It starts with this really rather excellent post by Bella Gerens on the recent law about inciting hatred of homosexuals (I'd better not call them anything other than that because I might be arrested for inciting hatred).
But to outlaw speech that incites hatred is equivalent to outlawing speech that incites boredom, or frustration, or joy - these are states of mind, and those who hold them can never be proven guilty of doing so, for how does one prove the possession of an emotion or state of mind except through the actions that betray it? And the action of initiating force against another person’s bodily integrity is already illegal.
It was already a crime to incite violence, regardless of whether the speaker participated in the violence himself; now it is a crime to incite an emotion, regardless of whether the speaker holds it himself. These laws make the speaker, regardless of intent or participation, responsible for the feelings and actions of others.
And so we shut our mouths and keep our opinions to ourselves, not because we dislike the idea of going to prison for our own actions, but because we fear the prospect of going to prison for the actions of others.
How is this justice? How is this freedom? How is it possible that, in a civilised society, we are answerable at law for the opinions and behaviours of individuals not ourselves, over whom we have no provable influence and certainly no control?
Who knows what our stray remarks may lead others to do? And while most of us recognise the justice of being imprisoned for our own behaviour, very few of us see it in being punished for someone else’s. Therefore we remain silent.But ministers said if the “free speech” amendment was accepted it could provide a loophole for people wishing to incite hatred.
Free speech is a loophole in the minds of our ministers. Rather than being a right which the government must not infringe, it is a loose end to be sewn up. We are only free to speak that which is not prohibited at the whim of each successive Parliament. We are made criminals not only by what others do, but by what others might do.
It is a disgusting, authoritarian law and, like the law against incitement to religious hatred, should be struck down by the Tories at the first opportunity. It won't be, of course, because they fear being tagged as "the nasty, anti-homo party".
But the fact is that just because you oppose this law does not mean that you are a hater of gays. And this is precisely the point that Tom Harris made when he voted against it (or, rather, voted against removing the amendment).
The subject was incitement to homophobic hatred.
Last year the government was forced, through lack of parliamentary time, to accept an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Immigration Bill moved by Lord Waddington, the former Tory Home Secretary. This is what the amendment says:For the avoidance of doubt, the discussion or criticism of sexual conduct or practices or the urging of persons to refrain from or modify such conduct or practices shall not be taken of itself to be threatening or intended to stir up hatred.
Tonight, the government asked the Commons to vote to remove it.
And they duly did so, the disgusting little shits; every person who voted for that amendment to be removed is a hideous cunt and should be strung up be the nether regions and have cockroaches forced into their urethra.
Tom was going to make a rather long speech (that had, in the end, to be cut down) but here is the meat of it.
If it is not the government’s intention that people of faith who criticise homosexual practice should be prosecuted for doing so, why are they insisting on the removal of this phrase?
Does my Rt. Hon. Friend realise the harm done to the government’s excellent record in socially progressive policy by the actions of people like Patrick Harvie? Or indeed by the police officers who arrested and held a student in the cells overnight for calling a police horse gay?
I guarantee my RHF that if he is successful, if this phrase is removed from the Act tonight, it will be seen as a green light to all those who believe they can silence anyone who disagrees with them
It would be wrong to assume that every gay man and woman in the land supports what the government is doing this evening. I have many gay friends, and those with whom I’ve raised this matter have, frankly, more important things to worry about. They are more than capable of defending themselves against criticism from either Archbishop Conti or anyone else.
I dread the day when, in response to any kind of criticism, we in this country feel that it should become a police matter. No-one has the right not to be offended and we should steer well clear of establishing such a right now.
It is the first time that Tom Harris has voted against the government; that is pathetic enough in itself, but that he decided to do so on this issue of principle shows that he does, in fact, have some principles—something all too rare amongst MPs in general, and Labour ones in particular.
Anyone who voted for this law, however, should burn in hell as yet another of our hard-won freedoms is sacrificed upon the altar of political vanity.
I hope that they all die in extreme pain.