Thursday, October 02, 2014

The real threat to the UK

The British government wants to ban "non-violent extremists" - that's Tory for "people the government doesn't like" - from appearing on TV or social media:

Radical Islamist extremists and neo-Nazis could be banned from making public appearances including on television under a gagging order proposed by the Conservatives with echoes of the broadcast ban that once applied to the voice of Gerry Adams.


May’s extremist disruption civil orders would contain wide-ranging restrictions on individuals who “undertake harmful activities” to spread, incite or justify hatred against people on grounds of race, religion, sexual orientation or disability.

The orders would be issued by a high court judge on an application from the police on the lower legal test of “balance of probabilities” rather than the stronger test of “beyond reasonable doubt”.

The restrictions are expected to include banning individuals from speaking at public events, protests and meetings, having to inform the police in advance of any public event, protest or meeting that they plan to attend, and banning individuals from particular public locations.

May also wants to include restrictions on banned individuals from broadcasting, from associating with named people, and restricting their use of social media or the internet by requiring them to submit in advance any proposed publication to the police.

(The last bit makes it clear that these people simply do not understand social media or how it has become the town square. In this day and age, a social media ban is like cutting out someone's tongue - something else the Tories probably agree with).

Once again I'm reminded of Lord Hoffmann's ruling on indefinite detention: "The real threat to the life of the nation... comes not from terrorism but from laws such as these".

I don't like radical Islamists or Neo-Nazis. But if they're not engaged in or advocating violence, there is no justification for censorship. In a democratic society, people get to peacefully make their case. That case may be deeply offensive, but freedom of speech doesn't mean freedom from offence, and it doesn't apply only to people the government likes or who stay within the "approved" bounds of political discourse. It is acceptable in a democracy to peacefully advocate for radical change. And that is the end of the story.