The road to Hell, they say, is paved with good intentions. The government of British Prime Minister David Cameron seems poised, in the service of tolerance, civility, and comity, to make free speech extinct in the United Kingdom.
A Conservative spokesman said: “Freedom of expression and freedom of speech are a vital part of a democratic society.
“In Government, Conservatives have always tried to strike the right balance on freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom to manifest one’s religion, and the need to protect the public. We have never sought to restrict peaceful protest or free speech, provided it is within the law.
“Our proposal to introduce Extremism Disruption Orders reflects the need to go further on challenging the threat from extremism and those who spread their hateful views so that we can keep that democratic society safe.”
What is this proposal that will usher in a Rodney King like environment in a nation where its soldiers are butchered in the streets and young women reduced to sexual slavery because of the over abundance of “diversity” and “tolerance” that already exists?
Theresa May, the Home Secretary, unveiled plans last month for so-called Extremism Disruption Orders, which would allow judges to ban people deemed extremists from broadcasting, protesting in certain places or even posting messages on Facebook or Twitter without permission.
Mrs May outlined the proposal in a speech at the Tory party conference in which she spoke about the threat from the so-called Islamic State – also known as Isis and Isil – and the Nigerian Islamist movement Boko Haram.
But George Osborne, the Chancellor, has made clear in a letter to constituents that the aim of the orders would be to “eliminate extremism in all its forms” and that they would be used to curtail the activities of those who “spread hate but do not break laws”.
He explained that that the new orders, which will be in the Conservative election manifesto, would extend to any activities that “justify hatred” against people on the grounds of religion, sexual orientation, gender or disability.
This proposal brings the UK into line with the decision the European Court of Human Rights handed down in 2o12 upholding the conviction, in Sweden, of a number of students for distributing a leaflet the court deemed “anti-gay.” The reasoning:
The Supreme Court acknowledged the applicants’ right to express their ideas while at the same time stressing that along with freedoms and rights people also have obligations; one such obligation being, as far as possible, to avoid statements that are unwarrantably offensive to others, constituting an assault on their rights. The Supreme Court thereafter found that the statements in the leaflets had been unnecessarily offensive.
This reasoning which the Extremism Disruption Orders legislation effectively parrots, makes it impossible to criticize virtually anyone for anything. And while Cameron’s government is trotting out the battalion of radical Islamist preachers which have been attracted to the UK much as lint is attracted to Velcro, the real targets will be anyone who criticizes Islam or homosexual marriage.
The National Secular Society and the Christian institute – two organisations with often diametrically opposing interests – said they shared fears that the broad scope of extremism could represent a major threat to free speech.
Keith Porteous Wood, director of the NSS, said secularists might have to think twice before criticising Christianity or Islam. He said secularists risk being branded Islamophobic and racist because of their high profile campaigns against the advance of Sharia law in the UK.
Simon Calvert, Deputy Director of the Christian Institute, said traditionalist evangelicals who criticise gay marriage or even argue that all religions are not the same could find themselves accused of extremism.
Given Britain’s, and Europe’s, vulnerability to having its un-assimilated Muslim underclass called into the service of terrorist groups, it is understandable that Cameron’s government would want to reduce the ease with which this is happening and, along the way, decrease the political risk associated with eventually bombing some non trivial number of potential constituents. But the solution for terrorist speech is not a shotgun blast at civil society making every public statement the subject of litigation if someone is offended, or pretends to be offended. If this proposal becomes law, scenes like the one at the top of this post will become protected and anyone criticizing this sort of intolerance will be liable for prosecution as a purveyor of hate speech.