What Are The Limits of Free Speech

This week, Anjem Choudary was convicted in the UK for supporting ISIS. He is facing up to 10 years in prison. I am not familiar with all the details of the case. Maybe he did more than just preach. But apparently a lot of is crime consists of preaching hate. He was vocally supporting ISIS and was preaching death to its enemies.

This is a good opportunity to reflect on how far free speech should go? Should there be any limits? Should we therefore care if someone like Anjem Choudary, undoubtably a not very nice human being, is being sent to prison?

So far, my own attitude towards free speech is probably best describes by the English saying “sticks and stones can break your bones but words can never hurt me”. That is to say, words in and off itself do not cause any damage. Therefore, they can hardly be a crime.

I believe that everyone is responsible for their own actions. Just because someone tells me to hate or commit a violent crime does not mean that I have to do it. It is my own choice and therefore my own responsibility if I act on someone’s proposal. Therefore, the person making the proposal is not responsible for my actions. To argue otherwise is to assume that there is a deterministic relationship between the words and my actions.

However, it seems that this argument leads to some unpleasant results. Say I advertise this job opening. “Looking for someone to kill Donald Duck, living at XY. Offer £50 000 reward”. Is this speech or a crime? It seems that the same principle from our argument above applies here. No one has to take up my offer to kill Donald Duck. There are no costs involved with ignoring it. By costs I mean, no one is worse off after rejecting my offer than he was before. Sure £50 000 seems like a big incentive. But so what? It seems foolish to deny that a good speech can incentivise people. If speech could not motivate people, then ideas would be worthless. And if ideas are worthless then who cares about free speech anyway? If an incentive is the only thing that matters, then it seems we might also have a good argument against hate speech.

The way I see it is that if you offer someone money to murder a person, you are involved in the crime. Certainly, the biggest responsibility lies with the killer. But allowing people to hire killers with impunity for themselves seems like a foolish policy to me. And I am willing to bet that I am not the only one who feels that way.

If that is true than I am not sure if it is correct to say that there is no kind of determinism between someone’s speech and someone’s actions. Let us say a guru of a cult is preaching violence to his followers. His followers see him as an authority and are likely to act on his demand. And the guru himself knows that this is the case. It is difficult to argue that such a guru does not bare at least some responsibility when his followers go out and commit crimes.

This of course was the case in the famous murder cases of Charles Manson. The Manson Family, as his little cult was called, committed some extremely brutal murders that shocked America at the end of the 60s. Charles Manson is currently still serving 9 life sentences for conspiracy of murder. The thing is, he did not actually take part in any of the murders. He just instructed his followers to do so. So does anyone want to argue that Charles Manson has been imprisoned unjustly for the last few decades?

It seems to me that the argument that there cannot be any determinism between someone’s speech and another person’s actions does not hold. Speech is too powerful for that. So is there maybe another argument in favour of free speech?

My argument is that free speech is the best weapon against hate speech. If we are arguing in favour of censorship, we will need to give someone the power to censor. History tells us that giving someone that power is very dangerous. The danger is that it makes debating very difficult. If you threaten people to not make certain arguments, you are poisoning the environment in which debate takes place. You are biasing the debate towards certain ideas. And these ideas are more likely than not going to be false ideas.

In France, it is a crime to deny that what Turkey did to the Armenian’s a century ago was not a genocide. In Turkey it is a crime to say that it was a genocide. Both sides claim to censor in order to prevent false and dangerous ideas from spreading. At least one of them has now certainly achieved the opposite.

People with the truth on their side tend to not fear debate. Because debating is the process of debunking false ideas. And it is the sharpest weapon there is against the latter. Much sharper than any censorship could ever be. So the tested solution to stop dangerous and false ideas is liberty. The track record of censorship is the opposite. It is helping false ideas to spread.

Still, I am inclined to think that it is legitimate to hold someone responsible who motivates people to commit very concrete violent crimes. At the very least, he is responsible after the crimes have been committed. How responsible needs to be determined on a case by case basis. Someone carelessly throwing away a remark about killing someone in a side sentence is certainly not as responsible as the cult guru explicitly instructing his followers.

If we need free speech in order to have an open debate, this limitation does not seem to do any damage. Ordering a crowd to commit a crime is not really an act of debate. But for that to be true, it needs to be very concrete. Because censorship itself is very dangerous, the line needs to be drawn as far in favour of freedom as possible. However, a complete freedom of speech, saying whatever you like, whenever you like, without ever having to fear any responsibility for the actions or your audience seems to lead to unpleasant results at times. The test is probably when someone starts giving people concrete instructions to commit a crime with the clear and justified hope that his audience is going to act on it. Unless someone can show me why I am wrong, a complete freedom of speech seems impracticable to me.

