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Tatchell: PM urged to repeal ‘insults’ ban

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  1. I’m in two minds about this. half the problem, I think, is the interpretation of the law and cases being brought that shouldn’t have been. In theory, couldn’t that still happen if the ‘insults’ bit was dropped?

    Sensible and fair application of the law is what’s needed.

    1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 1:08pm

      Since when did that ever happen?

      1. Yeah, well, I live in hope :D

  2. We are all entitled to an opinion, even the worst of us.
    Sadly, there are a few in this country, including the devoutly religious, who interpret the right to have an opinion as a right to invade the lives of others, and an absolute requirement for the rest of British society to live and die by their minority opinions.

  3. The problem with this law will always be the whole “who watches the watchmen?” side of it.
    One person’s mortal insult is another person’s opinion and the examples Tatchell sites highlight the problem that you can’t have one rule for ‘us’ and another for ‘them’.
    I think the only sane way of navigating the minefield is to go with John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle” in which everyone has the freedom to say anything no matter how controversial with the one caveat being stopping at the point at which it causes direct harm.
    Trouble is what constitutes “harm” as opposed to mere offence is a grey area.
    For example I never quite know where that line in the sand should be drawn between a lone bigot spouting vitriol at anyone who cares to listen down the pub or online and a Nuremburg rally.

    1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 1:13pm

      I think one has to define it as physical harm.
      Being “offended” really isn’t enough. I know some people are hounded and bullied verbally, but I think this could probably be covered by other laws.
      The point is, if one incites any kind of violence toward another, then it should be stopped.
      As my Mum always told me:
      “Sticks and stones may break my bones
      but names will never hurt me.”

      An old rhyme, but a true one.

      1. its not really true though there are so many children who are hurt by bullying which includes “name calling” it may not cause physical harm but it still hurts.

  4. Completely agree Section 5 needs to be reformed. We teach children the mantra ‘sticks and stone may break my bones but words will never hurt me’. When did that stop applying??? Hopefully this will also help to slow the tide of people being charged with insulting people on internet sites such as twitter.

    1. Wwe don’t teach children that any more! If that was the case, teachers would dismiss all cases of bullying with that old proverb. Words can and do hurt, and regarding bullying, words are not unfrequently the first step towards physical abuse.

      1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 1:18pm

        That’s why kids are coddled in cotton wool these days.
        Word do not cause permanent physical injury.
        Get over it and get a grip!

        That proverb has been around for centuries, and it never did all those people any harm, it’s just recent namby-pamby teachers and lefty educationalists that think they can redefine human nature. Just ignore people and walk away.

        1. I would never ‘coddle’ a child because I believe they should have a realistic idea of life and understand that it’s not always a bed of roses, but that’s a different matter than serious bullying which can cause major problems for children. I’d be the first to say “Ignore him” if some child walks up with a complaint about something that was clearly a silly, trivial insult, but a vicious campaign of bullying is not acceptable.

          Children can’t ‘walk away’ when they’re being pursued both in and outside school, and not nipping such a campaign in the bud can led to physical harm as the bullies encourage other children to join in and think they’ve got away with it, then the bullying can escalate into damage to that child’s property and person.

          Also, most teachers try to educate children to be decent human beings. PSHE includes things like treating people with respect and fairness no matter what their gender, skin colour and sexuality. That’s good not namby-pamby.

        2. You’re quite right, words (rather obviously) don’t cause a permanent physical injury.

          If you’re to talk about a psychological injury however, then that’s something else: instead of wallowing in your self-righteous, smug, right-wing [sorry, I’d might as well resort to your cheap stereotyping, since reason clearly doesn’t work] puddle, try talking to, say, a black person and ask if years of being called “jungle bunny”, “n1gger” and other choice epithets has had a particularly beneficial effect on their personality. The parallel with names that gay people are called isn’t that distant, though it may come as a surprise to you.

          1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 10:45pm

            Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.
            I speak from personal experience.

          2. Maybe in your case Spanner1960, but it’s not always so. I think there’s plenty of evidence around to show that not only does being at the receiving end of relentless name-calling and other non-physical bullying sometimes end in being killed – at least through suicide – it can also wear people down into deep depression and other psychological difficulties – trust issues and so forth. People can survive without being ‘strengthened’ but nonetheless damaged.

  5. essexgirlbecky 3 Sep 2012, 11:44am

    As Mandy Rice-Davis is often misquoted, “Well he would say that, wouldn’t he?” Having been successfully prosecuted under section 5, he can hardly hold himself out as an objective critic.

    Presumably then Peter, we should be expected to tolerate the publication of homophobic graffiti, such as the gay free zone stickers, and graphic forms of protest, such as burning poppies at the Cenotaph on Remembrance Day. Both of these matters were also prosecuted under section 5 on the basis that they were insulting and caused alarm or distress.

