You could be forgiven for honestly believing that Britain has robust free speech. You can say a lot of things freely, for instance you can attack smokers and drinkers and fat people all you like, without fear of being prosecuted or going to jail -- hell, the British government will even pay you with taxpayers' money to say these things. But the UK has carved out exceptions to free speech that severely curtail what you can say, or write, or quite possibly even think.
Before I continue, I need to make one thing very, very clear: I do not truck with racism. I have personally experienced racist attacks, have personally witnessed it happening to others right here in the UK and abroad, and I have always spoken out against it and told people that I thought their views and actions were abhorrent. I could write 100,000 words on the subject of racism and intolerance and not even begin to scratch at its surface. It is simply shameful, and those who spout off their hateful, bigoted views should be publicly castigated and shunned. All of that said, I truly do not believe that making racist remarks is an offence that deserves jail time, but the UK government disagrees with my opinion.
In order for robust free speech to work, we must allow speech that we do not like. Even bigoted speech. We need to challenge these bigots publicly, and we should not hold back on calling out those who use their speech to promote their hateful opinions.
Which brings us to a very unpleasant boy named Liam Stacey. You've probably read about him. You probably know that he's going to jail for making some truly dreadful comments about black people on Twitter. There is no excuse for Liam's rants on Twitter, regardless if he was excessively inebriated or what have you. The things he said disgust me, but I would defend his right to say them freely while at the same time calling him a hateful cunt. (Note: Liam likes that word, too. I'm sure he wouldn't mind being called it.) As appalling as Liam Stacey is, it's even more appalling that he is going to jail for merely tweeting his awful views.
But this post isn't really about Liam. It is about double standards. In fact, it is double standards2.
Case in point: Diane Abbott, MP, and Shadow Public Health Minister. I have no idea if Diane is a racist -- I have never met her. I have seen her on BBC and I rarely agree with anything she has said. She has made some truly bigoted remarks about "white people" time and time again.
"One of the things about this new leadership is how post-meritocratic it is. Two posh white boys from the home counties."
"...blonde, blue-eyed" [nurses working at Homerton Hospital] might "never have met a black person before, let alone touched one."
"White people loving playing divide and rule. We should not play their game #tacticsasoldascolonialism."
Diane also believes that Britain invented racism, which shows a stunning lack of knowledge about history, but never mind that.
So, why isn't Diane going to jail for her comments? Hell, why is she still serving as an MP?
For starters, she was wise enough to avoid using racially-charged epithets, although I could make a convincing argument that using "white people" in a particular context is semantically no different than any other racial epithet. Diane is black, of Jamaican heritage. So does being black automatically give her a free pass to say anything she likes about other people who aren't black? Finally, Diane is a government minister. And it pretty much goes without saying that MPs work under one set of rules for them, while the rest of the riff-raff class labour under an entirely different rule set abridging their speech.
Apparently, the rules of free speech are entirely different for black MPs. Double standards2. Look, free speech has to cut both ways. If Liam is guilty of a racially-aggravated offence, so by definition is Diane Abbott. Her views on white people are pathetic and misguided. She has no business representing anyone in any official capacity because she cannot be trusted to impartial and fair.
But I don't want to see either of these people in jail for their comments. They should both be called out as bigots, they both should be shunned for making their comments, and more importantly the voters in Hackney should really think twice about re-electing Diane to public office.
Diane Abbott is a nasty piece of work, certainly. She claims to believe in civil liberties, but she really doesn't believe that at all. She, like Stephen Williams MP, limit their beliefs to a subset of the population to which they associate themselves. When she supports smoking bans and plain packs she is more or less telling us this: "I want these civil liberties for these people here, but that class of people over there do not deserve liberties."
Make no mistake, Diane Abbott is a hypocrite. I'll leave it to you to decide whether you think she is racist.
|Diane Abbott, MP - Protecting your children from colonialism and trade marks|