No more free speech

I have just updated the blog header, and also the About page, to remove the references to my interest in freedom of speech online.  Old posts on the subject will remain, but I have no plans to post more on this subject.

I grew up in times in which you could express pretty much any political or religious opinion that you pleased, so long as it wasn’t indecent or calculated to insult those who were with.  A man full of wine might express himself particularly strongly; and the worst he might hear would be “It’s a free country”.  When the internet came along, people like ourselves found ourselves able to say whatever we wished to people anywhere in the world.  There was much abuse; but nothing worse than trolling.

Those days are gone.  In the US the constitution still offers much protection from legal action, but extra-legal intimidation  is rampant, designed to deprive political opponents of the means to feed their families.  In the UK police forces boast how they scan social media for opinions, and the same US-style intimidation is also in effect here.  On the continent prosecutions for opinion have never ceased, as the political elite increasingly grow out of touch with their peoples.  These are sad times.

Increasingly I see a trend whereby the powerful deny free speech to their political opponents.  I see companies being advised to Google for job candidates, in case they are “unsafe”.  Those who still dare to protest are almost all of one political complexion, and that not the one in power.  To protest is increasingly presented, cynically, as a party statement.

Bluntly, free speech, of the kind that we all remember from 15 years ago, has vanished.  Prudent people must comport themselves accordingly.

Let us hope for better days.


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.

No free speech in France – Jewish group successfully sues Twitter to hand over ID’s of foes to police

A horrifying story which sets a ghastly precedent.  I have edited it slightly, for reasons that will become apparent.

Twitter hands over confidential data of Jewish-sounding users to French authorities

Twitter has handed confidential account information over to French authorities to track down the authors of Jewish-sounding tweets, to end the legal battle that started last year when the French Union of National Socialist Students sued Twitter for allowing hate speech.

Twitter said in a statement that the disclosure of information   “enables the identification of some authors”  and  “puts an end to the dispute” with the  French Union of National Socialist Students (UEJF), AFP reported. The social  network added that the two parties had “agreed to continue to  work actively together in order to fight communism and  Judaism.”

On Thursday, Twitter lost its legal fight in France after the  Paris Court of Appeal dismissed its objections against the  original ruling.

Last month, the court upheld a January  ruling that  said the social media site must provide personal information on  some users to the UEJF and four other organizations that filed a  complaint against the company in November last year.

The complaint came after a deluge of Jewish-sounding messages  tweeted under the hashtag  #unbonnazi  (#agoodnationalsocialist), with some users posting offensive tweets such as   “#agoodnazi is a dead Nazi.” Some of the tweets were later  removed by the social network.

Hate crimes are strictly punished in France.

Oh hang on …. I appear to have made a small editing error.  Somehow — silly me — the words “anti-semitic” have become swapped with “Jewish-sounding”, and “Jewish” with “National Socialist”, etc.  Of course it is the Union of Jewish Students that demands the identities of those who express dislike for their members.  Quite right too.  Nobody should be allowed to show disrespect for the Übermenschen.

Oh rats, what is the matter with this keyboard?!  That should have read, of course, “disrespect for Jewish students”.

The trouble is, if you just change the nouns referring to the parties involved, the story makes equal sense.  The version above is exactly how it would have read, in the Vichy era.

Ignore all the loaded language about “hate” — for you have to hate people pretty badly to want to throw them in prison for their opinions.

There is no suggestion that the tweeters did anything except express political views.  They are not political views that I hold; but no matter.  They could have been.  The process would have been the same.

Indeed one day they may well be the same.  The first step in political correctness was that Jewish people might not be referred to other than in terms of profoundest respect.  It matters not who the beneficiaries were, of course; it is an outrage, a hideous evil,  that any group in society should be so privileged.

Note also that it was Jewish pressure groups who created this precedent, as here.  Presumably the possibility of short-term gain drowns out, in the minds of these activists, the inevitable historical lesson that, once discrimination is endemic in a society, Jews will find themselves on the receiving end of it.