    The argument that section 5 restricts free speech has been rehearsed in the courts many times, and rejected on each occasion. I cannot understand this obsessive insistence that we should be free to insult others, when it is conceivable that by doing so we could cause alarm or distress.

    In our society there are those who set out to offend in order to provoke conflict and culture war. At the moment, section 5 is the only thing to deter them.

    1. I recommend that you read the article properly because you obviously haven’t.

      1. essexgirlbecky 12 Sep 2012, 10:33am

        I read it very carefully Nick. After a number of years working in the Criminal Justice system it is entirely possible that I know more about this matter than Peter. There is in any event a fundamental flaw in the quite slanted article; it completely omits any reference to the statutory defence contained in section 6(4) which requires the person at the very least to be aware that their conduct may be threatening, abusive or insulting. The conduct also has to happen in the presence of someone likely to be caused alarm or distress. It is by no means as draconian as it is described.

        The point remains that if the word ‘insulting’ had not appeared in section 5 the prosecution of Mohammed Hasnath for posting gay-free zone stickers in Tower Hamlets would not have been sanctioned by the CPS. As I recall it, that left Peter in quite a quandary; on the one hand the gay-free zone stickers where totally objectionable; on the other hand, this ‘draconian’ law was the only way to deal with it.

  6. A slippery slope, but I can certainly understand his opinion. Everyone, no matter who or whom, is entitled to their opinion(s).

  7. What is the difference between insulting and abusive in this case? I can see a very thin line there… Once you take the word insult out, and leave the word abusive in, your opponents will use that word to frame you… until you are forced to throw the whole law away… which is exactly what your opponents want. what we need is perhaps clarification of what exactly can be interpreted as insult.

    1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 1:02pm

      You know as well as I that that is an almost impossible task.
      “You big fairy!”
      One man’s humourous jibe is another man’s hate crime.
      It’s also not also what is said, but the context in which it is used.

      1. What does your mother have to do with it?

  8. Peter of course talks common sense but he’ll be pilloried by the minority of extremist reactionary PC gays who seek to police all thought and criminalise those perceived to have made even the faintest of gay-oriented insults.

    These are the politicised gays, probably no more than 3 per cent of all gay people, who immerse their lives in forum debates such as these and so give the impression that all like-minded gay people think the same.

    Well surprise!

    Most gay people just go about their lives like everyone else, and being gay is just one aspect of who they are and they are content and happy to just live and let live and don’t make a song and dance about it.

    I am not a psychology graduate, but I would conjecture that those who do make a fuss and kick up a stink every time someone like Stevie Wonder is perceived to have said something derogatory, are at war with the world and looking for hate where it doesn’t exist.

    And these PC gays will be the first to attack Stevie for being…

    1. being blind because they’re only PC when it suits them (witness recent threads on this subject).

      They then screech “internalised homophobe” at any gay person who won’t play their game of totalitarian tiptoe, because totalitarianism is where the criminalisation of thought itself leads:- to fascism.

      The fact is that gays are now accepted into the mainstream throughout the west.

      Yes, there are still a few idiots and morons who insult us, but unless we stop playing the eternal victim card and become an empowered community that shines by example and ignores these insults, they will persist.

      The militant gays keep pushing for more and more rights because, just like fascism itself, they want gays to have more rights than anyone else.

      They’re at war with the world because they’re still at war with themselves and haven’t sorted out their own internal issues, unlike the rest of us who get on with our lives without rocking the boat and lead rich, contented, happy, fulfilled lives.

      1. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 1:06pm

        I think it’s more to the point that these militants are having less and less to whinge about, and if it carries on like this, they might have to go and complain about something else, like not having enough health & safety warnings plastered everywhere.

        1. “These militants”? Isn’t that how you unashamedly right-wing chappies usually refer to Tatchell?

          1. That was directed to Spanner1960 above.

          2. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 10:47pm

            Yup. And in most cases, I would say he is one.

    2. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 7:34pm

      blind and ridicule him for it because they are only PC when it suits them to be.

  9. Robert in S. Kensington 3 Sep 2012, 12:42pm

    Totally support it, no matter how hurtful some insults can be. The only exception should be if someone or some organisation (including religious cults) are advocating violence and of course or killing someone because of who they are and what they believe in. How can we claim to have freedom of speech if someone can be proscecuted just because they were offended or were caused distress by something someone said? It’s absurd. I thoroughly agree with Voltaire’s statement…”I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it.” Just as it should be.

  10. Spanner1960 3 Sep 2012, 12:59pm

    Tatchell was prosecuted under Section 5 for displaying a placard that read: ‘Islam N@zis behead & burn queers.’

    What is the inflammatory word in that?
    It is a factual statement apart from the fact they have nothing to do with 1940’s German socialism, and you can’t even type the word on here without falling foul of this pathetic rags attempt to censor people.

