Thursday, August 02, 2012

Twitter Tyranny in Britain

It was hailed as a medium for speaking your mind. Yet now we're seeing draconian censorship of free speech, with people being arrested for sending insults

We appear to be in the middle of a raging freedom of speech firestorm — and no one seems to have a clue what to do about it.

In the past few days, there has been a series of examples of offensive comments posted on the internet that upset other people — and then the writers found the world falling in on them.

The most recent example involves the Olympic diver Tom Daley.  After failing to win a medal on Monday, someone sent him a vile tweet saying: ‘You let your dad down i hope you know that’ [sic]. Daley’s father, who his son described as his ‘inspiration’, died last year from brain cancer.

After complaints to the police, a 17-year-old boy suspected of being responsible was arrested by the Dorset constabulary and later bailed.

It was subsequently revealed that, after Daley had tweeted his own disgusted response to the comment, the original tweeter was targeted by tens of thousands of Twitter users, who turned on him in fury with crude abuse and threats.

It then transpired that the tweeter had also posted that he wanted to ‘drown’ Daley and went on to tweet more threats, obscenities and abuse.

It is not clear if the alleged tweeter was arrested for that disgusting taunt about Daley’s father or for his other threats. But regardless of the specifics of this case, it raises wider and deeper concerns about freedom of speech. The boy was arrested under the Malicious Communications Act 1988. Did you know we had such an Act? No, neither did I. Nor did I have any idea that its provisions are so wide.

For this law makes it an offence to send an electronic communication that conveys a grossly offensive message intended to cause distress or anxiety.

Well, as a newspaper columnist, I get those kind of messages all the time from people whose purpose is undoubtedly to cause me distress or anxiety. So do many others in the public eye.

So should all these senders be prosecuted? Of course not; that would be as unenforceable as it would be draconian. So on what basis should anyone be prosecuted?  Is it not alarming to have such a law that is as potentially invidious as it is oppressive?

Undoubtedly, being the target of such messages is a truly horrible experience.

Not surprisingly, Olympic athlete Jessica Ennis has said she is switching off Twitter for two weeks during the Games because she didn’t want such distraction, whether good or bad.

But are such Twitter spats really a proper matter for the police? Even threats of violence posted on the net are often merely rhetorical outbursts from people too inarticulate to express anger any other way.

Indeed, death threats on Twitter are two a penny. For example, British boxer Paul Smith found himself subjected to such threats when he suggested on Twitter that Tom Daley’s tormenter deserved ‘a hiding’, adding: ‘But what’s he done to be arrested. It’s wrong.’

It’s not surprising that the police are complaining they are ‘having to make it up as they go along’ when it comes to policing the internet.

Meanwhile, Twitter has been on the back foot over suspending the account of a British journalist, Guy Adams, after he tweeted the corporate email address of Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, while criticising the American TV company for being ‘utter b******s’ for failing to air the opening ceremony live to viewers on the U.S west coast.

Twitter says the British writer broke its rule against publishing someone’s personal details. But Adams pointed out that Zenkel’s corporate email address was publicly available. Now Adams’s account has been reinstated.

In all this bedlam, one welcome voice of sanity has been heard from an English courtroom.

Just a few days ago, another Twitter user, Paul Chambers, was cleared of sending a menacing communication under the Communications Act.

Two years ago, unable to fly from his local airport in Yorkshire to Northern Ireland to see his girlfriend due to bad weather, he tweeted: ‘Robin Hood Airport is closed. You’ve got a week and a bit to get your s*** together otherwise I am blowing the airport sky high!!’

His message caused no security alert; indeed, it was only five days later that the airport noticed it.

Overturning his conviction, the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Judge, and two other judges ruled that this tweet, sent in frustration, was not intended to be menacing and was therefore not a criminal offence.

Lord Judge declared: ‘Satirical, or iconoclastic, or rude comment, the expression of unpopular or unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, banter or humour, even if distasteful to some or painful to those subjected to it should, and no doubt will, continue at their customary level, quite undiminished by this legislation.’

