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Rowan Atkinson, the British comedian best known for his antics on television shows like Mr. Bean and Blackadder, intends on speaking out against a British effort to pass hate-crime legislation that will make it illegal to create a hostile environment for religions:
Rowan Atkinson, the Blackadder comic, is to warn MPs that a Bill outlawing the incitement of racial hatred could undermine free speech and stop comedians making fun of religion.
Atkinson will head a coalition of comedians, writers and academics at the launch of a campaign against elements of the Serious Organised Crime and Police Bill tonight.
The Bill, due for its second reading this week, will create a new offence of incitement to religious hatred to protect faith groups - particularly Muslims - from hate attacks.
This is not much different than the myriad of free-speech restrictions enacted by universities and colleges in America, and Atkinson rightly opposes the same creeping criminality from invading British speech. What has happened to the idea of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Ample legislation already exists for speech which specifically directs or demands violence against others. However, the notion that the state can decide which political speech springs from "hate" and which springs from reasoned debate only derives from the philosophy that the state must remain supreme over the individual -- indeed, that the state has omniscient insight into the mind and soul of an individual.
Hate speech, while repugnant, remains as just words. Words have power to convince but none to harm, except in terms of libel or slander -- which, again, ample legislation already covers. Hate-crime legislation attempts to create criminality where no crime has occurred, and puts more control over political debate into the hands of the government. The cure for bad speech is not handcuffs but more free speech. It's a lesson that we all should have long ago learned; unfortunately, our citadels of higher education have been too busy imposing the same restrictions on speech that the UK proposes.
This also applies to hate-crime legislation in general. In many American jurisdictions, the motive for a crime surpasses the crime itself. It amounts in many cases to additional charges for political incorrectness. The proper adjudication of cross-burning (to use one example) is to charge its perpetrators with arson and throw the book at them during sentencing. When the morons who beat Matthew Shephard to death got convicted, they got long sentences for their crimes, as they deserved. Making it into a "hate crime" only means that we care more about some victims than others, that juries have to reach a judgment about the personal convictions of the defendant rather than the defendant's actions, and motive gets promoted from an element of a crime to a crime in and of itself.
The British proposal represents the logical extension of this approach: criminalize the motive before any crime can be committed. It's another step to the thought police and re-education camps. Bravo to Atkinson for understanding that this is no joke.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» Hate Crimes from MuD & PHuD
As usual Captain Ed hits the nail on the head: However, the notion that the state can decide which political speech springs from "hate" and which springs from reasoned debate only derives from the philosophy that the state must remain supreme ov... [Read More]
Tracked on December 6, 2004 12:31 PM
» Blackadder Sallies Forth Yet Again from Let's Try Freedom
This time, against hate crimes legislation in Britain. (H/t Captain's Quarters.) There is a profound disconnect between folks who see a point in this kind of legislation and the rest of us. I am reminded of the debate in the 2000 election... [Read More]
Tracked on December 6, 2004 2:02 PM
» Shaddup from Malnurtured Snay
A couple of great posts on censorship you should read - First, Captain's Quarters discusses the criminalization of thought: What has happened to the idea of "sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me"? Ample... [Read More]
Tracked on December 6, 2004 3:12 PM
Tracked on December 6, 2004 9:13 PM
» British comedian getting involved with terror law from rand holman's THE DAILY POLEMIC
I find this story to be fascinating, nettlesome, troublesome, and premature. The British Government is apparently trying to combat the religious hatred they feel is being fomented within Britain's mosques, and the calls to arms and violence against non... [Read More]
Tracked on December 7, 2004 12:32 AM
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