Tuesday, December 13, 2005

"Priority Crimes" and Free Speech

Mark Steyn addresses the gradual demise of free speech in the UK in his column for the Daily Telegraph:

So what is a "priority crime"? Well, the other day, the author Lynette Burrows went on a BBC Five Live show to talk about the government's new "civil partnerships" and expressed her opinion - politely, no intemperate words - that the adoption of children by homosexuals was "a risk". The following day, Fulham police contacted her to discuss the "homophobic incident".

The entire piece is worth reading, but Steyn's conclusion cannot be put any better:

"Freedom from harm" is all very well, "freedom from being offended" is extremely dangerous - a way of extending the already harmful media phenomenon of "libel chill" to every noisy lobby group. If Sir Iqbal Sacranie and co get their way on "religious hatred", every BBC Five Live discussion on Islam will be followed by a call from an aggrieved listener and a visit from the Fulham police. And, for every Lynette Burrows, insisting she'll continue to exercise her right to free speech, there'll be a hundred more who keep their heads down and opt for a quiet life.

Hollywood stars are forever complaining about the "crushing of dissent" in Bush's America, by which they mean Tim Robbins having a photo-op at the Baseball Hall of Fame cancelled because he's become an anti-war bore. But, thanks to the First Amendment, he can say anything he likes without the forces of the state coming round to grill him. It's in Britain and Europe where dissent is being crushed. Following the murder of Theo van Gogh in the Netherlands, film directors and museum curators and all the other "brave" "transgressive" artists usually so eager to "challenge" society are voting for self-censorship: "I don't want a knife in my chest," explained Albert Ter Heerdt, announcing his decision to "postpone" a sequel to his hit multicultural comedy Shouf Shouf Habibi!

But who needs to knife him when across Europe the authorities are so eager to criminalise him? No society with an eye to long-term survival should make opinion a subversive activity. Here's a thought: we should be able to discuss homosexuality, Islam and pretty much everything else in the same carefree way Guardian columnists damn Bush's America as "neo-fascist".

(link courtesy of Watch)


Anonymous Ed Merwin, Jr. said...

This is certainly a bad sign for the future of free speech within the EU. At present our Constitution is a secure source of strength to divergent opinions here. But even it is being eroded and coroded through the concepts of "hate speech" political correctness, and secularism.

3:12 PM  

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