Flat White

Britain’s free speech crisis

28 March 2018

7:41 AM

28 March 2018

7:41 AM

After a thoroughly enjoyable 16 months of travel, including a year writing for the Spectator in Sydney, I recently returned home to the UK. ‘Beast from the East’ aside, I was happy to be back. However, it quickly became clear that the political mood had changed.

A conscious, concerted clampdown on free expression and open debate is underway in Britain. I’ve now seen it with my own eyes. It’s a disturbing picture indeed. The examples of repression are numerous. You’re about to see only a few.

Considering the deliberate mainstream media blackout, let this article serve twofold. Firstly, as a final wake-up call for Brits, irrespective of political persuasion. Secondly, as a warning to my Australian friends.

Freedom of Association:

This month alone, three journalists have been detained upon their entry to the UK. As none of them has a history of engaging in or encouraging violence, the British government has inhibited their freedom of movement based on an ideological value judgement.

Martin Sellner and Brittany PettiboneOn 9 March, Pettibone and Sellner, two journalists from the USA and Austria respectively, were detained upon arrival at Heathrow Airport. They were handcuffed, separated and transported to a detention centre, where they were held for three days before their deportation. Their crimes? Sellner had planned to deliver a talk on free speech, at the invitation of UKIP. When this was cancelled, for the second time, following violent threats from the left, he instead planned to deliver the address at ‘Speakers Corner’. This world-famous spot of free expression, In London’s Hyde Park, has always been open to all. Tens of thousands have said their piece there – including Marx, Lenin and … wait for it … George Orwell.

Pettibone was deported after she acknowledged her plan to interview Tommy Robinson, an anti-Islam activist, British citizen and free man, who has never been convicted of a politically motivated offence.

Lauren Southern – Just days later, independent Canadian journalist Lauren Southern was detained while trying to gain entry to the UK via Calais. She was asked if she was a ‘Christian Extremist’. Despite her insistence that this was ludicrous, she was declared ‘A threat to the fundamental interests of society and to the public policy of the United Kingdom’. Southern was deported and prohibited from entering Britain indefinitely.

While March 2018 has been a particularly oppressive month, it is indicative of a long-term trend. Geert Wilders, Pamela Geller, Robert Spencer and Michael Savage have all faced bans in response to their critique of Islam.

Senior Labour MP Chris Bryant has even demanded that President Trump be blacklisted for: ‘Supporting and condoning fascism and far-right activity.’

Freedom of Expression:

Markus Meechan – Last week, a YouTube comedian was found guilty of a ‘hate crime’, after he jokingly uploaded a video of his girlfriend’s pug making a Nazi salute. Despite being viewed over three million times and no complaints being made, the police decided to prosecute Mr Meechan anyway. In court, Sheriff Derek O’Carroll announced that the offence was ‘grossly offensive’. While this sounds amusing, the judicial process has dragged on for two years, consuming Mr Meehan’s life. He is due to be sentenced next month and could be sent to prison.

Tommy Robinson As I’ve detailed in this publication, I think Mr Robinson is wrong on Islam. I read his book anyway. It was chilling. Let nobody be in any doubt – the British Establishment are now prepared to crush anyone who repeatedly ‘speaks out of turn’.

Paul Golding and Jayda Fransen – Jailed for 18 and 36 weeks respectively for ‘demonstrating hostility towards Muslims and the Muslim faith’.


Mainstream Media narrative:

Not only are conservative voices silenced, the mainstream media are determined to exclude some stories from general consumption. It was revealed this month that 1000 girls in Telford, some as young as 11, were beaten, drugged and gang-raped. Lucy Lowe was burned to death, alongside her sister and mother, after her abuser set fire to her home. The grooming gangs operated freely for four decades. Have you seen this covered? Most in Britain haven’t.

An Education in violence:

Increasingly, conservative events at Universities are violently shut-down. Masked thugs use smoke bombs, barricade people in rooms and send death threats to organisers.