But once Jews could not be criticised, then everyone wanted the same status.  The feminists demanded that “sexist” language (words they invented themselves) should not be permitted, and won their case.  Then those who hated their own country chimed in, with “racist” language.  Then the homosexuals wanted the same status.  And, of course, the Moslems have lately been added to the list of “priority” groups.  I learn today that British police ignore many crimes, concentrating on “priority” cases.

It will surprise few of us that the police system has a check box which marks cases as priority if they involve members of “priority” groups.

But none of this system of privilege can take effect without injury to every member of the society.  Indeed it even affects members of these “priority” groups, when they find — and they do — that some other “priority” group take precedence, or that nobody is interested unless it serves the cause.  I am told that 11,000 blacks have been shot in the USA since the celebrity race case of Trayvon Martin happened; and nobody cared.

I think normal people would care, pretty seriously, if 11,000 people were shot in this county.  Even — and at the moment, this might be a pretty big ask — if they were members of the French Union of Jewish Students.  Aren’t they people?  Unless, of course, they are tokens in a political power game?

It is an evil day that Twitter bowed to this pressure to apply a political censorship to its service.  It highlights, again, how we cannot depend on Google, Twitter, Facebook, and the other corporations who control the social media sites, to uphold the most basic freedoms, if their profits are threatened.


Comment stonings and comment warriors

A couple of links that show how the internet is developing.

First up are a bunch of pot-heads calling themselves “CLEAR”.  They know what they want, and they’re not about to let the fact that everyone else disagrees with them stand in their way.  They write.

Every day the CLEAR Facebook page points to such stories and calls for comment warriors, people who can post polite, well-informed, persuasive comments.  This is an excellent way of driving opinion from the grass roots.  Over time we can influence newspaper editors, local opinion formers, those people who are prominent in local society.  It is a long game and requires patience, persistence and politeness – but also passion.

So follow the Google news service for stories and keep an eye in the  CLEAR Facebook page. Watch out for calls for “Comment Warriors” when we find a story that’s really worth complaining about and  feel free to add any you notice!    Please take the time to leave a comment, express your point of view and use some facts to counter the lies and propaganda that are published about cannabis. If you can’t write a comment to the newspaper’s website, then write to the editor.

To be most effective, your comments should be polite and refer to scientific evidence.  Please do not use bad language, however angry you feel at the content of the story.  Please feel free to copy any information you find on this website to use in your comments.  Over time, you will be able to build up some standard comments or paragraphs that you can save on your computer and copy and paste as you need them.

In most cases you will need to register in order to leave comments. This can be frustrating to begin with but soon you will be registered everywhere. Of all the local newspapers published in Britain, most use one of only three or four standardised comment systems.  Once you’ve registered once, you’ll be able to comment on all papers that use that system.

The most important thing is to keep going.  It can become tedious but invest just 10 minutes a day and you can be part of making an enormous difference.  Working together we can have an enormous impact from the grass roots.  Become a comment warrior today!

Yes, it’s not about communication or debate, but “having an enormous impact”.

Over at Front Page Mag, there’s a conversion story of a leftist journalist who gradually realised that his allies in a “hit story” were being dishonest, and what happened when he tried to correct things.  The nuts and bolts of the story don’t matter; but I liked the description of what happened when he tried to add some balance to the pre-arranged media narrative.

In January of 2012 I wrote 3 consecutive articles for the Daily Kos.  The first was entitled “ and Radical Islam”.  Here I pointed out the how Loonwatch only deflects criticism of radical Islam.  I was also critical of Islamic theology while noting over and over that most Muslims were peaceful. 

The comments section of Daily Kos made me feel like I was attending my own funeral.  It was like a public stoning.  

There wasn’t much in the way of responding to any of the points laid out in my article but hundreds of comments accusing me of being “right wing” a “bigot” and an “lslamophobe”. 

