Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Humour: No Laughing Matter, Sean Gabb, 11th November 2010

Free Life Commentary,
A Personal View from
The Director of the Libertarian Alliance
Issue Number 199
11th November 2010

Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Humour:
No Laughing Matter
by Sean Gabb

I was called a few minutes ago by LBC, a commercial radio station that broadcasts within the London area. The researcher explained the biggest news story of the day and asked me for a comment. The story is that one Gareth Compton, who is a Conservative representative on Birmingham City Council, had made a joke on Twitter about the Moslem journalist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. He said: “Can someone please stone Yasmin Alibhai-Brown to death? I shan’t tell Amnesty if you don’t. It would be a blessing, really.” As soon as she heard about this Mrs Alibhai-Brown announced that she would call the police and have the man charged with incitement to murder. But somebody else had already done so. Mr Compton was arrested, and then released on bail.

I made my comments immediately after hearing about the story, and they are rather scathing. However, I have now checked the news, and everyone else seems to be taking the matter very seriously. Mrs Alibhai-Brown is leading the hunt. “A politician validates the many people who do threaten columnists like me,” she told Sky News. “… what you’re saying is ‘it’s ok to hate so much that you kill a journalist and a writer’.” A spokesman for the Conservative Party said that Mr Compton’s language was “unacceptable”, and that he had been suspended from the Party while he was investigated. A spokeswoman for Birmingham City Council added: “Any written complaints will be formally considered by the council standards committee to determine if any investigation should be held…. The committee will also be mindful of any criminal investigations concluded by the police.”

Mr Compton has now deleted his tweet and apologised for the remark, calling it “an ill-conceived attempt at humour”.

It is difficult to know where to begin a written commentary on this matter. I suppose the right beginning is to take note of the English contempt of court laws. The news report I read does not say if Mr Compton had been charged with an offence. But he may yet be charged, and, once charges are laid, no one is allowed to make any comment that may prejudice his trial. And so I will not discuss whether Mr Compton did publish the words in question. Nor will I discuss whether publishing them is illegal under the present law of this country. What I will discuss is whether publishing such words should be illegal in a liberal democracy. And I will try to discuss this as moderately and as cautiously as I can.

I say that it should not be illegal to publish such words. In saying this, I am not calling for some libertarian utopia. I am simply asking for a return to the laws that, for many centuries, had policed speech in the England of my birth – in the England, indeed, of my early manhood. I was born into a country where a man could say pretty nearly anything he liked about public issues. He was constrained by the law of obscenity if he wanted to talk about sex, and by the law of official secrecy if he wanted to discuss the confidential workings of government. He might also have been constrained by the law of blasphemy if he wanted to talk about the Christian Faith. Of course, there were also the contempt laws that I have already mentioned. With the exception of the contempt laws, which make sense in any case where a jury might be involved, I will not defend these laws. They constrained speech more than I would have approved had I been old enough to make an informed comment. But, these laws aside, speech was free on public issues.

A man could freely denounce the policing of the Troubles in Ulster. He could praise the Irish Republican Army as “freedom fighters”, and rejoice whenever a soldier or policeman was murdered. He could say, for example, that Lord Mountbatten, who was murdered by Irish terrorists in 1980, was “a legitimate target”, and hope that some other member of the Royal Family – other than the Queen – might be next. Or, if the inclination took him, he could say that black people were sub-human, and that the Jews were “blood-sucking parasites”. He could call a man a “nigger” or – assuming he could prove it – that a man was a “queer” and that he would burn in hell.

On private issues, there were the defamation laws, and the law of confidence. Where threats of violence were concerned, there were the assault laws. For example, if a man said “I know where you live”, or “I know where your children go to school”, or “You’d better watch yourself as you walk home late in the evening”, he might be charged with assault. Words like these, after all, could be taken as threats by any man of reasonable firmness of mind.

Moving back to the public sphere, a man might be charged with a breach of the peace if he turned up outside a synagogue and told a crowd that gentile children inside were being made into Passover cakes.

Now, some of these laws were, as said, absurdly harsh. Others made good sense. But there was never any question that jokes in poor taste might be illegal. I remember reading an article once in The Spectator where Auberon Waugh called on a television producer to be put up against a wall and shot. Some people laughed. Others scowled. There was never any question that the police might be involved.

