Free Speech Under Fire in the UK

Current cultural and political developments in the U.S. are so weird that I tend to assume we must be unique. But not so: in the United Kingdom, too, “wokeness” operates as an explicit threat to freedom. The situation is even worse there than here, in fact. The London Times reports:

Police have been urged to rewrite the rules on hate crime after a judge likened a force to the Gestapo over its handling of a businessman who tweeted about transgender people.

Mr Justice Julian Knowles warned yesterday that Britain was in danger of slipping into an Orwellian society after Harry Miller, 55, was visited by officers at work and told that his tweets would be recorded as a “non-crime hate incident”.

Under guidelines promulgated by the UK’s College of Policing, there are “hate crimes,” but also “hate incidents.” The latter merit a visit from the constabulary.

He was investigated by a community cohesion officer [sic] who claimed that he was in danger of breaking the law. Mr Miller said that the officer had told him: “I’m here to check your thinking.” The tweets included a limerick about transgender people and one saying: “I was assigned mammal at birth but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me.”

One might have expected that a policeman in a free country would hesitate to say “I’m here to check your thinking.” Apparently not.

Last night Downing Street expressed concern over the operation of the [College of Policing’s] guidelines and indicated that it was prepared to press for a review of the situation. A No 10 source said: “The UK is an open and diverse country and freedom of speech is one of the values that defines us as a society.”

The limerick writer sued the local police and won, but he is far from alone:

Almost 120,000 non-crime hate incidents have been recorded by 34 police forces in England and Wales in the past five years. These may have prevented the accused from getting jobs since they can show up during criminal records checks.

The Times notes several specific incidents:

* Kellie-Jay Keen-Minshull, a blogger, was interviewed by West Yorkshire police on suspicion of transphobic offences after tweeting in 2018 about a charity director taking her 16-year-old child to Thailand for gender reassignment surgery. No charges.

* Gordon Larmour, a born-again Christian street preacher, was locked in a cell and charged with subjecting a gay teenager to threatening or abusive behaviour “aggravated by prejudice relating to sexual orientation” for quoting the Book of Genesis in Irvine, North Ayrshire, in 2017.

* A police investigation was opened in 2012 after Rio Ferdinand tweeted a reference to Ashley Cole, a fellow footballer, being a “choc ice” — alleged to mean Cole was black on the outside but white on the inside. No charges were brought.

* Suffolk police were criticised for contacting a 74-year-old woman who tweeted “gender is BS” and telling her to “tone down” her posts. They later called back to apologise.

The right to freedom of speech is, of course, enshrined in the First Amendment, but it will survive only as long as it is supported by the broad mass of Americans who consider themselves to be free people. Currently, I would estimate that around a quarter of Americans not only are indifferent to free speech as a fundamental value of our society, but are determined to snuff it out as soon as they have the power to do so. They represent, generally speaking, the activist wing of the Democratic Party.

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