In the British news recently it has been said (to use The Telegraph's words) that “racist trolls could be banned from social media using the same kind of Internet Asbos that keep sex offenders offline”. That would mean that those deemed to be “racist trolls”could be blocked (or banned) from Twitter, Facebook and from social media generally.
The obvious point about this is that it could – or will - be used against the all the critics of Islam; as well as against any criticism of Islam. And it's probably the case that at least some of those who are agitating for this have precisely that end in mind. (Many Labour Party MPs are involved in this issue.)
The group behind this, the All Party ParliamentaryInquiry into Anti-Semitism, has called for “urgent action" from the British Government, the police and prosecutors. The Inquiry said that its recommendations are a result of the "disturbing" rise in anti-Semitism in the UK.
In response, the British Prime Minister, David Cameron, has said that the report is "hugely important" and that the Home Office is considering the report’s recommendations.
However, some of the pronouncements of the report are extremely vague. And that very vagueness may lead in all sorts of terrible directions when it comes to free speech.
"If it can be proven in a detailed way that someone has made a considered and determined view to exploit various online networks to harm and perpetrate hate crimes against others then the accepted principles, rules and restrictions that are relevant to sex offences must surely apply."
This isn't an argument against the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry Into Anti-Semitism or what it has discovered and discussed. After all, the two main parties were involved and it has also tackled both International Socialist and Islamic anti-Semitism. Still, what it says - and what follows from what it says - may well be used to silence the critics of Islam.
It really is that simple.
And when you realise that virulent “anti-Zionists” David Ward MP (Liberal Democrat), Lord Ahmed (formerly of the Labour Party), George Galloway MP (Respect), Paul Flynn MP(Labour Party), Baroness Jenny Tonge (Liberal Democrat), etc. are also British MPs and politicians (though not, of course, involved in the all-party inquiry), you can understand the worry about free speech. Yes, these very same MPs and politicians have themselves contributed to Jew-hatred in the UK.
The BBC's Own Racist Troll?
There has indeed been a rise in anti-Semitism in the UK. Nonetheless, we still need to be very careful here.
Who's responsible for it? Is it only “far right” Facebook and Twitter“trolls”? What about Leftists and Muslims? Indeed what about the BBC?
Take this case.
In a recent interview with a Jewish woman in Paris (conducted just after the Charlie Hebdo killings), the BBC's Tim Willcox made this statement only 29 seconds into the interview:
“Many critics of Israel's policies will say that the Palestinians suffer hugely at Jewish [not Israeli!] hands as well.”
Yes, you can argue that the BBC's Tim Willcox is far more culpable than any small-time Internet troll.
One, the Jewish woman interviewed was French; not Israeli. Two, as a BBC newsman, he will know full well that lots of European and American Jews are against Israel's actions in Gaza and the West Bank. Therefore Tim Willcox must believe that this Jewish Parisian (as well as other Jews in Europe) has some kind of racial responsibility (or racial guilt) for what happens in the disputed territories.
Thus the BBC's Israel-is-to-blame-for-anti-Semitism mantra is obviously a reworking of the earlierJews-are-to-blame-for-anti-Semitism theme. And yet here we have a BBC interviewer presenting it to millions of BBC viewers. Has any Internet Jew-hater got such a large audience as the BBC?
In any case, if someone were to open fire on a mosque and kill 17worshippers (the number of deaths at Charlie Hebdo), would the BBC – or Tim Willcox - then hint (though not state) that, say, Pakistan, Iran or the actions of the Islamic State is to blame for what happened?
Mr Willcox and the BBC should also read some history.
Take the Muslim Brotherhood alone and its historical actions against the Jews.
Hassan al-Banna's Muslim Brotherhood (alongside the Mufti of Jerusalem) started its bombing and killing campaign against Jews (as well as against Copts and other Christians) in 1929: some 19 years before Israel was created and 48 years before the “occupation” (in 1967) of the West Bank and Gaza (which were then occupied by Jordan and Egypt respectively).