England is now a country where virtually any words uttered in public can be treated as a criminal offence. Without thinking very hard, I can remember how Nick Griffin of the British National Party stood trial for having called Islam “a wicked vicious faith”. I can remember how a drunken student was arrested and fined for telling a policeman that his horse looked “gay”. I can remember how a man was arrested and charged and fined for standing beside the Cenotaph and reading out the names of the British war dead in Iraq. I remember a case from this year where a pacifist unfurled a banner outside an army cadet training base. “Stop training murderers”, it said. His home was promptly raided by police with dogs, while a helicopter hovered overhead. He was arrested and cautioned.

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If I started mentioning the cases where Christian street preachers have been arrested for quoting the Bible, or where Moslems have set the police on people for alleged words or displays, or if I even alluded to the Public Order Act or the various racial and sexual hate speech laws, this article would swell immensely. It is enough to say that anything said in public is now illegal if someone complains to the police, or if the police themselves take against it. And, when something is not illegal, we are all getting used to the idea – second nature in most other countries – that we should “watch ourselves”. Even I find that, if I discuss politics in a coffee bar, I sometimes drop my voice. A few weeks ago, I found myself looking round to see who might be within earshot. So much for living in a free country.

I am willing to believe that Mrs Alibhai-Brown was put in fear of her life by this twitter. But Mrs Alibhai-Brown may not be a woman of reasonable firmness of mind. Some years ago, she appeared to agree with me in a BBC discussion programme that it was only fear of the law that kept white people from rising up and murdering non-whites. Anyone inclined to doubt this claim should listen to the recording. But no reasonable man can regard the twitter as other than a joke.

I could go po-faced here, and say that it was a joke in questionable taste, or that it was “unacceptable”. But a joke is a joke. Often, a joke’s humour comes entirely from its being offensive. In a liberal democracy – which this country plainly no longer is – jokes are not a matter for the police. In a country where everyone in public life has not gone barking mad, jokes are heard and laughed at or ignored. It is only in countries that have turned, or are turning, totalitarian that jokes are taken seriously enough for criminal penalties to be threatened.

I could note that this latest outrage has taken place in a country with a Conservative Government. But there is no point. Labour may be out of power, but the Cameron Government is conservative in name only. We should know by now that all the talk during the general election about rolling back the Labour police state was nothing but talk, and that there is no intention to change anything.

I could put it on the record that, as a libertarian, I believe in freedom of speech, and that every law made since 1965 to censor speech should be repealed at once – the Race Relations Acts, the relevant sections of the Public Order Act, and all the dozens of oppressive laws made by the ex-Communists of the Blair and Brown Governments. I might also mention all the anti-discrimination laws and the obscenity laws. But this is for the record, and I have now put it on the record, and feel there is nothing more to be done for the moment.

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No, I think the real villains here are the police. Every so often, The Daily Mail publishes a whining article or letter about how the police are kept from doing a proper job by health and safety laws and by “political correctness”. The implication here is that the police are thoroughly decent people who simply want to get back to protecting life and property in ways that nearly everyone regards as legitimate. I find this a ludicrous opinion. So far as I can tell, the police are the willing militia of an evil ruling class. Many of them are sadistic thugs more to be feared than the criminals they are supposedly hired to catch. Many are corrupt. Most of them have bought wholesale into the new order of things, and use their massively expanded powers with grim delight.

The police behave as they do partly because of the “tough new laws” Home Secretaries have been drooling over for the past quarter century. But it is also because police officers are bad people. Even if police powers could be rolled back to where they were in about 1960, these traditional powers would still be used oppressively. Power is restrained in part by law. Beyond that, it is restrained by common sense and common decency. These are qualities now absent from the police in England, and no changes in law or exhortations from the top can bring them back. Anyone who wants all the policing our taxes buy needs his head examined.

There is no doubt that all those High Tory critics of Robert Peel were right about the dangers of setting up a state police force. It took over a hundred and fifty years to show how right they were. But, when someone is arrested for making jokes about Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, we can see that the line has been crossed that separates a state with police from a police state.

