Freedom of expression

This is from a reply from my MP...

"A future Conservative Government would like to go further still, and the next Conservative manifesto is likely to contain a commitment to introduce Extremist Disruption Orders (EDO), which seek to restrict the harmful activities of extremist individuals who spread hate but do not break laws. This will be a civil order, imposed by a High Court upon application by the police." [my emphasis]

Note, "do not break laws". Even article 10 of the EHCR talks of restrictions prescribed by law.

I can't see that sort of thing being abused or suffering feature creep! Can you?

Oh, I hate mushrooms, and you should to - so I can expect this blog to be shut down as I "spread hate".

P.S. Bear in mind that "extremist" could well mean just people that don't believe the official line on something like 911. See reports of Cameron saying so.


  1. This defeat the whole point of having a law!
    You draw a line, if you cross it there are repercussions.
    We saw in the last few years cases were undercover police officiers pushed you over the line and then arrested you.
    Now the tories want to draw a line and if you stay on the right side of it but they still don't like the colour of your shoes the line doesn't matter anymore they will still stop you....

    No surprise they want to get out of ECHR....

    And we can't even complain it will not be democratic, people will vote for it, driven by fear. (Even if there are far more people killed in lifts accident than by terrorist in UK every year)

  2. It's a difficult balancing act this one, especially once you see gangs of kids loitering outside a local chippy or family home (sometimes even whole communities) and hurling extreme racial abuse at the owners or occupants. The police turn up, but short of imposing an expensive to maintain general order on the whole area they only have limited powers to deal with it, except for saying "move on now..". The kids inevitably return later, rinse and repeat.

    Granted I’ve chosen a non-Internet example here but there are situations where the ability to impose tougher measures on the sicker side of human nature is required. On the other hand this must always be tempered against safeguards to protect free speech, which is always easier said than done.

    The big fear of course is that Government’s will inevitably blur the lines with policies that feature vague descriptions and this can result in abuse of the rule.


    1. I have seen this "freedom of speech" thing work in the states. In Vegas there were people with loud hailers and banners spouting some pretty offensive stuff. But freedom of speech allows it, and everyone ignored it! If we create a culture where you are not allowed to say "Boo!", we end up with no freedom of expression. If we allow even total idiots to talk, we learn not to rise to them or be offended by them but free speech is not stifled.

    2. True, although my example wasn't people "demonstrating" as such, it was a targeted and totally sinister human behaviour of the like that nobody should ever accept. UK Freedom of Speech laws don't allow you to stand outside people’s homes for days on end, so they don't even feel safe to go outside, shouting abuse and threatening to kill their children etc. (it makes exceptions for such abuses).

      But in reality the ability to enforce those laws effectively is lacking and more often than not all the police can do is say "move on..". Eventually the news report comes that somebody has been killed or beaten as a result.

      As I say though, the difficulty is always with finding the right balance, not to mention the ability to distinguish between comment and context. As a society we do have to tolerate the some of the bad in order to be truly free, but true extremes should never be allowed.

    3. The scenario this MP mentions is one where what is being done/said is not breaking any law. There are laws on harassment, for example, and several others, which can be used in such cases. This is about someone not breaking a law that you want to silence! Not apply a legal penalty for what they did do, but stop them saying something they might say. It smacks so much of fascism and the thin end of the wedge. Is it always starts as "only the most extreme", obviously.

  3. Trying to enforce good values through the law is just a stupendously bad idea. When has this ever worked out well?

  4. I assume your MP isn't Conservative? (The whole quote looked like a party political "don't vote Conservative!" thing).

    I don't support any particular party, but I'd say these curtailments of civil liberties are pushed by all parties who have been in power over the past few years - it was pretty much the same when Labour were in power. Makes me think that its a civil service agenda and the politicians are bowing to the civil service no matter which party they are from. Unfortunately we don't get to vote the civil service out of office.

    WRT MarkJ's reply, the example of kids hurling racial abuse is fairly clear cut to me - this stuff is already explicitly outlawed and I don't see much merit in allowing that under "freedom of speech". Frankly, hurling abuse at people (especially a large aggregate group of people who you don't personally know, such as "the blacks", "the muslims", etc) is never cool and its hard to see a valid reason for allowing this kind of freedom any more than we allow other harmful "freedoms" such as robbery.

    What we need is effective enforcement of the stuff we've already decided needs to be outlawed, not more creeping laws that will only be selectively enforced against those the establishment doesn't like. Going back to the "kids hurling abuse" example, it's often said that these kids treat ASBOs as a badge of honour rather than a deterrent - I've been thinking for a while that bringing back the stocks might be a reasonable punishment; it's hard to see how sitting in the town centre while passers by who know exactly what you've done chuck a bit of rotten fruit at you can be a "badge of honour" and doesn't cause any physical harm to the individual being punished (obviously it needs to be managed properly to ensure people are chucking rotten fruit instead of bricks!)

    1. Conservative MP for Windsor! So interesting you too see it as a cry for not voting conservative, as do I.

    2. I suspect Steve is quite right here; the Home Office and security services have a vested interest in our safety but not in our liberty.
      As such, ministers will be under constant pressure to enact legislation which may not always be justifiable from all standpoints.
      It's therefore no surprise if some ministers, regardless of party, cave in or go native.

      Maybe the answer is a written constitution including statements of an individual's right to security, freedom of expression and privacy?
      Each new government bill would then have to be benchmarked and balanced by a broad range of standards.

  5. I read Animal Farm and 1984 at school in 1980 and remember thinking "that could never happen here" before joining the RAF and standing as the tip of the sword that we thrust into our enemy's throat.

    Now I wonder if the real 'enemy' was standing behind us...

  6. "extremist individuals who spread hate"

    LOL - pretty much every fanboi or Linux user I ever met!

    1. You jest, but ones you create powers to make orders, it won't take much for them to be used, I bet.

  7. The law that makes this order however will be the "proscribing by law".

    However, you are right in that it almost certainly will be challenged at the ECHR level.

    ...and I doubt the government can argue that this is a proportionate interference that is "necessary in a democratic society"

  8. That MP sounds pretty extreme to me ... I know it's not breaking any laws, but it does sound likely to spread hate. Good first subject for one of these EDOs then?


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