Social Media exclusion:

As 80 per cent of political content is now accessed via Google or Facebook, it is particularly concerning that Google, YouTube, Twitter and Facebook have begun to openly censor conservatives. On Twitter and YouTube, the boundaries of permissible expression draw ever narrower as activists and authors are excluded from mainstream debate. Since Facebook’s algorithm changes in January, conservative outlets such as Fox News have seen a 55 per cent drop in engagement/traffic.  Leftist sites such as CNN have remained unaffected.

Freedom of Religion:

Michael Stockwell and Michael Overd – Dared to preach that ‘Jesus is the only way to God’. The prosecution argued that the claim ‘cannot be true’. They were convicted of using ‘threatening or abusive words or behaviour’.

Felix Ngole – Quoted from the Bible in opposition to same-sex marriage – Sheffield University expelled him from his social work course.  High Court Judge, Rowena Collins Rice dismissed his appeals, stating: ‘Public religious speech has to be looked at in a regulated context.

Sarah Kuteh – Following 15 years as a nurse, Sarah was dismissed after she shared with her patients how: ‘her faith in Jesus had helped her overcome adversity’. Her Employment Tribunal insisted that: ‘People should not express anything about their own beliefs without it first being raised as a question by someone else’.

Flexible Totalitarianism:

Ah, you might say as you breathe a sigh of relief – I quite like Islam, I’m not a Christian, I’m not a conservative, I’m not really into comedy and I’ve already graduated. I’m safe, right?

I imagine Lifelong LGTB activist Peter Tatchell probably thought so. That is before he was branded ‘transphobic’ and ‘no platformed’ by the NUS. I can’t imagine feminist crusader Germaine Greer was too concerned until similar allegations barred her from speaking on campus. Ironically, far-left activist Nick Lowles, himself a strong advocate of censoring those he dislikes, found himself on the receiving end, when he was branded an ‘Islamophobe’. Even being foreign secretary isn’t enough to gain entry to Britain’s loony-left campuses these days. Boris Johnson was prohibited from speaking at Kings College London after he criticised President Obama.

Muslims are perhaps the group who have the most to lose if free speech is taken. This fight for liberty and freedom is yours as much as ours. How long do you think the left will allow you to condemn a homosexual lifestyle? How long before they start forcibly introducing your children to transgenderism? The winds of authoritarianism change direction quickly. Yes, its Christians and conservatives today, it could just as easily be you tomorrow.

The Battle for Liberty:

How those among us who believe in freedom and liberty should respond is a tough question.

We could try to recapture corrupted institutions using democratic elections to win power. We could then pass legislation that would forcibly safeguard civil liberties and free expression within institutions and on platforms such as social media. What we must remember is that the current clampdown is happening under a Conservative government. The astonishing Cultural Marxist infiltration of our institutions and civil service may take decades to undo.

Alternatively, we could try to build coexisting and competing institutions within which we would safeguard fundamental rights for all.

The most sensible approach would be to do both. Continue to battle for the integrity of existing institutions, buying us time to build new ones.

We must know our enemy. It isn’t Muslims or working-class migrants who are robbing us of our human rights – it’s upper-middle-class white elites in big-business, our judiciary, media, political and education systems. These wealthy, ultra-radical quislings believe only in the unquestionable supremacy of their own dogmatic, privileged and intolerant worldview. Until we find a way to defeat them, we face an increasingly sinister erosion of our basic freedoms.

Sitting in my A-level philosophy class, I remember having to read and re-read John Stewart Mill’s ‘on liberty’. I came to strongly dislike Mill’s liberal philosophy, but his first chapter: ‘Of the liberty of thought and discussion’ stays with me to this very day.

One can only imagine what Mill would think of today’s illiberal Great Britain.

Everyone has a right to an opinion. More, everyone has the right to have their opinion heard, thoughtfully considered and respectfully challenged.

We must aim for nothing less.

David Sergeant is a fellow at the Bow Group think tank.

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