Civil Liberty

That battle for free speech

It’s never ending, isn’t it? Always enemies of it, everywhere:

Miss Lewis was arrested outside Finsbury Park Tube station in north London in February 2020 after it was claimed she said that non-believers and gay people should be stabbed.

She was arrested under the Public Order Act for making homophobic and racist comments. On her arrival at custody, she handed over her mobile phone which had been recording.

In a statement to her trial at Highbury Magistrates Court last month, officer Stuart Day said that the video showed that one of the men who had accused her “very much sounds like he is trying to goad her into commenting on his sexuality. She does not however take the bait”.

The statement continued: “At no point do you hear her make homophobic or racial remarks against anyone… She at no point during the recording is calling for the stabbing or murder of any group based on their lack of religious beliefs.”

Incitement to – immediate – violence should indeed be a crime. But other than that and libel/slander speech needs to be free.

He notes that she repeatedly refers to people as sinners but adds: “I was satisfied that she does not use any homophobic or racial language during this time.”

Rather than having the case dropped, Miss Lewis was charged with a different public order offence of using threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour to cause harassment, alarm or distress.

It was alleged that she had made a child cry and had been threatening when she told one man: “You are an advocate of Satan and I rebuke you in Jesus’ name”.

But District Judge Julia Newton ruled that there was no case to answer as although the words were disagreed with, they were not threatening or abusive. She said that there was no evidence she had caused the children to cry.

Homophobia, racism, making children cry, none of these things should even be part of the issue. Which is rather where the problem is – after that appalling police performance – isn’t it?

The public interest defence

Libel laws probably are a bit too vicious in England (note, not Britain, but England and Wales). And yet:

Defamation law has a value – it protects people from having their reputations damaged by untrue claims. But it can also be exploited. Whatever the merits of these particular cases, the threat of litigation can be used to suppress the sort of writing that serves the public interest in knowing about how people come to accumulate and deploy the financial or political power that shapes our lives. This is a global problem, but London and its specialist law firms are very much its beating heart. Cases such as this, where the rich and powerful resort to the law to challenge journalists and publishers over what appear to be matters of public interest, should always give rise to concern, and there is a valid argument to make that time, and the legal process, should stop and take stock of the wider concerns this sort of litigation raises.

One way of reading that is that we should be allowed to tell lies about the rich because they’re the establishment, innit?

Which doesn’t really sound like the solution.

We knew this sort of censorship was coming

Facebook failed to enforce its own rules to curb an oil and gas industry misinformation campaign over the climate crisis during last year’s presidential election, according to a new analysis released on Thursday.

The report by the London-based thinktank InfluenceMap identified an increase in advertising on the social media site by ExxonMobil and other fossil-fuel companies aimed at shaping the political debate about policies to address global heating.

Once the power to filter information has been granted then the filtering of information will be done.

InfluenceMap said its research shows the fossil-fuel industry has moved away from outright denying the climate crisis, and is now using social media to promote oil and gas as part of the solution. The report also exposed what it said was Facebook’s role in facilitating the dissemination of false claims about global heating by failing to consistently apply its own policies to stop erroneous advertising.

No one should be allowed to contradict us because we’re “following the science”.

Rather a lot of power over the public space has been conceded there, no?

Race matters

I think that paper looks pretty good,” says Sir John. “We haven’t seen a big problem with blood clots in Latin America, in southeast Asia, and we haven’t seen a lot of blood clots in Africa.

“There is an interesting question over whether there’s a differential liability to blood clots in Northern European Caucasian people in Norway, where they first appeared, as compared to everyone else.”

OK, so it’s some subset of genes prevalent in a population, not actually race. But as it runs out with cystic fibrosis, sickle cell and so on, that concept does actually matter. So too with Vitamin D in high latitudes and so on.

The trick is in working out when such things – as with gender etc – don’t matter and when they do. An adamant insistence – either way, that we must measure by race, or we must not – isn’t a reflection of reality.

OK, and?

First death from mining Bitcoin
Danai Makmek, 26, in Thailand is the latest in a string of industrial accidents caused by unregulated Bitcoin mining

You can see what comes next after “unregulated”. That there should be regulation.

In what is believed to be the industry’s first fatality, a bit-coin “miner” has died after his computer exploded during an attempt to increase its power and allow him to mine more Bitcoins.

The death of Danai Makmek, 26, in Thailand is the latest in a string of industrial accidents caused by unregulated Bitcoin mining, in which practitioners often rig up dozens of computers that then cause power overloads.