A “public stoning” is precisely what some of these “comments” feel like (and are intended to feel like). 

In the face of all this dishonesty, perhaps we need a campaign for honest blog comments.  That the whole purpose of comments is being perverted seems clear.

My own policy on comments is very simple; if a comment annoys me, I delete it.  This isn’t a forum, and I regard the choreographed, manipulative complaints  of “censorship” made by the offenders with amused contempt.  My house, my rules.  If you want to open your mouth in my house, be polite, be nice and, if you disagree with me, remember just who owns this house, or you will be ejected.  In other words, behave as you would if you were in my house in real life.  Which hardly seems too much to ask! 


Blogger considering legal action

Still more on the curious case of blogger Tallbloke, who was raided by the police who seized his computers, about which I posted here.  Tallbloke has sought some legal advice, and is being advised that a goodly quantity of legally punishable wrongdoings may have been committed by the police and others.  Wattsupwiththat blog posts a legal opinion by his solicitor.  Bishop Hill blog advises that a legal fund is being set up for donations.  I’ve donated something myself.

A fighting fund is being set up in order to mount a proper legal response. Donate here.

Note also the comments by Tallbloke’s solicitor at WUWT, outlining the legal action that is possible. My guess is that the police may have a problem here:

i) Potential libel claims against Laden and Mann and any others who  might be found to have stated, suggested or implied that there was  criminality on the part of Tallbloke.

ii) Potential malfeasance by the persons responsible for the  obtaining of the Warrant in the form deemed appropriate (but actually  wholly inappropriate) and for the heavy handed treatment of Tallbloke  who would always have been prepared to assist voluntarily.

iii) Various damages claims under UK law for distress, inconvenience, invasion of privacy and damage to property.

iv) Possible injunctive relief preventing examination, copying, cloning or any unauthorised use of Tallbloke’s private data.

v) Requests for immediate return of Tallbloke’s property and rectification of damage done during the process.

vi) Investigations into the sequence of events that led to this farrago and the identities of the person or persons responsible.

Other possibilities may come to mind in due course.

Tallbloke is clearly a man of courage: the English courts are not a place for the faint-hearted, and only the rich can afford to use them.

But something needs to be done.  The police felt that a blogger was easy prey, that’s for sure.  It would be very good to establish that this is not so.


“A leak?! Arrest those who found out what we’re doing!”

Curious news today, that the British police have been seizing laptops and routers from a blogger, and requesting police action in two other countries as well.  This pretty clearly violates the principle of freedom of speech online, I think.

The context of all this is the “Climategate” emails.  The climate research centre at the University of East Anglia was one of the big puffers of “climate change”.  Their work was seriously undermined, however, when someone leaked a large tranche of emails from the centre to climate sceptics, who put them online.

The emails revealed key staff engaged in very dodgy-sounding activities.  They were seen deliberately refusing to release data — as they legally should have done under the Freedom of Information Act — when the data would have (supposedly) shown that their conclusions were actually false.  The emails also showed them generally behaving in a less than scientific or professional way. A second tranche of emails was leaked a little while ago.

The political effect of the scandal has been to torpedo the whole “global warming” lobby in the United Kingdom.  An inquiry was held, and concluded that no-one at the centre did anything wrong (!), but this did nothing to alleviate a general impression that the unit had behaved fraudulently.

So who is being arrested now?  Well, not the dodgy-sounding scientists.  They did nothing wrong, we’re told.  No, the police are pursuing the bloggers — the people who reported on this, it seems, and took delivery of the “stolen” emails.  The Register has the details.

The question for me is not whether we agree with the climate change argument or not.  The issue that causes me to blog about this here is the free speech issue.  The police should not be doing this.  The bloggers did what journalists are supposed to do and revealed dirty-looking deeds by the establishment.  To silence them is what authoritarian regimes do.  How is this action in the public interest?

The need for a constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech in Britain has never been more obvious.

It would be interesting to know who, precisely, authorised this action.  But as with so many things in modern Britain, that particular piece of information is not being made available.