In every century and indeed in every decade going back to Muhammed there has been Muslim/Islamic violence against Jews.
(This is a list of just some of the Muslim pogroms against Jews in the 19thand very early 20th centuries: Aleppo (1850, 1875), Damascus (1840, 1848, 1890), Beirut (1862, 1874), Dayr al-Qamar (1847), Jaffa (1876), Jerusalem (1847, 1870 and 1895), Cairo (1844, 1890, 1901–02), Mansura (1877), Alexandria (1870, 1882, 1901–07), Port Said (1903, 1908), and Damanhur (1871, 1873, 1877, 1891).)
What follows from all that?
I think it's clear that the existence of Israel is simply that latest Muslim/Islamic rationalisation and excuse for a Jew-hatred that goes back to the 7th century. Indeed Islamic Jew-hatred is the primary cause of the problems in the Middle East; not Israel. Those who frequently proclaim their “solidarity” with the Palestinians really must get around to actually reading the ceaseless and extreme Jew-hatred which can easily be found in the Hamas Charterand other Hamas publications.
How to Silence the Critics of Islam Too
People are always trying to fuse the criticism of Islam and anti-Semitism. Most ironically of all, it's often Muslims (people like Mo Ansar and Fiyaz Mughal) who've done so! Yet some of these very same Muslims –like the politicians earlier - have contributed to Jew-hatred in the UK!
And just as Muslims (with the help of Leftists) have tried to use race relations law to advance Islamand silence Islam's critics, so they will also use this possible legislation for exactly the same reasons. (See American Thinker's'Do Muslims Abuse Race Relations Law?')
In the end, then, it must only be explicit calls to violence that should be seen as criminal offences. And only the people who make those calls should be banned or blocked from Twitter, Facebook, etc. Yet, the thing is, many laws against such statements and expressions already exist.
Sure, we can debate what I mean by “explicit calls to violence”; but at least this is a start!
No doubt some lawyers will be laughing their pants off at what I say. Especially if what I'm arguing works against their political and ideological preferences.
So here's a stab at a start:
i)“Burn all mosques” is an explicit call to violence.
ii)“Muhammed was a pedo and rapist” is not.
i)“Israelis are child killers” is not an explicit call to violence.
ii)“All Jews must die!” is.
You can of course deploy all sorts of convoluted arguments as to why“Muhammed was a pedo and rapist” and “Israelis are killers”can lead to violence. However, such arguments can be used in many other cases too. Indeed even critically quoting the many violent and jihadist passages from the Koran has been said (by Muslims and Leftists) to “encourage violence against Muslims”. Now how ironic is that?
So saying that the statement “Muhammed was a pedo and a rapist”could lead to violence is not the same saying it is a call to violence. All sorts of expressions and statements can be said to lead to violence and to hate: even fairly innocuous phrases such as “The Chinese eat dogs”.
That's why the calls to violence have to be explicit. And as I said, laws already exist to combat explicit calls to violence.
So when people start policing and censoring things which aren't such calls to violence (or to violent direct action), then you can bet that politics and ideology are really behind it: not the “fight against hate”.
Put it this way. I'm a strong defender of Jews and Israel; yet I'm prepared to allow certain statements about Jews and Israel that some people may find objectionable. (I find them objectionable!) It's also true that some of those who make such statements want all Jews dead. But then that can be said about (some of) the critics of Islam: that they too want all Muslims dead.
It may even be true that non-violent statements about Jews/Israelis can lead to a “climate of anti-Semitism”; though, again, the same argument can be used against all the critics of Islam.
And, no, I don't believe in complete freedom of speech because I've just argued against explicit calls to violence. And I'm also, for example, against people proselytising on behalf of paedophilia or shouting“fire” in a cinema.
Finally, if you defend the censorship of political views, then your defences may very well end up biting you in the arse.