Hallelujah! Common sense at last — at a time when Britain seems to have lost all sense of proportion, not to mention its marbles, over how to deal with insults.

For earlier this year, a student was jailed under the sinister Racially Aggravated Public Order Act for sending offensive tweets about Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba, who suffered a heart attack during a match.

His messages were undoubtedly appalling — but to jail someone for extreme bad manners is simply oppressive.

But then, certain issues have been elevated to a kind of religion. To express heretical thoughts is to invite the attention of a secular inquisition.

When the Tory MP Aidan Burley tweeted that the Olympic opening ceremony was ‘Leftie multicultural crap’, David Cameron denounced him as ‘idiotic’ and Burley was made to grovel.

In the Guardian, historian Tristram Hunt claimed that the criticism of that ceremony made by Burley and the ‘cultural right’ ‘speaks volumes about their incompatibility with modern Britain’.

So express the wrong opinion these days and you are no longer part of British society at all — and just for criticising the (undoubted) Left-wing bias of a theatrical show!

Even before Left-wing commentators started attacking Danny Boyle dissenters, the Twittersphere was denouncing them. The hapless Burley became an un-person on Twitter barely before the Olympic cauldron was even lit.

What on earth has happened to freedom of speech in Britain?

Of course, it has always been understood that the line should be drawn at real threats of violence or intimidation.

But insult should never be criminalised because it is highly subjective. All kinds of speech or writing are vile, insulting or offensive to someone or other.

The right response is to use freedom of speech to object — but not to make the giving of offence into a crime.

Nevertheless, there is a problem with social media.  By providing a platform for everyone, with none of the usual media gatekeepers to police it, social media has created an electronic mob. It has given a megaphone to every misfit with a grudge and social inadequate in the land.

One way of tackling that is for Twitter and other electronic outlets to require all users to post messages using their real names.

But while anarchy rages on the net, Britain is steadily shutting down dissent.

The Twittersphere has created the electronic equivalent of the Roman Colosseum, with millions of computer cursors poised to tweet the electronic thumbs down to destroy their victims’ reputation.

Social media is thus helping enforce the menacing codes of a society which, in the name of diversity and inclusiveness, arrests, suspends and even jails dissenters while the mob savagely tweets their social demise.


Playing Chicken with Freedom of Speech

Each day brings new evidence of the Left’s hatred for Christians and other traditionalists, but the smear campaign against Christian-owned Chick-fil-A sets a new low.

The Atlanta-based, 1,600-restaurant chain that’s famous for its misspelling-prone cows who urge consumers to “eat mor chikin,” is under a full-scale, fascistic assault, complete with obscene celebrity tweets and government bullying.

Acting more like Benito Mussolini than Paul Revere, Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said he will block Chick-fil-A from opening a facility in his city. Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno said he will stop Chick-fil-A from building its second Chicago store. In Philadelphia, Councilman Jim Kenney sent a letter to Chick-fil-A President Dan Cathy advising his company to “take a hike and take your intolerance with you.” Meanwhile, the Jim Henson Company, owner of The Muppets, has canceled a deal to provide toys for Chick-fil-A kids’ meals. This is just the beginning.

What has the dastardly company done? Chick-fil-A’s management, while not political, is an unapologetic defender of traditional values. Like the Boy Scouts, the company has enraged progressives who are at war with Nature and Nature’s God.

This isn’t the first time Chick-fil-A has been singled out. In February 2011, homosexual activists launched an unsuccessful boycott when they found out that the company donated food to the Pennsylvania Family Institute’s marriage retreat. Seriously, it doesn’t take much to tick them off.

The current hysteria began after Dan Cathy, son of the chain’s founder, gave an interview that ran in the Baptist Press on July 16. Mr. Cathy noted that Chick-fil-A’s management is “based on biblical principles, asking God and pleading with God to give us wisdom on decisions we make about people and the programs and partnerships we have. And He has blessed us.” When asked about the company’s positions in support of marriage and family, Mr. Cathy went on to say, “Well, guilty as charged. We are very much supportive of the family — the biblical definition of the family unit. …”

This was too juicy to ignore. CNN ran a July 19 religion blog post, “Chick-fil-A’s marriage stance causing a social storm.” Casually striking a match while pouring the gasoline, writer Brad Lendon wrote that “the comments of company President Dan Cathy about gay marriage to Baptist Press on Monday have ignited a social media wildfire.”