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8 thoughts on “Yasmin Alibhai-Brown and Humour: No Laughing Matter, Sean Gabb, 11th November 2010

  1. seangabb Post author

    Perhaps you might have read "Londonistan" by Melanie Phillips? I sent her a e-mail stating that without understanding Islam and Muslims way of life we will never understand these people. We already understand ourselves and our politically correct ludicrous ideas on immigration and multiculturalism. While her book gives valuable information she refuses to see the main problem with Islam and Muslims. Even though she writes comments from political leaders that state it is Islamic Supremacy at the heart of the problem, she ignores the fact that the majority of Muslims that hold that view and sponsor not only the terrorists, but the moderate Islamic Expansionist network that works behind the scenes through lobby efforts of their political, charitable and professional groups. It is the Islamic Expansionist movement that is considerably more dangerous than any terrorist entity. It is this Expansionist movement that will make Islam for Britain with the complicity of government, police and schooling.

    I read what you had to say about BNP being attacked from the government sponsored police state attempting to remove their political party through the similar methods that were used once by the Nazi state in the 1930's. Fascism of the Fourth Reich is clearly on the rise because of people Jack Straw whose own father refused to fight against Hitler and pointed out by Nick Griffin on Question Time. It was a valid point that son was just like father in desiring a fascist state through control of Labour and Conservative party by the Scottish chronic haters and racists in those parties. In Canada we have had the same thing with the Liberals (French leadership) and Bloc Quebecois who have effectively controlled Canada for decades. We have the impetus to put a halt to the traitors in the Liberals and Bloc Quebecois, and soon we may have the majority party of Conservatives to end Quebecois rule over Canada. Until the British people wake up and realize that BNP is the only answer and impetus – especially the intellectual elite – to stop this Fourth Reich fascist state and force the real fascists out of power you will never get out of the EU and the mass immigration that is meant to destabilize England.


  2. seangabb Post author

    We are definitely on the same page. I have for years stated that BNP is the only British political party that will make real change to the liberal-fascist socially engineered society of Britain. Blair tried to pass a law years ago that would have removed the BNP for not following the same liberal-fascist ideology espoused by the main four parties. I believe Hitler did something similar. However, even the House of Commons could not stand and let such a motion pass, it defied democratic principles that even the Commons would not condone. So they use a parallel legal system of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission with the government sponsored agenda of forcing BNP to cloes its political doors by either demanding that closure, or by running them out of money. All of this is seriously unconstitutional and illegal by the legal standards of your courts and laws.

    I received a letter from a Member of Parliament regarding Section xiii (13) of the Human Rights Act in Canada. You can look up the parameters on the web, but the short of it is that section xiii is unconstitutional and deprives Canadians of their Charter Rights and Freedoms. Since Britain has such a charter your EHRC violates Charter Rights and Freedoms of speech, expression and association. The BNP should have been taken the EHRC into a proper court and demanded that they cease violating the free rights of association of the BNP. The government and EHRC have no legal or Constitutional right to violate the Charter Rights and Freedoms of speech, expression and association. The trouble with lawyers is that such cases before the tribunal are a cash-cow (maximum billable hours) and do not represent good faith to their clients. Had the BNP taken the EHRC before a bonafide court the government case would be thrown based on principle.

    You people have to learn to think for yourselves instead of simply believing that EHRC has the right to deprive you of your Charter Rights and Freedoms. Forearmed with your Charter Rights and Freedoms is your survival as a democracy. If the EHRC gets away with this atrocity with the BNP they could do this to individuals who have no money to fight these people. This is a fight for deomcratic survival and nothing less. Had I been with a friend here in my city when the police escorted him away from City Hall Square for having a verbal confrontation with Islamist protestors his Charter Rights and Freedoms would not have been violated. I have many times in the past confronted not only the Islamists but the police as well, and they don't like it when they know you will take legal action on suppression of Charter Rights and Freedoms. The police and government do not like lawsuits when they know they are in the wrong. Judges will find in your favour if you have to go the distance against police and government because they violate Charter Rights and Freedoms. Even British judges would have to agree with you. 