Any regulation wouldn’t be about stopping people putting computers in tandem, would it? For that cannot be regulated. Instead it would be something about having to register who owns bitcoin or summat – entirely tangential to the issue but desired by the Swamp anyway.

This is not a loophole

A double child murderer will not be placed on the sex offenders register because of a legal loophole, it has emerged.

Colin Pitchfork, 61, who raped and murdered 15-year-olds Lynda Mann and Dawn Ashworth in 1983 and 1986, is set to be freed from HMP Leyhill in Gloucestershire after serving 33 years in prison.

However, given that his crimes and sentencing were before 1997

You are charged, tried and sentenced under the law – whatever it was – at the time of your charging, trial and sentence. Actually, to be precise, at the time of the alleged crime.

That’s not a loophole, that’s justice.

Polly’s problem

She sorta dances around it:

Today the European court of justice confirmed the right of private employers to fire staff for wearing headscarves or other religious insignia……but the case proceeded on up to the ECJ, which had opined in 2017 that employers do have the right to sack women in headscarves. There’s a strange legal clash here, as the European convention on human rights – which is independent of the European Union, although every EU country must sign up to it – proclaims freedom to manifest religious belief……..As vice president of HumanistsUK, I might not understand the reasons why, but visible symbols of belief and religious identity plainly matter greatly to many. Unlike French secularists, we stand with Voltaire, famously reported as asserting: “While I wholly disapprove of what you say, I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Quite so.

And the ECJ judgment doesn’t apply in the UK. Because we’ve left the EU. While the ECHR one does apply in the UK, because we’ve not left the Council of Europe.

Therefore leaving the EU and leaving the ECJ was a defence of human rights. Not, as the screaming had it for so long, an abandoning of such protections.

This is, you will recall, something that has been shouted – if we leave Europe, leave the ECJ, then this will be the loss of human rights…..

This is human rights law, international human rights law

Women are allowed to be sacked by employers for refusing to remove their hijabs, Europe’s highest court has ruled.

EU judges decreed that businesses can ban employees from wearing a headscarf under certain conditions if they need to do so to project an image of neutrality to customers.

They were asked to make a judgment on two German cases after two female employees – one a cashier and the other a support worker for children with special needs – were threatened with suspension for wearing the hijab.

“A prohibition on wearing any visible form of expression of political, philosophical or religious beliefs in the workplace may be justified by the employer’s need to present a neutral image towards customers or to prevent social disputes,” said the EU court.

Nope, no arguments from the left please. We are continually being told that we must – just must – obey international law on all things. This is international law, it’s international human rights law. So, we’ve got to obey it, right?

Interestingly, this also means that turbans, kippahs and so on are also potentially out…..

My word, isn’t this a shame?

Fox News, the conservative cable heavyweight, elected not to dedicate air time to President Joe Biden’s Tuesday address in Philadelphia,

The idea of a free media being that it is the media which decides what is broadcast, no?

You know, like Salon has been so supportive of everyone carrying what Trump says/said, right?

A small message concerning Cuba

I say, Shut-up you egghead flap-gums. We’ve got the whole rest of history to sweat the small stuff. And those discredited peace creeps, they can zip their soup-coolers too. They think Mikhail Gorbachev is a visionary? Yeah, he’s a visionary. Like Hirohito was after Nagasaki. We won. And let’s not anybody forget it. We the people, the free and equal citizens of democracies, we living exemplars of the Rights of Man tore a new asshole in International Communism. Their wall is breached. Their gutstring is busted. The rot of their body politic fills the nostrils of the earth with a glorious stink. We cleaned the clock of Marxism. We mopped the floor with them. We ran the Reds through the ringer and hung them out to dry. The privileges of liberty and the sanctity of the individual went out and whipped butt.

It’s not quite done and dusted just yet but we’ll get there, we’ll get there.

So, ideas please

Someone I know – no, not me – is looking to have a go at StopFundingHate. But needs a name for his new organisation.

StartFundingDebate

StartRespectingDebate?

I dunno – all and any ideas welcomed.

Well, actually, you know Owen?

Watt’s treatment provoked justified outrage among his peers. “These sorts of encounters are becoming commonplace for reporters in #ageofrage,” was how Sky News’ presenter Adam Boulton put it. While he is right to be concerned, to contextualise the event as part of a generalised “age of rage” is misplaced. There is a difference between irritating online debate on all sides of the political spectrum, and physical harassment of journalists carried out by the far right.

Physical harassment of journalists – by anyone, whether of the right or the left – isn’t actually the point. It’s that physical harassment is the wrong thing.

