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I always imagined that freedom of speech was a principle held in high regard by conservatives in general. The modern Conservative party, despite having a dismal track record in recent years on this front, nonetheless indeed still has a web page that is apparently devoted to supporting the principle:
Even Theresa May and her former boss David Cameron seemed to be dimly aware of the importance of freedom of speech, although they have frequently engaged in double-speak when mentioning it. For example in July 2015 Theresa May said:
We’re not talking about curbing free speech. We recognize that free speech is one of our values.
Unfortunately she went on to say this in the same statement:
But we have to look at the impact some people have in terms of the poisonous ideology they plant in people’s minds that will lead them to challenge, lead them to undermine the values we share as a country.
Theresa May went on to propose (in 2016) truly Orwellian measures that would have given the authorities the power to silence absolutely anybody whose speech they disapproved of, the measures were called:
Thankfully the proposal was later rejected by a parliamentary committee, although subsequent statements have made it clear that she still wants to introduce this proposal regardless.
The central problem at the heart of this muddle-headed thinking is that the term freedom of speech has seldom been clearly defined by the people who use the phrase. People use the phrase frequently but very few really support the idea of ABSOLUTE freedom of speech. Even the First Amendment of the US Constitution does not protect ABSOLUTE freedom of speech, there are exceptions the most important of which is immediate incitement to violence. (Incidentally I would not describe myself as a free speech ABSOLUTIST, my own preferred definition approximates to the First Amendment definition.) The lack of a clear definition in our law in the UK is a huge problem of course, we are sliding down a slippery slope of ever greater restrictions on what we are allowed to say.
I used to have high hopes for Jacob Rees-Mogg as a potential future leader of the Conservative party, and of all people in that party I would have hoped that Jacob would at least have a clear view on the subject of freedom of speech. Unfortunately, recent statements have led me to believe that his own ideas on the issue of freedom of speech merely conform with the muddle-headed thinking of the current leadership. In fact these same ideas are also prevalent throughout the House of Commons, a state of affairs that troubles me very greatly.
Consider this recent statement from Jacob, which was to be fair aimed more at those who are currently trying to get the Article 50 process extended:
On its own this statement would not be so much a cause for concern, merely labelling a person as an extremist is not tantamount to calling for that person to be silenced through legal measures. Jacob has himself been frequently labelled as an extremist, for example in this article from the New Statesman:
However Jacob has been part of a group of MPs who submitted a proposal called the “Online Forums Bill 2018”. This group of MPs also included such disreputable individuals as David Lammy and Anna Soubry of all people, strange company for Jacob to be keeping!
The proposed bill has been criticized by the Big Brother Watch group (which is a civil liberties group which includes MPs):
A quote from the above article regarding this proposed bill:
The Online Forums Bill would:
Unacceptably place legal responsibility on internet users for other users expression.
Encourage erratic citizen policing of speech on online forums, including the censorship of lawful expression.
Create a barrier to community discussion and organising for groups through the banning of private forums and imposition of legal liability for administrators, with a particularly negative impact on marginalised communities such as addiction and recovery groups, sexual abuse victim groups, and community or campaigning groups organising their work.
Have a chilling effect on free expression online.
The last point is important, the bill would put the fear into administrators of online forums because they would have to check every single comment made to ensure that it was not illegal, otherwise they would run the risk of a prison sentence. Since most would not be intimately familiar with every clause of our ever growing body of legislation, many would simply err on the side of caution and delete content. Quote directly from the bill:
1 Criminal offence of hosting illegal information on an online forum
(1) A person P commits an offence if –
(a) P is a qualifying administrator of a qualifying online forum,
(b) that online forum enables the viewing of illegal content by members of the forum,
An awful lot of websites allow commenting under articles (this very site altnewsmedia.net for example), and it is very probable that many would simply turn off commenting to avoid running the risk of their visitors breaking the law. This would obviously drive debate underground, the very thing the bill is supposedly trying to address (the law of unintended consequences frequently applies to government legislation of all kinds). My own personal view on this is that individuals should be held responsible for what they post, not site administrators, which I believe is the case at the moment anyway.