It doesn’t matter that Mr. Cathy never brought up “gay marriage,” as noted by The Weekly Standard’s Mark Hemingway. All Mr. Cathy did was defend the company’s stance that families are paramount and that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.

That’s what marriage laws do, too – they define the institution. It’s no accident that the media routinely describe marriage laws as “gay marriage bans,” as if marriage didn’t exist until recently, when it was invented solely to vex homosexuals. You think I’m joking? That’s what openly gay U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker essentially said in his bizarre ruling striking down

California’s voter-approved constitutional marriage amendment.
This madness has gone so far that simply defending marriage is enough to get you banned in Boston. There may be room, however, for a legal challenge, as UCLA Law Professor Eugene Volokh notes:

    “Denying a private business permits because of such speech by its owner is a blatant First Amendment violation. Even when it comes to government contracting — where the government is choosing how to spend government money — the government generally may not discriminate based on the contractor’s speech, see Board of County Commissioners v. Umbehr (1996).”

Perhaps the ACLU will step forward to represent Chick-fil-A. Perhaps the Chicago River will freeze in August.

Comic and Green Party favorite Roseanne Barr joined the Chick-fil-A bashing on Wednesday, tweeting, “anyone who eats (expletive) -- Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.”

As reported by the Media Research Center’s Newsbusters, she sent another Christian-themed, obscene tweet that I won’t repeat, followed by this sarcastic offering: “off to grab a (expletive)- fil-A sandwich on my way to worshipping Christ, supporting Aipac and war in Iran.” (Aipac stands for the American Israel Public Affairs Committee.)

On July 25, Washington Post columnist Dana Milbank accused Mike Huckabee of pushing “obesity” because Mr. Huckabee has called for people who honor “Godly values” to fight back by eating at Chick-fil-A on August 1. Huckabee’s “defense of the fast-food restaurant will make Chick-fil-A a fat target in the culture wars and will further divide Americans,” Milbank asserted.

Right. Huckabee’s the divisive one for helping the mugging victim. If he were a Good American (like Mr. Milbank), he’d just stay silent (unlike Mr. Milbank).

Up in Boston, where consistency is not necessarily a virtue, Mayor Menino didn’t mind giving a taxpayer-subsidized, sweetheart land deal in 2002 to the Islamic Society of Boston, which has been linked to terrorist groups. But on the “Freedom Trail,” where the American Revolution began, Menino says Chick-fil-A “doesn’t send the right message to the country. We’re a leader when it comes to social justice and opportunities for all.” Except for Christians, who are about as welcome in Boston as the New York Yankees.

Stand for natural marriage and you’ll get the Left’s version of “social justice:” an iron fist in a lavender glove. The end-game is to criminalize Christianity and replace it with a state-approved, false religion that retains enough trappings to fool the unwary.

Chicago’s notoriously foul-mouthed Mayor, Rahm Emanuel, who donned brass knuckles to assist Alderman Moreno, put it this way: “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

No, perhaps not in a town where Al Capone’s spirit animates its politics. Psalm 12:8 says, “The wicked freely strut about when what is vile is honored among men.”

As for Mr. Cathy, “We intend to stay the course,” he said. “We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles.”

I know where I’m having breakfast, lunch and dinner on August 1, do you?


Activists Call for Boycott on Cake Shop After Owner Refuses to Bake Gay Wedding Cake‏

Move over Chick-fil-A. There’s a new business getting heat for its stance on gay marriage. Masterpiece Cake Shop in Lakewood, Colorado, is facing critics who are calling for a boycott after it refused to make a cake for a same-sex couple.