    Free speech is paramount in a civilised society. Much that there are many people who spout filth and untruths out there, I defend their right to say it, simply because any kind of restriction is the thin end of a very nasty wedge; one could imagine people being arrested for criticising their government, and that is the point where a true police state begins.

    1. If the description is more or less true then its not an insult

      1. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 3:10pm

        Yes, but militant reactionists are perceiving insults in truth, that is why it is getting to be a very serious issue.

        When truth itself is criminalised, then we may as well give up our right to breathe.

        We need to end this madness now and repeal this asinine piece of legislation before we all find ourselves in one big prison camp.

      2. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 5:19pm

        Of course it shouldn’t be, but the crux of the problem now is that truth itself is being criminalised, and unless this lunacy is nipped in the bud and this asanine piece of legislation repealed, we will soon be living in one vast prison camp of our own making where our every thought is policed and where those not conforming to robotic doublespeak are woken up in the middle of the night by a loud knock on the door.

        And it you think I am crazy then clearly George Orwell was an imbecile.

        1984 was a warning, not an instruction manual…

        1. Mark Young 3 Sep 2012, 7:42pm

          Don’t insult George Orwell by thinking his literature has anything to do with what goes in your your tiny brain.

  11. Tom Cotner 3 Sep 2012, 1:50pm

    While I am all for free speech, as we have in the US, it, too, is often a slippery slope.
    The interpretation of the law should be the prime concern. Else you wind up, as we have, with the “God hates Fags” people.

  12. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 2:05pm

    The 3% of gay people I speak of who insist on politicising sexuality are those that carry a certain PC sensibility about them, one that screams “pity poor me” and downtrodden victim.

    They’re easily recognisable by the extra large chip they carry on their collective shoulder and the pain from unresolved internal issues etched deep into their glacial-eyed faces, and profess to speak for all gay people to enforce their agendas.

    Their aim is to convince all gays the whole world is against us, and they’ll grasp at anything to prove their point in an effort to bolster sympathy and support towards our supposed eternal victimisation.

    Just thank heaven we don’t resemble the off-the-PC-scale US, where the appallingly reactionary GLAAD had the gall to blast Glee for daring to use the word “tranny”!

    And of course our ever so PC PCs are tripping over themselves to find out who-said-what on Twitter when they should be out on the beat being proper policemen, not thought crime enforcers.


    1. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 2:38pm

      The biggest irony of all is that the 3% or so who set themselves up as beacons for tolerance are the least tolerant of all.

      They resort to smear, intimidation and cries of “homophobe” when truth is shone their way, and they verbally attack people like Stevie Wonder and ridicule his blindness for a perceived anti-gay statement that was nothing of the kind.

      The minority of gay militants are thugs in jackboots, treading over the rights of everyone to express freedom of thought and the rights of religious people to practise their faiths.

      If they truly believed in tolerance they would live their lives like most gay people who don’t obsess in searching for hate where it doesn’t exist and bleating about it because we, get this, GET ON with everyone, Muslim, Christian… and so gain their respect by living by example.

      It’s the militants who encourage the verbiage and bashings against us wen they agitate and antagonise with their screams of oppression and victimhood until something snaps.

      1. Samuel B. 3 Sep 2012, 3:07pm

        Every interest group, religion or minority has its reactionary militant faction who go to extremes and make life insufferable for the rest of us.

        A classic example are extremist Christians who profess to speak for all Christians when most Christians in fact are tolerant of the rights of others, just as most gay people.

        A report published a year ago on PN showed 60+ per cent of Christians surveyed to be openly supportive of gay rights:- but of course the militant gays quickly commented that “only” 60% was not enough and proof positive that ALL Christians hate us.

        And when the extremist wing of Christianity goes head to head with extremist reactionary gays all hell breaks loose, but the militant gays know they are onto a winner because it’s now PC for MPs to side with gays against centuries-old religions.

        Start behaving like adults, stop the eternal whinging and start earning the respect of the mainstream population like most gay people going about their everyday lives unobtrusively.

  13. Pavlos Prince of Greece 3 Sep 2012, 2:47pm

    I agree with Mr. Tatchell. And its very right time for such piece of law – at the eve of coming discussions about same-sex marriage (until now was just a little taste of them) in the United Kingdom, and Northern Ireland in particular, where homophobia still is quasi obligatory part of every sermon in every church.

  14. I think one should be very cautious in reform. One reason Canada and the UK have more civilized discussions of “cultural war” than the US is that those countries have hate speech laws. I hope that in reforming the ban on “insults” one does not open the floodgates to hate speech. Does Britain really want to have the level of vitriolic public discourse that the US has?

  15. It is there for a purpose otherwise all those so called Christians and right wing MPs wouldn’t be moaning about it.

  16. Stewart W 4 Sep 2012, 8:49am

    *sigh*…this seems like an aweful lot of effort to try to legalise being horrible to each other…I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, but two wrongs don’t make a right. Life’s too short to spend all your time hating.

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