ethnic minorities. A whistleblower was pressured to keep quiet and ordered to take an “ethnicity and diversity course.”
So there you have it — British law enforcement ignored a child sex ring for eleven years but not for one moment will they tolerate a white guy using the word “towelhead.”
Perhaps the most candid article I have ever read from the British press came from Scottish journalist Hugo Rifkind, who wrote in 2009 “We Brits Don’t Do Free Speech, Thank Goodness.” I found Rifkind’s defense of state-sponsored censorship abhorrent, but at least he was honest enough to admit that it exists. Plenty of people rationalize that speech is still free in the UK because only really bad people are being arrested for saying really bad things. Rifkind’s column called on his countrymen to stop lying to themselves and just admit that speech has been criminalized and most of his readers like it that way. “Yes you are against free speech,” he wrote. “Almost all Brits are. It’s in our nature.”
Speech can be a crime in Britain — and it doesn’t even have to contain a threat of violence. For those who might be traveling to that island nation in the near future I offer a small sampling of mere words that can get you arrested in the UK.
Jokes about Nelson Mandela
A sandwich shop owner from Staffordshire named Neil Phillips was arrested in 2013 for posting a strange and (to me at least) inscrutable joke about Nelson Mandela, icon of the left and South Africa’s first post-Apartheid president. “My PC takes so long to shut down I’ve decided to call it Nelson Mandela.” Huh? As it turns out Mandela was sick and many people had been predicting his death for quite a while. I know, if you have to explain the joke it’s not funny. But was Phillips’s joke a crime? In Britain, the answer is yes. Phillips was arrested and fingerprinted. He had his DNA taken his and computer seized for an investigation. I wonder what they’d do to me for calling Mandela a communist terrorist, as I did in a recent column? Britain doesn’t have the death penalty, so probably life in prison. Sheesh.
The Bible — in Its Entirety
Jamie Murray, owner of the Salt and Light Café in Blackpool, was surprised to receive a visit from the police in 2011. The Christian owner of a Christian coffee shop was, by all accounts, a law-abiding citizen. As it turns out, someone had made a criminal complaint against his business because it displayed the entire Bible, verse by verse, in a continuous loop on a television screen.
It’s not clear who dropped a dime or why, but Murray suspected that someone had taken offense at some of the verses condemning homosexuality found in Paul’s Epistle to the Romans which had been playing the week before the police arrived to harass him. Police informed Murray that he was violating — there it is again! — the Public Order Act. He was told that he would be arrested if he didn’t stop showing the Bible and he complied. “They left the shop and told me they would continue to monitor if we were displaying inflammatory material,” said Murray. The inflammatory material here is the Bible! “At no stage had they spoken to me like I was a law-abiding citizen trying to earn a living. I felt like a criminal.”
Quoting Winston Churchill
Paul Weston, a longshot candidate for the European parliament, was arrested in 2014 and charged with violating the Public Order Act and the Violent Crime Reduction Act. No, it isn’t actually necessary to commit violent crime, of which there is plenty in the UK, to be arrested under the Violent Crime Reduction Act. Weston’s transgression was quoting from “The River War” an 1899 book by…Winston Churchill! Churchill was writing of his experience in Africa and he said some things about Islam that would certainly raise some eyebrows today. A snippet of the long quote that got Weston arrested: “No stronger retrograde force exists in the world. Far from being moribund, Mohammedanism is a militant and proselytizing faith.”
These are but three examples among many. In the UK you can be arrested for preaching against homosexuality on a street corner or for saying, from the pulpit no less, that Islam is satanic. You can also be jailed for saying that Muhammad married a nine-year-old girl. That last one isn’t entirely accurate — Muhammad married a six-year-old girl named Ayesha but waited until she was nine to consummate the marriage. Or at least that’s what the Hadith says. Just to be safe, steer clear of saying anything that might anger Muslims or homosexuals, Britain’s most favored groups, who are always and everywhere protected from offense. If they feel butt hurt about something, you will be arrested. And let’s face it, those two groups are always butt hurt about something, the little darlings.
Just how did Britain descend to this level of madness? Two factors explain it. The first is the misguided trend that began in the late twentieth century toward obliterating anything deemed “hateful.” Besides the fact that “hate” is a terribly subjective term, it also cannot be legislated out of existence because it is an emotion felt by every human being at one time or another. We can’t win this war against “hate” but we can lost our freedom in the process. The second is a tendency to favor certain groups, namely groups that are perceived to be marginalized. Those groups need special protection, or so the thinking goes, because society places special obstacles in their way. That’s why no one is ever arrested under the Public Order Act for unleashing bile against Christians or white people. The perception that these are favored groups leads to them being disfavored in the application of law.
Until these trends are arrested and reversed, the criminalization of mere words will continue.