I have been a critic of the alarming criminalizing of speech in Great Britain through hate speech laws. Such laws create an insatiable appetite for greater and greater speech regulation and create a sense of empowerment among citizens to silence those with whom they disagree. The most recent statistics from the Metropolitan Police for 2015 and 2016 seem to confirm those concerns. The over 2,500 alleged “hate incidents” in just that one jurisdiction show a vast array of everyday gripes being reported as hate crimes from a dog pooping near a house of a disputed tennis match. Hate speech arrests have according to one account risen by 900 percent and now involve thousands of such cases each year. Nine people a day are being detained.
We have previously discussed the alarming rollback on free speech rights in the West, particularly in France (here and here and here and here and here and here) and England ( here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here). Much of this trend is tied to the expansion of hate speech and non-discrimination laws. Once allowed to criminalize speech, individuals and groups demand more and more prohibitions. England is in a free fall over free speech. The police have indicated that they are considering making wolf whistles the latest category of hate speech.We also have even seen comedians targeted with such court orders under this expanding and worrisome trend. (here and here).
One person found a dead rat in a garden while another complained that a man told library staff that he was campaigning in favor of Brexit. Another involved a dog barking at someone while another involved dog poop found outside of a home. One person complained about a car accident where the other car has a poppy displayed.
A resident in an apartment building complained that a neighbor was committing a hate crime by “smoking heavily.” A father filed a complaint when his daughter lost a tennis match in an disputed line call: “Informant feels his daughter was subjected to racial discrimination at a tennis match where line calls went against her.”
Clearly, hate speech can take many forms but the threshold issue remains the same: should governments be able to criminalize speech alone as opposed to criminal acts. As shown in the recent “pug case,” even offensive language can be criminalized.
Scotland Yard recently caused a stir by claiming that it has 900 officers dedicated to investigating alleged hate crimes. The Times reported that British police are arresting nine people a day for posting “offensive messages online.”