Outlawing “Islamophobia” – the folly of hate crime laws

According to Muslim News Ed Miliband has promised to make “Islamophobia” illegal: 

“We are going to make it an aggravated crime. We are going to make sure it is marked on people’s records with the police to make sure they root out Islamophobia as a hate crime […]We are going to change the law on this so we make it absolutely clear of our abhorrence of hate crime and Islamophobia. It will be the first time that the police will record Islamophobic attacks right across the country,” Ed allegedly said to the editor of The Muslim News Ahmed J. Versi.

Now, I cannot be certain as to the veracity of this statement nor the accuracy of the quotations. I am not certain of the integrity or quality of The Muslim News so I am assessing this with some scepticism while using it as a starting point to discuss a broader theme.

For me, whether Ed Miliband really intends this or not, it is a reminder of the essentially morally corrupt nature of the concept of hate crime. Is it healthy that Muslims should rejoice that they will be recognised by a law identifying them as a separate group, worthy of a special law, to gain parity with Jews and homosexuals? I would contend that it would be better for the social fabric of our society that their sense of separation be eroded rather than made official by law.

Hate crime is identity politics in legislative form, it erodes the principles that uphold the common law; that all are equal before it, it is the law of the land and applies to all, rich, poor, black, white, Muslim, Christian, the government and the governed. Hate crime is divisive because it creates further barriers and aggravates the sense of otherness that minority groups feel.

The law should be blind to race. It is supposed to be a unifying and inclusive force; we are all British and subject to the same laws. Equality before the law is one of principles that made Britain a great and free country, hate crime laws do not conform to it. Hate crime laws say that crimes committed against certain groups are worse than crime committed against people not within those groups, this is unarguably not the case.

I do not deny that it is abhorrent that a Muslim should be attacked because they are Muslim, or that a homosexual is attacked because they are a homosexual; but in the eyes of the law that should simply be a human being and a British citizen being attacked, which results in the appropriate judgement and punishment.

Moreover, the rule of law in a free country judges the individual on what they do, not what they think. You should be condemned for you actions, but not your thoughts. The law cannot pretend to see in into the minds of the defendant. Assault is a violent crime, but when the law enhances the sentence if it is judged that the defendant was motivated by racism/Anti-Semitism/Homophobia/Islamophobia/transphobia/misogony etc. etc. etc. etc. then we have essentially put thought crime on the statute books.

If an individual of one race is mugged in the street by someone of another race who, while taking the victim’s property at knife point, uses a racial slur, does that constitute a “hate crime”? Is there a real moral difference between a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street, and a man beating another man to a bloody pulp in the street because he doesn’t like blacks/muslims/jews/gays? Is it really worse if one assaults a person because they are Asian, than if one attacks a person because they are old and vulnerable, and therefore an easy target? Hate crime laws muddy the waters. The criminal justice system should punish the act rather than speculating about the motive.

It may, of course, be necessary in some situations to ascertain a motive in order to build a case to prove guilt. That does not however mean that the punishment should be harsher based on that motive. It is not okay to assault someone. It is not okay to murder someone. It actually does not matter what the perpetrator was thinking at the time nor what emotional state they were in.

I have yet to see any evidence that hate crime laws bring any tangible benefit to the groups that it is designed to help. If someone is intending to viciously attack someone else because they are gay; it is a dubious that they will be deterred by the possibility of a longer sentence based on their motive.

Such crimes should have sufficiently harsh sentences regardless of motive, the criminal who isn’t deterred enough by the sentence in the first place won’t think twice because he is committing a hate crime as well as an aggravated assault. Unfortunately, the existence of hate crime laws have not been shown to prevent or deter actions that are deemed to be hate crimes, making them unfit for purpose and a failure on their own terms.

Pandering to identity politics may win votes, but “divide and rule” should not be the mantra of a party that believes it has a monopoly on social solidarity.

Again, it is of course wrong and disgusting for someone to be the victim of crime or prejudiced based on their race, sexuality or religion, but that does not mean we need separate laws when the end result of a racially motivated assault is the same as an assault not motived by race. In the interest of fairness and true equality hate crime laws should be repealed.

New legislation specifically addressing the concerns of Muslims is misguided and wrong. Exacerbating the sense of “otherness” that some Muslims feel will not help us assimilate them into our society, only inclusivity will do that and there is nothing more inclusive than equality before the law.


