The Murdoch goons at the Super Soaraway Currant Bun are clearly worried about the prospect of people having their collars felt for online hate speech, so much so that they are prepared to lie through their teeth about it. Right from the untrue headline “Twitter users could be arrested for ‘unfriendly’ tweets as part of the CPS’s clumsy crackdown on hate crime”, to an opinion piece packed with more lies, this is clearly a concerted campaign.
Tom Wells’ article tells “The Crown Prosecution Service has ruled hate crimes on social media must be taken as seriously as offline offences … But lawyers say the official definition of what constitutes an online hate crime is so wide that outspoken social media users could end up hauled into court”. How so?
“CPS guidance says hate crimes must be motivated by hostility such as ‘ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike’”. The guidelines from which the Sun is quoting do not just apply to social media. Moreover, what is quoted is not the sole criterion on which a prosecution may proceed.
So far, so routine, but then to back up the Murdoch agenda has come an opinion piece from professional contrarian Brendan O’Neill, in which The Great Man veers across the dishonesty line in no style at all, right from the headline “The CPS’s decision to crack down on online mockery is a recipe for tyranny … In elevating online slights to the level of hate crime, the CPS has written a Snowflakes’ Charter” [Abuse of dissenters: check!].
“YESTERDAY, this country crossed over to the dark side … We went from being a free-ish nation proud of its democratic traditions to one where officials talk openly about suppressing certain ‘views’ and ‘opinions’”. They do? Wow. Who knew?
“The Crown Prosecution Service announced that online abuse, the hurling of barbs on Twitter and other platforms, would for the first time be treated as a hate crime”. No it didn’t. That’s a flat-out lie. But do go on. “Under new CPS guidelines - going into Stalinist detail about when online speech is criminal - virtual verbal mockery will be treated as seriously as a real-life scuffle in the street”. Whoops! Another flat-out lie.
This is what the CPS guidelines on social media say: “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 [section 127 of the Communications Act 2003]”. Not done his research, has he?
Have another go. “But Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, gave the game away with a Guardian column justifying this expansion of hate-policing online”. Another flat-out lie. There is no expansion of anything being signalled.
This does not deter O’Neill in his search to justify another fat paycheque: “The CPS guidelines should worry us all. They will open up a Pandora’s Box of authoritarianism … In elevating online slights to the level of hate crime, the CPS has written a Snowflakes’ Charter”. The guidelines do no such thing.
Still, onwards and, er, onwards, eh? “The CPS says it is any crime motivated by ‘hostility’ towards another person on the basis of their disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender status … But get this. It defines hostility as ‘ill-will, spite, contempt, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment and dislike’”. Another flat-out lie. Can he pull another porkie? He can make it two more, actually.
“We don’t need more laws. We don’t need more state intrusion into the realm of speech”. No new laws are being introduced, or even proposed. Nor is any “state intrusion”. One has to wonder if this article was fact-checked before publication. But I digress.
This is what the guidelines say about hostility: “Hostility is not defined in the legislation. Consideration should be given to ordinary dictionary definitions, which include ill-will, ill-feeling, spite, prejudice, unfriendliness, antagonism, resentment, and dislike”. The guidelines do NOT define the term. This is unforgivably shoddy research.
And, as the man said, there’s more: “We live in a world in which more and more beliefs and opinions are being redefined as ‘hateful’ … Consider the ever-expanding use of the term ‘phobia’ … Criticise Islam too stingingly and you are Islamophobic … Question whether men can become women, as feminists Germaine Greer and Julie Bindel have done, and you are transphobic. Religious critics of gay marriage are branded homophobic”. Try reading those guidelines you’re slagging off.
The guidelines specifically talk not only of hostility, but also intent and malevolence. O’Neill has to insert a logic leap to transform this into mere “criticism”. He also proceeds to sell the pass by letting the world know who he’s really batting for here.
“The potential for people who simply have old-fashioned or politically incorrect views to be branded hate criminals is palpable - and awful … In his brilliant book Censored, Paul Coleman describes how hate-crime laws across Europe have been used to punish moral and religious opinions … Evangelical pastors have been arrested for criticising homosexuality … People have been fined for ridiculing Islamic practices”.
Paul Coleman is Senior Counsel and Deputy Director of ADF International. Who they? Well, ADF stands for Alliance Defending Freedom. It is a conservative Christian organisation which advocates for “religious freedom, sanctity of life, and marriage and family”. It has been characterised not only as anti-LGBT, but virulently so.
So Brendan O’Neill, with the encouragement of the Murdoch mafiosi, is not only peddling a whole pack of lies, but also standing with the intolerant Christian right. While lecturing the world about free speech - and tolerance. You really couldn’t make it up.