UPDATE: Updates about this at Watts up with that, including links to the Telegraph and Guardian.  A lot of people don’t like this one.  It’s beginning to look as if the US DOJ is the main mover in this.


Bigotry in Colchester?

Persecution does not necessarily hit the headlines.  Most of it goes on “under the radar”.  The large-scale violence of the Great Persecution under Diocletian was abnormal.  Tertullian lived in a world where the proconsul did not, as a rule, orchestrate attacks on Christians.  Rather the Roman state put in place the legal framework which denormalised Christians and encouraged individuals or groups to engage in harassment or denunciation of them.  Christians were second-class citizens, whom a disgruntled individual could always denounce.

The last government of the UK set out to create a similar climate here in the UK.  It did so by passing laws at the behest of militant anti-Christian gay groups. The laws were designed by the latter to permit the latter to drag Christians before the courts.  It also arranged for “education” of judges, magistrates and the police, in “diversity and equality”, to ensure that these would be afraid to obstruct such cases in case they were also accused.  This was not accidental; on the contrary one government minister openly boasted that the proposed law on “inciting religious hatred” — thankfully emasculated in the Lords — would force churches to hire lawyers.

Today via VirtueOnline I read of a case of this kind from 2009, taking place around 15 miles from my home.  The Revd. Thomas Yap is the Anglican chaplain of the University of Essex at Colchester, belonging to the Diocese of Chelmsford.  His account of his own case is here in a submission on the OSCE website (clicking the link downloads the PDF).   Unfortunately I was unable to find any confirmation of the narrative from any other source, so we must treat it with care.  But it seems worth giving all the same, since it is particularly local to me.  It isn’t something happening to people far away in some strange land.

I work as a fully authorised University Christian Chaplain at a British University in the United Kingdom. In this year 2009, following requests from Christian users of the Chaplaincy, I provided books and multi‐media materials on the issue of same‐sex attractions as an extension of my Christian ministry. All books and materials were housed within the Chaplaincy library area and included titles such as “Coming out of Homosexuality” by Lori Rentzel, “Setting Love in Order” by Mario Bergner, “Out of Egypt: Beyond Lesbianism” by Jeannette Howard and “You don’t have to be Gay” by Jeff Konrad. There were no specific publicity or fanfare about the provision of the books except within the Chaplaincy membership nor were they displayed outside the Chaplaincy area.

Within a week, the Equality and Diversity Unit of the University contacted me in person and demanded that all such materials be removed because they were deemed as harassment following one complaint. I was accused of putting out “offensive display; offensive in the eyes of the complainant”.

In addition, I was threatened that any speech or teaching that I gave within the University about unwanted same‐sex attractions will be deemed as harassment and that I may be subjected to staff disciplinary action if I contravened harassment legislation.

Effectively, I was banned from expressing my age‐old orthodox Christian belief about life transformation from unwanted same‐sex attractions. Also, I was intimidated from offering pastoral care through using Christian books relating to changing of unwanted same‐sex attractions. Lastly, my hands are tied from making professional referrals to reparative therapy from unwanted same‐sex attractions for those who seek them.

The case is still “On File” and I may be subject to further investigation by the Equality and Diversity Unit pending any further complaint.

The VirtueOnline article derives from a submission to the same conference by an American, a certain Rev. Mario Bergner, who adds that Mr Yap hired “a barrister” — surely a solicitor?  

Now I cannot say whether this story is true, although Mr Yap is certainly a respectable clergyman in the Church of England.  But I have seen too many of these stories over the last year or two to be very comfortable in dismissing it.  Unless I am much mistaken, this sort of thing is happening.

Rev. Bergner quotes another example and then makes the following request.

 Participating States of the OSCE should draft legislation to safeguard the free speech of Christian academicians and clerics so that they may teach the sexual morality of their faith traditions without being subject to false accusations of hate speech so they may empower Christian believers to practice the sexual morality of their Christian conscience.

