Students at Oxford University have taken action to de-platform hate speech by burning pamphlets that “caused maximum offence” according to one of its students. Authorities expelled the author from the university and a university spokesman said the “special acquisition” has only ever been seen by a “handful of scholars.”
The year is 1811 and the perpetrator is a 19-year-old Percy Bysshe Shelley. His crime was the publication of a 16-page pamphlet called “The Necessity of Atheism.”
Shelley’s only motivation was a love of the truth. His view that God was pretend was considered “hate speech” and his opinion shut down. Within the week, he was hauled in front of the Oxford Council of Deans and expelled.
Shelley’s argument was this: If you have seen or heard God, then you will believe in God. If you haven’t, then the only possible reasons to believe in God are reasonable argument or the testimony of others.
This was hate speech.
Compare this with the modern day, where student leaders at Oxford University banned the “harmful” Christian Union from a freshers’ fair, claiming their presence would be a “micro-aggression.” Other students in the Balliol College criticised it as a “violation of free speech.”
Lord Pearson of Rannoch asked the House of Lords: “Will they confirm unequivocally that a Christian who says that Jesus is the only son of the one true God, cannot be arrested for hate crime or any other offence, however much it may offend a Muslim or anyone of any other religion?”
The Government whip, Baroness Vere of Norbiton, replied: “My Lords, I am not going to comment on that last question. However, I will say that when the public statements were revised, the definition did not change; it has been the same for the last 10 years.”
Back in 1811 you could be prosecuted for criticising Christianity under blasphemy laws, whereas in 2017 you could be prosecuted under “hate crime” laws for promoting Christianity.
The current Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and police definition of a hate crime is: “Any criminal offence which is perceived by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person’s race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; disability or perceived disability and any crime motivated by hostility or prejudice against a person who is transgender or perceived to be transgender.”
The important word here is crime. There is a difference between Hate Speech and Hate Crime. The first is freedom of expression and the second is a crime.
The problem is that hate speech has no universal definition. The truth is hate speech to those that hate the truth. Seriously!
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) acknowledged in 2015 that the truth may sometimes be considered “hate speech.”
ILGA Europe defines hate speech as: “Public expressions which spread, incite, promote or justify hatred, discrimination or hostility towards a specific group. They contribute to a general climate of intolerance which in turn makes attacks more probable against those given groups.”
By their definition, criticising ISIS is hate speech because ISIS is a specific group of people.
Because there is no universal definition, hate speech can be determined by self-appointed arbiters of social justice (commonly referred to as ‘Social Justice Warriors’ or ‘SJWs’), who can immediately determine any freedom of expression which is contrary to their own view as hate speech.
These SJWs are armed with a list of criminal offences they can use against you:
- Section 4 of the Public Order Act 1986 (POA) make it an offence for a person to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour that causes, or is likely to cause, another person harassment, alarm or distress.
- Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to send a message by means of a public electronic communications network which is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character.
- The Racial and Religious Hatred Act amended the POA to make it an offence punishable by up to seven years imprisonment, to use threatening words or behaviour intended to stir up religious hatred;
These laws can have serious implications on peaceful protestors and others exercising their freedom of expression. It can be used to shut down legitimate debate.
In addition, micro-aggressions and hate speech cause “distress” and distress causes physical harm. This means all forms of “hate speech” are a form of physical violence and are therefore crimes. Because they are a form of physical violence, it is perfectly acceptable to respond to, or prevent such “hate speech” with physical violence. This is the very basis of groups such as Antifa, who have publicly admitted “they view hate speech as violent, and for that, its activists have opted to meet violence with violence.”
The attack on freedom of expression is inconsistent when it comes to religion. Criticism of Islam is considered to be considerably more offensive than criticism of any other religions. Islam has its very own protections under hate speech – Islamophobia. This is a term that was invented by Iranian fundamentalists to silence criticism of Islam. Any and all negative comments about Islam are usually met with this label, as an easy way to shut down logical and reasoned arguments.
This is a particular issue on social media, where criticism of Islam frequently results in users being banned.
Germany has recently passed a controversial law, where social media companies can be fined up to €50m for failing to remove hate speech.
Twitter has recently made some significant changes to its rules. It started in November when it began removing the ‘blue tick’ verified symbol from a number of users, including some prominent critics of Islam, such as Tommy Robinson.
Originally, a ‘blue tick’ highlighted a verified account, usually of a person of public interest. It meant that users and journalists could be certain that posts were definitely from that person and it wasn’t an imposter or a parody account. The change means you really can’t be sure the account you’re viewing is legitimate.
In addition to this, on December 18, Twitter put into effect some new rules known as “the great purge” which will take into account user behaviour on and off the platform. It has led to the ban of political activists, such as the leader and deputy leader of Britain First, an organisation which rose to global prominence when US President Donald Trump retweeted three of their anti-Muslim tweets.
We must be able to criticise religion. If we cannot criticise Islam, how can it ever reform? Being able to criticise any and all religions is the basis of freedom of expression, especially in a secular society. In fact, we should be free to mock, criticise and even ridicule religion.
In the latest series of House of Cards, one of the final scenes is of Frank Underwood declaring “the death of the age of reason”. The parallels with the real world are uncanny. The Age of Reason is a book written by Thomas Paine, where he explains: “The most important position is the call for ‘free rational inquiry’ into all subjects, especially religion.
“Welcome to the death of the age of reason. There is no right or wrong, not anymore. There’s only being in and then being out.” In the case of social media, many will find themselves, out.
The age of reason is dead.
Standing up for those without a voice in Britain
Follow @mattlynchgb on Twitter.