“Things We Won’t Say About Race That Are True” – cultural relativism is the real problem

I thought “Things We Can’t Say About Race That Are True” was a fairly good programme and I commend Trevor Philips for making it. He is due respect for being thoughtful and self-aware enough to be criticise the erroneous attitudes he had earlier expressed. These are essential issues which must be discussed openly.

Britain is a multi-racial society that is going through an unprecedented demographic and cultural change in a very short space of time. Few countries in the world could have managed such a vast and rapid influx of newcomers from diverse cultures so tolerantly and so peacefully. We are however now feeling societal tensions and anxieties as a result both of this change, but also as a direct result of the complacent attitudes of those who have been arrogant and dismissive in their treatment of people with concerns. They attempted to ignore people who felt anxious and displaced. They worked to shut down debate. This is the damaging approach that Trevor Philips identified, lamented and repudiated last night.

The main argument of the programme was that the restrictions on free speech and our fear of discussing “race” have contributed to the resentment and tension in our society. It has also directly created a climate of fear and silence that “creates victims too”. The fear of being accused of being a racist felt by politicians and the authorities has led them to badly let down people they have a duty to protect. Fear of stereotyping certain social or racial groups has led them to failing those very same groups.

It was a compelling argument fairly well communicated. Still, I feel the point I made in my previous article; that ethnicity is actually not a factor, and that culture is what is important, is actually glaringly obvious and by missing this point Trevor Philips is still offering weak solutions. His pointing out the irony in white Britons criticising the privileging of specific social groups just as they are about to benefit from it was fatuous. The social problems of poor white Britons have a longer history than the last decade or so. It is the targeting and different treatment of people according to race that is wrong.

He discussed the behavioural patterns of ethnic groups, patterns that can be proven statistically. This is all very interesting, but although it is blindingly obvious that such behaviours have nothing to do with skin colour; that does not mean it goes without saying. All this discussion of race, and the behaviours or racial groups, and the very name of the programme “Things We Won’t Say About Race”, diverts away from the far more pertinent factor of culture.

Here’s another shocking behavioural pattern that is proven by statistics. 48% of British Pakistanis who are married, are married to their first cousin. As a direct result of this they are 13 times more likely to produce children with genetic disorders than the rest of the general population. British Pakistanis only account for 3% of births in the United Kingdom, but they are responsible for 33% of babies born with genetic defects each year. This is shocking. More importantly, what does that say about Asian people? What does it say about people with brown skin?

Nothing, of course. Absolutely nothing at all. It is because they belong to an extremely parochial and poorly educated, un-integrated community with a regressively conservative Pakistani village culture. Failing to address or criticise this will cause the British Pakistanis concerned great suffering. Inbreeding, tribalism and social parochialism are not a recipe for success in our society. I am being quite blunt about this because I am criticising a culture, not a race. Again, this may all seem perfectly obvious, but if it is, why was it not discussed in the programme?

This fear of racism, and inability to criticise culture leads to the disgraceful farce around the death of eight-year-old Victoria Climbie that was referred to in the programme. The poor child had 128 separate injuries. A vast array of explanations were offered except the only relevant one, which is that her Ivory Coast guardians were products of a backwards culture of superstition and cruelty.

It wasn’t because they were black, it was because they believed in witchcraft, i.e. it was entirely cultural. Cultural relativism is amoral. If we can’t say believing in witchcraft is dangerous and moronic and that inbreeding should be criticised and frowned upon, then we have truly lost our way. We are not criticising based on race, but culture. It is this line that must be identified, and that we must be allowed to cross in order to move forward

I would contend that this is the crux of the matter. The encouragement from “progressive” ideologues and the state for certain communities to preserve the culture of the old country is in-fact highly regressive and has proven to be a total failure. The corrupt ideology of cultural relativism or “multiculturalism” has exacerbated many social problems and caused harm to the minorities it was supposed to protect

It was a massive act of folly to reject the tried and tested, successful and natural means of coping with immigration; through assimilation. Through this process new cultures integrate into the host culture. The dominant culture absorbs desirable elements of the new cultures and erodes undesirable or incompatible elements. The host culture is thereby enriched, refreshed and diversified. This is clearly evidenced by the successful ethnic communities who live in our society harmoniously.

These are the real issues; things we can’t say about culture that are true. If we do not stand by the values of our own culture, and criticise others as we freely criticise our own (for fear of that false accusation of racism) it is to the detriment of all.