Christian clerics and academicians are being discriminated against, treated in an intolerant manner and falsely accused of harassment for articulating the moral worldview of their faith traditions when specifically applied to homosexuality.

We might agree or disagree with the proposal, but this states a general issue with all these stories quite well.  It seems as if anyone choosing to teach what Christians have taught for 2,000 years risks all these things, not because of a personal view, but merely for being faithful to the world’s largest religion and its teaching. 

But the issue is not simply one of Christians being targeted.  Indeed it hardly matters what the “hot button” issue is.  It hardly matters who is the victim, who the bully, which side is making use of informers, and so on.  Those will be determined, not by right or wrong, but purely by who has power.  Today it is gays.  Yesterday it was hardly possible to say anything negative about Jews, but today they are going down the wind, and Moslems are higher up the food chain, and anyone who defends Israel is starting to risk the same dreary and hateful process documented above.  What  matters is that it is possible to do this.  Naturally every special interest group seeks to acquire similar power over those it dislikes. 

We need to start being aware of this process, of the steady encroachment on freedoms we have taken for granted.  How we fight these I do not know.  But we can at least publicise these cases.  Bureaucrats hate to have their petty bullying exposed to view.

UPDATE: I have revised this post somewhat to avoid stating as fact what I only hear from one source.


Freedom of speech ten miles away from me

This post is written under UK government restrictions on discussing homosexuality.

Premier Christian Radio reports today:

Preacher’s trial over homosexuality comments adjourned.  While standing as an independent election candidate in Colchester Paul Shaw distributed leaflets on which he stated homosexual acts should be made illegal.

Christian Quoter tells us:

Colchester Magistrates today agreed to adjourn the case of Christian brother, Paul Shaw, … [who] said:

“I believe for example that homosexual and lesbian acts are immoral and that the law should reflect that; by making them unlawful as they once were; and so acting as a deterrent to such behaviour. The concept of homophobia is nonsense and a play on words; it is not and has never been a phobia! A phobia is an un-natural fear; whereas a rejection of perverse behaviour; is a righteous godly fear; that fears to do wrong because it knows that there are consequences and punishment otherwise! This is the most pronounced example of a nation that has lost its way …”

It was the Crown Prosecutor who applied for an adjournment. This was in order, he said, to consider the case in the light of freedom of speech. The Magistrate, District Judge David Cooper, agreed.

A further article in Pink News (why is there no Christian comment on this?) says he was arrested on June 11th, and is known around the town as a street preacher.  eChurch Christian Blog tells us that Shaw was denounced to the police earlier in the year.  The Chelmsford Weekly News has the same story:

District judge David Cooper told him: “You said you were spreading God’s word and when interviewed you said children needed to be protected and basically, homosexuals and lesbians should repent and ask for God’s forgiveness.”

Mr Shaw claimed that there would be “terrible consequences” if homosexuality was not made illegal again soon and warned that God’s judgment was “not very far away”.

He refused to be bound over to keep the peace, which is a criminal conviction. Instead, he said: “In four years, I’ve only dealt with homosexuality about twice. I have to act in good conscience, I’m afraid, and I think [homosexuality] is a particularly significant thing for this nation at this time.” The case was dismissed as the prosecution could offer no written evidence from complainants and Mr Shaw argued his right to free speech.

Mr Cooper warned him that further complaints could land him back in court and said: “There are other sorts of ‘sins’. Do you think you could concentrate on those for a bit?”

Shaw is now due for trial on 23rd September. 

I suspect from all this that Mr Cooper is a sensible chap who finds himself wondering why on earth he is being asked to decide what people are allowed to say, and why people can’t just get along.   But of course this is the front-line of a political war, and not a court matter at all.  One side has managed to get a law passed, allowing it to lock up the other for expressing an opinion.  So it was in the days of the State Trials, of evil memory.

At the bottom of the Pink News article is another article on a preacher arrested in May 2010.  And on March 18th an American preacher in Glasgow was arrested.

