British Man Reportedly Convicted Of Making Offensive Comments About Muslims On Facebook

Freedom_of_SpeechEngland flagEngland has seen the rise of calls for speech prosecutions, including calls from powerful politicians for crackdowns on insulting or offensive comments. We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). The rapid decline of free speech in England has been both chilling and frightening for civil libertarians as the country appears to have abandoned this once defining right of Western Civilization. Now, a Manchester man reportedly has been arrested and sentenced for making “grossly offensive” comments about Muslims on Facebook. Stephen Bennett, 39, (who has a Muslim mother-in-law and sister-in-law) has been sentenced to 180 hours of unpaid work and a 12-month community order for expressing his views.

Bennett reportedly went on to the Greater Manchester Police’s Facebook page and posted comments like “Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first.” The next thing the father of seven knew, there were police at his door. He was accused of violating a law pushed through by former Prime Minister Tony Blair that makes it a crime to “send by means of a public electronic communications network a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character” or “cause any such message or matter to be so sent.” It is a ridiculously ambiguous and vague law that seems calculated to chill speech. One has avoid speech that others might find offensive or menacing.

There is no shortage of people who want to shutdown the speech of others and claim such offense. Various people complained to the police about Bennett’s comments and one Muslim witness at his trial warned that his comments could be a “potential tool for radicalization.” (It was an ironic point since this law is itself a form of extremism in the denial of a core civil liberty). Another witness claimed that a remark about Asian women was “offensive to all women.”

Recorder Andrew Long at sentencing readily adopted the tone and authority of the public censor. He noted that it is “impossible to believe” that such comments did not reflect his personal views or that he was “at least a sympathizer” with those who expressed such views. He denounced Bennett for risking the “stirring up racial hatred in the present climate” and “playing into the hands of the enemies of this country.” Really? Criminalizing speech plays in the hands of our enemies. ISIS and extreme Islamic countries like Iran seek the denial of free speech, particularly in criticizing religion. I am not afraid of ISIS, which remains on the wrong side of history in resisting liberty. I am far more afraid of those in the West who are rolling back on civil liberties in the name of defending them. Long was “fighting” extremism by yielding to it. The risk of “stirring up” people sounds like another example yielding to the “heckler’s veto” in silencing those with whom we disagree. Long condemned Bennett for expressing his views and said “Your remarks damaged the community in which you live, and it’s the community that you must repay.”

I am not particularly interested in Bennett’s views. While I find many views to be offensive, I believe that the cost to criminalizing speech is a far greater danger for free countries. England is a tragic example of how speech regulation can become insatiable with ever widening areas of prohibited speech. What is incredible is that people exercised their right to denounce Bennett’s views on Facebook, but that was not enough. Some of these people wanted him arrested for uttering views with which they disagreed. It appears that you are allowed to hold unpopular views but you are not allowed to utter them in Great Britain.

36 thoughts on “British Man Reportedly Convicted Of Making Offensive Comments About Muslims On Facebook

  1. “If you got a gun in your hand, you’re free to make any speech you want to”.

    – Archie Bunker (portrayed by actor Carroll O’connor), “All in the Family”: ‘Mike and Gloria’s Will’ (television situational comedy, #7.10, 1976), http://www.imdb.com/character/ch0021597/quotes.

    What’s criminal is that the Brits allowed their guns to be taken away from them.

  2. So if, if you are British and on Face Boob and you talk about Bennett’s views and use his words verbatim and explain how this is confusing to your own sensibilities regarding the British government’s handling of the situation and repeat his words verbatim, is that a criminal offense ?

  3. First..what can you say? it’s speaks for itself. Secondly, and I’m not sure if it is a deliberate sabotage but when I go to share this link on my facebook, the picture is a set of cat pictures. The text is there but it looks like a post about cats.

  4. This is so sad; US Bill of Rights was based on English common law, including the right to free speech. Looks like we Yanks are going to have to re-teach the English on what they taught us.

  5. Saying “Don’t come over to this country and treat it like your own. Britain first.” is criminal?

    That is absolutely insane. If that happened to me, I would leave my country immediately. Fortunately, I do not live in Britain. I would not serve one second of that kangaroo sentence.

    Sorry Mr. Bennett, your country has already been lost. You should leave it if you want to remain free.

  6. When will Britain arrest, charge, convict, and sentence the publishers of the Quran which contains some significantly anti-Christian and anti-Jew statements?

  7. @champ: we yanks aren’t going to teach the brits anything, except that we, too, can learn to ignore the law. the president has been ignoring the law for 8 years; clinton, sadly, will win the election, and an entire generation of people will grow up knowing that the law is useful only for those in power. in the meantime, the left will be introducing lots of evil into american society by bringing millions of muslims to this country, as well as stirring up racial hatred. they’ll get lots of chaos as a result, with lots of deaths of innocents, and people will demand that the State “do something.” the left will be all too happy to declare martial law, and we will then have seen the last of our freedom.

    the leftist coup is coming, and there is little anybody can do about it except to prepare for a civil war afterwards.

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