Dave Mullin and Charlie Craig, who went to the shop earlier this month to ask about having a cake made for their wedding, say they dated for two years before getting engaged. After only seconds of entering Masterpiece, they claim that owner Jack Phillips turned them away.

“My first comment was, ‘we’re getting married.’ And he kind of just shut that down immediately,” Craig explained:

According to CBS Denver, the couple left the shop feeling downtrodden, so they went on Facebook to make their voices heard. The response to their story has since sparked protests. The outlet also notes that this isn’t the first time that Phillips has turned gay customers away.

But while his views on the matter may seem discriminatory to some, Phillips stands by them. In an interview with CBS, he noted that he has no problem making birthday, graduation or other event cakes for homosexuals, but that wedding cakes are a different story.

“If gays come in and want to order birthday cakes or any cakes for any occasion, graduations, or whatever, I have no prejudice against that whatsoever, he said. “It’s just the wedding cake, not the people, not their lifestyle.”

This past weekend, protesters started lining up outside of the establishment in an attempt to convince Phillips to reverse course. But — he’s not planning on changing his mind.

“If it came to that point, then we‘d close down the bakery before we’d compromise our beliefs,” Phillips proclaimed. “And so that may be what it comes to, but we’ll have to see.”

This story comes following the case of Victoria Childress, a baker from Des Moines, Iowa, who, earlier this year, refused to sell a cake to a lesbian couple. That incident, too, sparked outrage.


Catholic business owners score win against ObamaCare mandate

The Catholic family that owns a Colorado-based company won a court victory in their battle to stop the Obama administration from requiring them to provide insurance coverage for abortion-inducing drugs, sterilization and contraception, a mandate they say violates their religious beliefs and First Amendment rights.

Hercules Industries, a Denver-based heating ventilation and air conditioning manufacturer that employs nearly 300 full-time workers, got an injunction in federal court which stops enforcement of the controversial ObamaCare mandate. The company's lawyers said they needed the injunction immediately because if the mandate is enforced, it must begin immediately making changes to its health plan, which renews on Nov. 1.

The case is similar to ones brought by Catholic-based colleges that have refused to provide employee insurance with such coverage, except this time, it is a secular corporation.

In his order, Colorado District Judge John Kane said that the government's arguments "are countered, and indeed outweighed, by the public interest in the free exercise of religion."

The case still must be aired out in court, but lawyers representing Hercules savored the  temporary victory.

"Every American, including family business owners, should be free to live and do business according to their faith. For the time being, Hercules Industries will be able to do just that," said Matt Bowman, legal counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, the Arizona-based organization representing the Newlands. "The bottom line is that Congress and the Constitution explicitly protect all religious freedom. They don't exclude family businesses."

House Speaker John Boehner heralded the court's ruling.

"I join millions of my fellow Americans in welcoming this ruling, which is a major victory in the effort to restore the religious liberty that has been demolished by the Obama administration's actions this year," Boehner said.

In a brief responding to the Justice Department's filing, Alliance Defending Freedom attorneys disputed that claim that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations.

"Nothing in the Constitution, the Supreme Court's decisions, or federal law requires - or even suggests - that families forfeit their religious liberty protection when they try to earn a living, such as by operating a corporate business," the document reads. The idea that "a corporation has no constitutional right to free exercise of religion" is ‘unsupported,' the brief stated.

Bowman said the federal government isn't allowed to tell family businesses that they are "second-class citizens" regarding religious freedom.



Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the  incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.

American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of  other countries.  The only real difference, however, is how much power they have.  In America, their power is limited by democracy.  To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already  very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges.  They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did:  None.  So look to the colleges to see  what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way.  It would be a dictatorship.

For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH,   EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, GUN WATCHAUSTRALIAN POLITICSDISSECTING LEFTISM, IMMIGRATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL  and EYE ON BRITAIN (Note that EYE ON BRITAIN has regular posts on the reality of socialized medicine).   My Home Pages are here or   here or   here.  Email me (John Ray) here.  For readers in China or for times when is playing up, there is a mirror of this site  here.


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