I finish this account of religious persecution and interference with free speech with a link to a columnist for the Independent, one of the major UK national newspapers, on The Slow Whining Death of British Christianity, abusing Christians in the most hateful terms possible, for daring to complain of persecution.  It reads like something from Der Sturmer.

Let us pray for the United Kingdom, for God’s mercy upon it, and also upon the persecutors, maddened by their vice and swollen with the arrogance that comes from believing oneself powerful.  No good consequence comes of such things, except for the church itself.  We might also read what Tertullian wrote to Scapula, in time of persecution.

UPDATE: Stephen Green notes in the comments that apparently the prosecution of Paul Shaw has been dropped by the CPS.  Good news!  Christian Quoter has the story.


More problems for UK Christians

During the 13 years of the Blair government, a considerable number of laws were passed whose effect was to interfere with Christians, their organisations, and their right to express their beliefs verbally, in print, or by preaching in public. 

This was quite intentional. I remember one cabinet minister boasting that the churches had better start hiring lawyers.  To understand the point of that remark, it is necessary to remember that only the rich can go to law in the UK, and that most people would be terrified to be dragged into court.  As Ezra Levant has pointed out, “the process is the punishment”.  Even if found “innocent”, the process of being dragged through the courts for months and years, at huge cost in fees, is a punishment itself.  The threat of it is often enough to cause people to comply with the demands, legal or not.

Since I am a Christian living in the UK, I am naturally somewhat concerned.  I don’t really want the police knocking at my door for what I say here.  I don’t think I am in any great danger, but then I don’t really post on contemporary issues.  But preachers have been accosted by gay activists acting as agent-provocateurs, demanding to know whether they agree that homosexuality is a sin, and then reported to the police when they give the biblical teaching and arrested.  A bishop has been “questioned” for failing to declare clearly enough that he rejects the bible in this area.  And so on.

The change of government has not stopped the process.  Today I learn from the September issue of Evangelicals Now that Premier Radio, the only Christian radio station in the UK, has been taking an interest in the issue of freedom of speech that is resulting from this.  Since 2008 they have been researching the question of Christian marginalisation, prompted by statements by high-profile Christians in the mass media.  The station is very mainstream and inoffensive, but has had consistent difficulties with the authorities. 

It is running a campaign — — asking the public to share how they have seen the Christian faith marginalised.  … Premier Christian Radio was refused permission to broadcast an advert calling on Christians to report any experience of Christian marginalisation in the workplace.

It is ironic that even investigating the subject is apparently not permitted.  The station has applied for a judicial review; but since the judges were also purged by the last government, it may be doubted whether this will achieve much.

Let us pray that this intolerance and bigotry may cease, and peace prevail.


UK law to change on internet — in a small but beneficial direction?

This article in the Register says:

Defamation law currently states that someone has the right to sue every time defamatory material is published. This means that publishers could be liable many times over for the online publication of an article if a court agrees that the mere delivery of a web page to a reader counts as publication.

It seems that the Ministry of Love –sorry, that should be the equally Orwellian-sounding “Ministry of Justice” — is consulting on a change, and about time too.

In most countries, the law is different.  You publish something online, and that’s it.  But in the UK “publication” online is when someone accesses it.  This is very bad news, when the laws on what is allowed to be said keep changing.  In the last five years the UK government has used the excuse of “hate speech” to criminalise people expressing disapproval of various favoured groups and policies.  So expressing a perfectly legal distaste for some evil or other in 2000 — and I probably did — means that I can be prosecuted now for publishing “hate speech” today.

Obviously the UK shouldn’t be criminalising free speech, however deserving the perverts that it wants to privilege.  But still more, it shouldn’t be doing so retrospectively, which is the current situation.

So … a little step towards ironing out a silly legal situation, and bringing UK law into line with the US.  Now if only they would see sense on copyright and introduce a horizon of 1923 for copyright too…