Things you can’t say about culture that are true

I have been called a “bigot”, a “reactionary”, a “racist” and a “right wing nutter” on social media for my objection to multiculturalism. For those that were hurling these insults I was simply prejudiced and objecting to the very concept of our diverse, multi-racial society. For them “multiculturalism” is an attempt to create tolerance and harmony amongst multi-ethnic groups and do away with the supposedly chauvinistic concept of a dominant culture that assimilates sub cultures and unites them into a national culture.

For me, and many others, multiculturalism is a divisive ideology that encourages cultures to be conservative to the extent of being inward looking and resistant to integration. It leads to some of the diverse groups that make up our society living separate lives. It is cultural relativism with a different name; the self-evidently false notion that all cultures are of equal merit, are worthy of equal respect and that one culture should not seek to dominate another.

The worst thing about it is that it falsely ties up culture with race, making it impossible to criticise elements of certain cultures without being accused of being racist. This restriction on freedom of speech has already caused enormous damage; isolated communities, segregated cities, the blind eye turned to grooming gangs, and a simmering resentment in our society that puts a strain on social cohesion.

Multiculturalism became the ideology of the state with perverse results. In its attempts to neutralise racism, Britain has become a racialist country because the state tracks the ethnicity of citizens at every available opportunity. To promote inclusivity and combat discrimination, we are racially profiled.

Each ethnic and religious group began to be treated only as a group, and their culture, religion and identity promoted by the state, which in-turn turned blind eye to the elements of that culture that were incompatible with the dominant culture and sometimes even the law of the land.

The government attempted to create better lines of communications with the “Muslim community” (itself an oft used false phrase suggesting homogeneity) by giving false authority to self-professed “community leaders”. This was little different to the methods of social control in the colonies. It promotes the conservation of tribal culture within British society, causes divisions and mutes the voices of individuals within the community who do not feel represented by the “community leaders” who act as emissaries.

I am not a racist, ethnicity is skin deep. It is culture that is important, and we should be free to criticise culture, because they are not all the same and they are not all of equal merit. In the programme “Things We Won’t Say about Race that are True” we are confronted with statistics about different races:

“A third of London pickpockets are Romanian; black people are six times as likely to be jailed for robbery; the Chinese are tops at people-trafficking; when it comes to drug dealing, Afro-Caribbeans are pathetic amateurs compared to the Colombians; meanwhile, white idiots are the national champs of alcohol-fuelled crime.”

The real reason we should be able to discuss these things is because it is absolutely nothing to do with race at all, thus to point these things out is not racist. The fact that Romanians are statistically more likely to be pick pockets or white Britons more likely to be drunken louts is nothing to do with ethnicity; it is entirely to do with culture.

The “Muslim” rape gangs are not representative of the Asian community, and their actions say nothing of their ethnicity; they are displaying the traits of a misogynistic and racist tribal/religious culture. Romanian pickpockets come from a poor and historically corrupt country, that is the cultural baggage of the pickpockets, their skin colour is not a factor.

The drunken lout white Britons are a rotten part of our own culture. We have lost the culture of self-restraint and personal responsibility that became a national characteristic in the religious revival of the nineteenth century. We return to being known across Europe as debauched, emotionally incontinent, louts much like our reputation in the eighteenth century. It is all about culture. We should be free to criticise others as we criticise our own, that is far more likely to lead to unity than our current blinkered ideological approach.

The restrictions on freedom of speech caused by the ideology of multiculturalism/cultural relativism has created a tense atmosphere in which it is perceived to be bigoted to criticise a culture, or to point out a damaging or undesirable element of a culture, or to assert the superiority of one culture over another. This also means that you cannot combat the actual racist assumption that such negative traits are in-fact something to do with race, which justifies the bigot’s discrimination against ethnic groups as a whole. It also means you cannot weed out the negative elements of a new culture as it assimilates into a host culture.

If we can start to say these things, we can start to unpick them and put ethnicity to one side. We can then forge a unifying culture together, a concept so wrongly criticised and over simplified. A national culture or “monoculture” is not about uniformity can be incredibly diverse and have many shades, it is unifying and need not have anything to do with race. This is already evident in our ethnically mixed communities that are well integrated.

I have witnessed the segregation and resentment in Bradford, but I have also seen how integration works in the multi-ethnic communities of Wakefield. There you’ll find White, Asian, Indian and Afro-Caribbeans living together as proper Yorkshire folk and Britons.This cannot be achieved across the country through cultural relativism or state interference, nor if we are not free to speak the truth. Ethnicity need not divide us, but culture can, and ideology will.