    Please pass this on to Nick Griffin or someone in BNP who can get this message to him.



  3. seangabb Post author

    Thank you. I am currently digesting "No Laughing Matter". I can't find much to disagree with though.

    Corruption, unimaginable profligacy, wickedness, stupidity, arrogance and high treason. Where do you start? And on top of all that, the police state. But in each and every country the police serve the state regardless, and always have done. They serve those who pay them (with stolen money).

    As others have said, I'm past caring because there is literally no hope. There is no-one standing in the wings who might ever think to attempt to cleanse the Augean stables, so to speak.

    A new East Germany, a new Peronist Argetina, I don't know? A combination of the worst aspects of both may be our future. But then I'm wrong because we aren't even a country but simply a broken colonial back-water, sold by traitors.

    What on earth is the point of two minute silences when our rulers, by their actions, insult and betray those who gave their lives by turning the land over to a foreign empire without apparently a second thought.

    Martin Reed

  4. seangabb Post author

    Call for a return of Watch Committees, and you will have your remedy. 

    My teachers told me that we could never have a police state, because we had civilian police, all under Watch Committees, that would prevent this happening. They had done so for over one hundred years, even during the War. Since they have been replaced by Police Authorities (not the the same thing), we have seen the gradual carefully phased slide into a police state.
    You need to find out who was behind this 'reform' and why they introduced it. I know that people said at the time that Watch Committees were vulnerable to Masonic corruption, and yet the people pushing it were the very same people. So you do not have to look very far in your research, although it does mean accepting the notion that this was the direct result of a conspiracy to subvert the excellent policing we had up to then. 
    Even the media contributed to this 'reform' and put out nasty soup operas that made our police appear to be very much UNLIKE PC 49 – which impression the public had of the police up to then. I do remembering visiting London during and shortly after the War, and that was the image we all correctly held of our policing at the time. 'If your were lost, ask a policeman' were told. All that has changed over the last fifty years, and it was all carefully phased, with the assistance of media. Z Cars was the 'new look' that replaced PC 49. Soon the police were behaving exactly like the characters in Z Cars. We were told that Z Cars was the correct image we should have. 
    This is a very big subject and needs thorough research to bring all this to the surface. What you have to accept above all is that what has happened is not an accident of history. It has been all carefully planned, carried out with the assistance of the other organs of the state (such as the BBC), and that what we have now is what was planned from the start. The remedy lies in putting things back to what they were before this subversion occurred: smaller police forces, all under Watch Committees, and putting the civilian police officer totally in charge of his responsibilities. He must have a sense of the rule of law, and that he is the law in the sense that he abdicates his function, when he steps beyond the law. 
    Back to Bobby Peel! That is the remedy. 
  5. seangabb Post author

    Dear Sean,

    is it possible for any individual or organization to resist, effectively, all the "crossings of the line" separately, even if there are millions of them, or is this, rather, in most cases, a waste of time, money and energy?

    Why not resist ALL of them through the advocacy of individual and minority group secessionism and full exteritorial autonomy under personal law for all kinds of societies and communities of volunteers only, none claiming any territorial monopoly?

    In this way all the varities of statists could also do their things for or rather to themselves, all could peacefully coexist with each other, without political expensive campaigns, all could have a lasting victory and rule over their followers – and so could the freedom, peace and justice lovers.

    The equivalent in the religious sphere, of what you are trying to do in the secular sphere in the  would be the attempt to counter every religiously motivated wrong and absurdity. How many churches and sects are there? I read somewhere, over 7,000 Christian sects alone.
    Even the Muslims are split into many sects. Why not advocate full exterritorial autonomy for all of them?

    Rather, freedom for all religious people and also freedom for all humanists, atheists, agnostices and those people quite indifferent to all religions.

    And in the sphere that interests us:
    Different panarchies for all the different believers, always at their risk and expense.

    That would be a rather big and effective broom, for a big clean-up, of the own sphere, leaving their rubbish to all the rubbish ideologies etc.

    PIOT, John

    1. seangabb Post author

      Though it isn't yet convenient to stop him from being Prime Minister, we can at least hope David Cameron will refrain from making fools of us all abroad.