Some of these proposals remind me of things that the German Democratic Republic used to get up to in the days of the STASI – such as getting citizens to snitch on each other. Not only that but these proposals are also surely the kind of nanny statist meddling measure that would appall any TRUE conservative (I don’t really think Jacob can seriously consider himself to be one any more).
Another MP involved in creating the bill, Lucy Powell, wrote this article published in the Guardian:
The impact of these bubbles of hate can be seen, in extreme cases, in terror attacks from radicalised individuals. But we can also see it in the rise of the far right, with Tommy Robinson supporters rampaging through the streets this summer, or in increasing Islamophobia and antisemitism.
(Note carefully how Tommy Robinson’s name is mentioned in a sentence immediately following another sentence referring to terror attacks. This is a despicable and frequently used tactic used by those in the media who have been trying to associate Tommy with violent acts of terrorism.)
Another parliamentary committee, the All Party Parliamentary Group on British Muslims (which Anna Soubry, who is terrifyingly a barrister, also participated in), recently produced a wildly vague, confused, and subjective, definition of Islamophobia:
Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness
Obviously Islam is also not a race, it’s a religion!! Obviously when laws are created based on such wildly vague, confused, and subjective, definitions, the result will be wildly subjective and irrational judgements being made by judges in our courts of law. Obviously this is not a desirable state of affairs for anyone other than immoral lawyers; such immoral lawyers profit from long drawn out court cases involving numbers of ordinary people who would never break any reasonable law. The fact that Anna Soubry is a barrister does strike me as possibly relevant here. Do we live in a democracy or a lawyerocracy, I sometimes wonder? How long before the lawyerocracy morphs into a caliphate, as various policy moves by our MPs are certainly working together to create de facto Islamic blasphemy law (i.e. Sharia law) in the UK.
Jacob has himself spoken out recently to condemn “Islamophobia”:
Freedom of religions is one of the most important things about our society. To criticize someone for their religious beliefs is something that is absolutely scandalous and objectionable, and I would have no truck with people like that and I would not want them in the Conservative party.
What happens though Jacob when religions incite violence and condone child rape, should their followers still be beyond criticism? Do the followers of a religion have no responsibility for the beliefs that their religions promote, not even when their religions incite violence? When those who try to leave the religion are killed according to the explicit instructions in the religious texts should the followers of the religion not bear some responsibility for promoting the religion? Should we not even be able to talk about possible motives in violent criminal cases? Unfortunately as this growing climate of censorship of those criticizing Islam gathers pace, fewer and fewer people are daring to voice such objections, and so your own ill-considered prejudices are not exposed to proper scrutiny. The Houses of Parliament are thus increasingly becoming an echo chamber, the very thing your bill condemns!!!
The Online Forums bill is still making its way through parliament:
Putting all this together, when Jacob describes Tommy Robinson as an extremist he is joining the chorus of voices that want to see Tommy and all his many supporters legally silenced or even incarcerated for merely expressing what they believe. If you want real “extremism” to flourish then go ahead and take away people’s right to speak freely, then you can sit back and wait for people to get very, very angry, as they will.
To top it all, Jacob is calling for Shamima Begum, a real extremist who joined the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, a group that has chopped children in half among many other atrocities, to be allowed to come back to the UK:
Who’s side is he on??
I put it to readers that some of the most dangerous extremists in our country at this time are among these very people who supposedly represent us in the Houses of Parliament. They inhabit the most dangerous echo chamber of them all. The escalating demonisation of Tommy Robinson that is going on in those now infamous Houses, and in tandem in the media, is setting the scene for another term of imprisonment where he will no doubt be deliberately placed in harm’s way once again in our lethally dangerous prison system, once again he will deliberately placed in proximity with violent followers of the 7th century warlord Mohammed. In the US this would be called reckless endangerment, which is a criminal offence in that nation. I suggest that, once the now inevitable “extremist populist revolution” has swept away the current morally bankrupt occupants of those Houses in the coming political earthquake, that we should introduce such a law for the UK.