Arrested for saying a word

The BBC has the story, and, curiously, seems to approve.

Two men have been arrested for posting anti-Semitic tweets following Tottenham Hotspur’s match with West Ham. …  Both men were arrested on Thursday on suspicion of inciting racial hatred. … West Ham told supporters that anyone caught behaving in a racist, anti-Semitic or homophobic way would be punished to the full extent of the law. … Police had warned fans before the fixture not to use the word “yid” and said supporters who did so could be committing a crime.

The claims about “inciting hatred” are just words for “saying something we disagree with”.  Nobody seriously supposes it has any other meaning. Nobody is threatened.  Nobody is in fear.

Once laws permit officials to act oppressively, they do so.  Indeed they enlarge and expand the area of their authority.  Officials gain credit and advance their careers by “smelling out” ever more examples of whatever they have been told to detect and punish.  Informers spring up, and informations are laid out of grudges.  This is what official bigotry means; passing laws whose inevitable consequence is to allow such a process.

By a curious coincidence I was reading a 19th century history of the Spanish Inquisition this week.[1]  This documented the same process; officials, once they could act to strain men’s brains, took ever more liberties and extended this ever more.  The long drawn-out trial of the Archbishop of Seville, who had attended the Council of Trent, debated with Lutherans and himself had burned heretics, ended only with his death.  The long-drawn out political trial, designed to punish rather than do justice, has made an unpleasant return in our own days.

When I started writing about freedom of speech online, it was because I could see the likelihood of such a censorship being brought in.  Even so the pace of it has been astonishing.  The establishment have taken few pains to curb the spammers who fill the comments of this blog with rubbish; but they have been red-hot about ensuring that nobody who holds views that they strongly dislike shall be allowed to speak.

These are sad days in Britain.  We live under a shadow of hate and intolerance deeply embedded in the ruling castes of every nation.  I pray that we may live to see freedom once more.

UPDATED (later):  Via Twitter and the Birmingham Mail I learn of the arrest of a man for a joke comparing Nelson Mandela to his laptop.  He was held for 8 hours, “questioned”, and had his DNA taken.  What offence he is claimed to have committed is not disclosed.

  1. [1]1826.  On Google books here.

4 thoughts on “Arrested for saying a word

  1. With respect, a few data points–

    1) The grisly woodcut in the Gallois work puts it in The Black Legend arena, mea sententia.

    2) America in 1826 tended to be anti-Catholic, a feeling that obtains today, though probably mitigated (but maybe not).

    3) Llorente’s statistics are exaggerated.

    4) Henry Kamen’s work (The Spanish Inquisition, 1998) is based on autopsy of original documents. See



    5) Prepare for martyrdom.

    All the best,


  2. Thank you for this. Actually I wondered if I would get some form of defensive response!

    But I don’t think Lorente’s book is anti-Catholic. It didn’t have that feel at all.

    The book depicts the victims of the inquisition as appealing to Rome, which was concerned about all this, and invariably frustrated by the Spanish king, to whom they really owed allegiance. The Spanish inquisition comes across as a profoundly *secular* body, even trying to use a religious excuse to gain control of the trade in horses into France! Lorente even lists saints who were examined by the Spanish inquisition.

    I’m afraid that his accounts of how the inquisitors went on rang profoundly true.

  3. Sorry — if I intimated that Llorente was anti-Catholic, I didn’t mean to. He was not that way.

    It’s just that his stats are too steep. Kamen puts the totality of executions at 2,000.

    I recall that when a certain Catholic was asked about this, he put the figure at 2,000,000! And this was noticed in the Catholic media. Argh.


Leave a Reply