Sure, journalists – I guess I can include myself among that number now – like to think of themselves as pure and wondrous and defenders of this and that and different. But the offences are violence against the person, ABH, GBH, things like that. They’re offences whether carried out against a journalist, a janitor or a Juventudi. The offence is the violence, the harassment, not the person it is being carried out against.

This even being true if you are Andy Ngo.

We even have phrases which encompass this idea, civil liberty, human rights perhaps. The important part of that second being the human bit – they’re things that apply to everyone, not just those self-proclaimed to be doing socially useful activities.

Have a look at this

She was also shocked and confused by issues surrounding gender and language, with every class asking students to announce their preferred pronouns.

“English is my third language. I learned it as an adult. I sometimes still say ‘he’ or ‘she’ by mistake and now they are going to ask me to call them ‘they’? How the heck do I incorporate that into my sentences?”

“It was chaos,” said Yeonmi. “It felt like the regression in civilization.”

“Even North Korea is not this nuts,” she admitted. “North Korea was pretty crazy, but not this crazy.”

Really, go read the rest of it:

With the help of Christian missionaries, the pair managed to flee to Mongolia, walking across the Gobi Desert to eventually find refuge in South Korea.

In 2015 she published her memoir “In Order to Live,” where she described what it took to survive in one of the world’s most brutal dictatorships and the harrowing journey to freedom.

“The people here are just dying to give their rights and power to the government. That is what scares me the most,” the human right activist said.

She accused American higher education institutions of stripping people’s ability to think critically.

Well, of course, yes….

Face masks and social distancing measures should continue “forever”, a senior scientist on the Sage committee that advises the Government has said.

Professor Susan Michie on Thursday suggested the measures introduced to tackle the coronavirus pandemic should be retained to help suppress other viruses and boost public health.

And no foreign hollies and keep the pubs closed and what do you mean you want to eat out? Because once we’ve been able to control you then gosh, isn’t this fun, controlling you?

Truly dangerous logic

The argument Rusbridger is putting forward is simplistic and, in my opinion, wrong: the only way to defeat vile speech – misinformation, propaganda, hate speech and so on – is with more speech. That may be true in the debating halls of a university but it absolutely isn’t true in the wider world, where misinformation, propaganda and hate speech thrive and have demonstrable real-world effects.

I’m currently reading How Fascism Works by Jason Stanley, which goes into some detail about the dehumanisation of minorities.

The alternative on offer is that some group – no, leave alone that this is a loud voice on the subject of trans etc, stick with just any view, any voice, any controller – gets to decide what is true, what may be said, and impose that on everyone.

Which is just what the fascists – all totalitarians – did. Decide that there was only the one set of beliefs that may be uttered aloud.

Fighting fascism by being fascist lacks a certain logic to it.

They’re not getting it, are they?

The author Naomi Wolf has been suspended from Twitter after using it to spread myths about the pandemic, vaccines and lockdown.

Wolf, who wrote the influential feminist work The Beauty Myth, holds staunch anti-vaccine views. Last month she told a US congressional committee that vaccine passports would “re-create a situation that is very familiar to me as a student of history. This has been the start of many, many genocides.”

As the pandemic continued, the author variously claimed that vaccines were a “software platform that can receive uploads” and that “the best way to show respect for healthcare workers if you are healthy and under 65 is to socialise sensibly and expose yourself to a low viral load”.

The significantly deluded also have that free speech stuff. If this were not so then no Marxist would be allowed online, would they?

Rather tortured at The Guardian

Gender-critical feminists disagree with the view of some LGBT activists that gender identity should be prioritised over biological sex in terms of law-making and policy. They fear sex is being argued into non-existence and that this will erode rights hard-won by women in the face of historical biological discrimination.

Some LGBT activists regard the focus on biological sex as transphobic. They argue that while they do not deny the reality of biological sex there must be a recognition of complexities beyond binary definition, and that people should have the right to privacy around their sex characteristics at birth (as was agreed in the European convention on human rights in 2002, which led to the current Gender Recognition Act).

Can you imagine the staff confabs that had to be carried out to get all to sign on to that?

So here’s the thing to worry about

Five reasons why June 21 won’t be the return to normal we thought
The Prime Minister insists “the end really is in sight”, but it increasingly seems that may only apply to those who own a telescope

There are at least some – not necessarily Boris, at least not consciously – who will insist that the 21 st will be the end of the temporary restrictions. Those other ones that we see, well, they’re different. They’re going to be there forever, like that boot in the human face. They never could have been imposed without covid but now they have been, well, we the rules would like to keep them.

That’s all very paranoid of course. But we do know that there are bastards out there who would do this if they could…..