Recently, the UK has received some unfavourable international publicity for anti-speech actions of government actors. Specifically, the government banned the young Canadian right-wing provocateur Lauren Southern from entering the country and a Scottish court convicted YouTube comedian Mark Meechan (aka “Count Dankalu”) of a hate-crime for posting a video of his pug acting like a Nazi. These actions have made the UK look like at best a laughing stock, and at worst an authoritarian nanny-state in the eyes of free people the world over.
In the case of Mr. Meechan, the ones acting more like Nazis are not the bad joke of Mark Meechan, but Police Scotland and Sheriff Derek O’Carroll who convicted him. This is not to say the police and the sheriff are Nazis- this is just saying that convicting someone of a crime for a joke is the type of thing a Nazi would do.
Obviously, the holocaust was one of the greatest evils in human history and that should never be forgotten. However, acting like this man making a distasteful joke with a pug is equivalent to Hitler’s speech to the Nuremberg party rally is *kind of* hyperbole and makes a mockery of actual evils that Nazis perpetrated on the world. This is why a Jewish comedian like David Baddiel offered his support for Mr. Meechan’s right to make bad jokes.
The stretching of what is considered an “incitement to violence” through “hate speech” and the growing use of censorship is also counter-intuitively giving a platform to those who actually are hate preachers or who would otherwise be no-names. Take the recent example of Lauren Southern’s being banned from entering the UK. What good has keeping Lauren out at the UK border done other than raise her profile in the UK and across the world? (And for that matter barring her under the Terrorism Act – does the Home Office really think she is a terrorist?). Before the event, I would guess very few of you had heard of Ms. Southern. Now Lauren Southern is a leading topic on call-in radio and was Farage’s guest at the European Parliament. Previously, she would previously often come to the UK and was largely unknown. Did she say rude and offensive things about Muslims on her last visit to the UK? Clearly. However, if one disagrees with her ignore her or defeat her in an argument. Trying to silence her or keep her out of the country not only makes her a martyr and gives her the fame she craves, but also embarrasses the country as one that is afraid of ideas. This embarrassment was exemplified when the European Parliament, an anti-democratic institution, happily let her speak to them. Does the UK, while Brexiting to have greater freedom than allowed under the EU, really want to be known as a country leaving the EU and shutting out ideas?
Authoritarian censorship does not treat people like adult citizens but rather children. Ideas should be heard, discussed and vile ones should be defeated in an open debate. The Conservatives recieved praise from fearless liberty campaigners like Brendan O’Neil for keeping freedom of the press in tact and now scrapping Leveson 2 in the face of Labour and the Liberal Democrat desire to censor the press. However, if Britain is to be known as a truly free country, the Conservatives must reform hate speech laws lest they be used to embarrass Britain internationally and crush out individuals liberty at home.
Also, I assume John Cleese is the next target for Police Scotland? (Don’t mention the war but do click on his name to see him do it).