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THOUGHT CRIME SPECIAL

I think, therefore I’m guilty Britain is a liberal and progressive utopia – and the authorities will arrest anyone who disagrees

MELANIE PHILLIPS

Everyone can agree that today’s Britain —which we’re always being told has become so much more liberal — is the very model of a forward-looking, tolerant society in which freedom of expression is paramount. Correct?

If only. In fact, the intellectual trend in Britain is a remorseless slide towards a dark age of intolerance, reverting to a reason-suppressing, heresy-hunting culture in which certain opinions are being turned into thought crimes.

Astoundingly, people are being arrested by the police — even if the case against them eventually falls — because of what they have said. They are not inciting violence or any criminal activity.They are merely expressing a point of view.Yet for that they may find the police feeling their collars.

It is difficult to say when, exactly, the priorities of the British police shifted from the prevention of criminal offences towards criminalising people for causing offence. The police have become the thin blue line against the Wrong Opinion. Instead of protecting society against oppression, British police officers have become the agents of oppression.

Freedom of religious expression, for example, is a bedrock principle of an open society. Yet if Christians express their religious opposition to homosexuality, they are treated like criminals. Dale McAlpine, a Christian preacher in Cumbria, was carted off by the police, locked in a cell for seven hours and charged with using abusive or insulting words or behaviour after telling a passer-by that he believed homosexuality was a crime against God. Harry Hammond, an evangelist, was convicted of a public order offence and fined for holding a placard saying ‘Stop Homosexuality, Stop Lesbianism, Jesus is Lord’ at a street demonstration in Bournemouth — even though he was attacked by members of the public who poured soil and water over him.

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Pensioners have even found the police on their doorstep accusing them of ‘hate crime’ for objecting to the local council about a gay pride march or merely asking if they could distribute Christian leaflets alongside the gay rights literature. Such Christians are far from alone in finding that certain opinions are now forbidden.Across public life — in academic, legal, governmental, scientific and media circles and beyond — an atmosphere is being engendered which is inimical to independent thought. And this is often amplified to incendiary levels through the electronic lynch-mob of the internet.

Writers who bust the boundaries of permitted thinking may become the target of frenzied denunciation by a global army of haters whipping up a campaign for the dissident to be boycotted, banned or sacked.

After Jan Moir suggested in the Daily Mail that the death of the gay Boyzone sing- Mail that the death of the gay Boyzone sing- Mail er Stephen Gately was linked to a louche lifestyle, she was subjected to a fireball of vilification on the internet, Twitter and Facebook. The Crown Prosecution Service then said ‘the Metropolitan Police passed the article’ to them ‘to determine whether or not any crime had been committed’, but Moir would not be prosecuted. Prosecuted! For making what at most was a tasteless remark? What on earth has Britain come to when the CPS entertains this as a serious possibility? Moir’s particular thought crime was unwittingly to desecrate the hallowed shrine of victim culture.

Certain groups of ‘victimised’ people — lone mothers, ethnic minorities, Muslims,gays —enjoy a kind of Protected Species status, in that they must never be offended; nor can any fault ever be laid at their door. To offend or criticise them is to be guilty of hate crime. But since hatred is a subjective notion, this has opened the way for an oppressive culture of coercion, double standards and injustice.

Offending such groups has become a hanging offence — and that includes protesting against this very phenomenon.

It took Robin Page, chairman of the Countryside Restoration Trust, some five years to clear his name after he was arrested for remarking at a 2002 rally against the government’s anti-hunting laws: ‘If you are a black vegetarian Muslim asylum-seeking one-legged lesbian lorry driver, I want the same rights as you.’

To enforce the dogma of thought crime, language has been hijacked and turned inside out. Dissent has been relabelled as either hatred or insanity. Those who disagree with current orthodoxies are therefore deemed to be either bad or mad. These modern heretics are demonised as Europhobes, homophobes, xenophobes or Islamophobes.

They can therefore safely be purged from all positions of influence and their ideas trashed without any discussion. The taunt of ‘phobia’, or irrational fear, is used along with outright accusations of insanity to place rational dissent beyond the pale.

As the former Today programme editor Rod Liddle recently revealed, a BBC apparatchik said to him of Lord Pearson of Rannoch and other Eurosceptics (whose views happen to be shared by half or more of the population): ‘Rod, you do realise that the spectator | 18 September 2010 | www.spectator.co.uk

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