MICK HUME: It’s a sorry time when we need legal “protection” to express sincere opinions


Do you still doubt that freedom of expression is threatened in Great Britain? Take a look at the latest plans from the Law Commission, which proposes a drastic and horribly misguided extension of Britain’s already sprawling “hate crime” laws.

Judges and academics advising the government on legal reform want to expand the definition of hate crime in the 1986 Public Order Act to include people who “stir up hostility” against “transgender and gender” people various “. More severe criminal penalties would follow.

Of course, trans people have every right to live their lives in peace and understanding. Cruelty, abuse and violence have no place in a civilized society.

But, recently, the pro-trans lobby – many of whom are not transgender themselves – viciously accused prominent feminists of being “hostile” to them, simply for insisting that there are two biological sexes. and that only women have a uterus.

For example, millionaire author JK Rowling was effectively banned from celebrations for the anniversary of her creative writing, Harry Potter, while in October Professor Kathleen Stock was kicked out of her post at the University of Sussex.

Millionaire author JK Rowling (pictured 2019, file photo) was effectively banned from celebrations for the anniversary of his creative writing, Harry Potter

These two women have received multiple rape and death threats: not a small degree of “hostility”.

The Law Commission’s proposals would create a two-speed society. While transgender people, as well as people with disabilities, would benefit from additional protections, sex and gender would not become “protected characteristics” under the law.

This means that if the proposals are followed, offenses against transgender people could result in longer prison sentences than those targeting biological women.

And it violates an essential principle of natural justice, namely that everyone is equal before the law.

Yes, the Law Commission is offering additional “protection” for “gender critical” views – some might call them common sense – expressed by people like Rowling and Stock.


But it is a miserable time when women need government “protection” to express sincere and legitimate views shared by the vast majority of the population.

The whole sorry debate smacks of legal “mission elapsed”. As Harry Miller of the free speech lobby group Fair Cop said yesterday, “The law shifts from protecting the individual to protecting and regulating ideologies.

In addition, the government has reportedly accepted another proposal from the Law Commission: a proposal that would allow courts to jail Internet “trolls” for words that could cause “psychological or emotional harm”.

No one likes online trolls very much.

But this law sounds like a blank check for state censorship – and, however well-meaning, a crime against free speech.

After all, if someone tells you that your words have caused them “psychological or emotional harm,” how can you challenge or defend yourself against it?

Last year, shamefully, the Law Commission even wanted to make private speech at home a potential hate crime.

Do they think they now deserve a round of applause for fighting back against this outrageous and totally un-British idea?

In October, Professor Kathleen Stock (pictured) was kicked out of her post at the University of Sussex

In October, Professor Kathleen Stock (pictured) was kicked out of her post at the University of Sussex

The mere fact that there has never been a serious proposal to criminalize what people might or might not say to each other in their own homes shows just how comfortable the authorities are now with cracking down on once-cherished freedoms.

A consequence of all this is that many people no longer know what they are and are not allowed to say, and thus increasingly keep their opinions to themselves.

We live in an age of corrosive self-censorship caused by fear of the consequences of exercising free speech.


Offending without cause is seldom something to celebrate – but no one has the right to never be offended. And it is often only by testing ideas, often controversial, that the truth can be found.

Someone needs to point this out to the childish and illiberal students at Durham University. Last week, journalist Rod Liddle was invited to speak. After he made the typically scathing but entertaining remarks, some students came out annoyed.

College Principal Professor Tim Luckhurst reminded these young people that “we value free speech” and – rather provocatively – called those who came out of it “pathetic”.

What should have been just a lively but parish night has turned into a national scandal in a way.

More than 1,000 students pompously signed an “open letter” to university officials, declaring that they felt “distressed” and “emotional” after Liddle’s “sexist, racist, transphobic and classist” speech: behavior that could be considered fully endorsing Professor Luckhurst’s inflammatory adjective speech.

Yet, although he apologized for calling them “pathetic” and admitted in a spirit of fairness that students were “as entitled to be absent from the speech as my guest had to do. “Professor Luckhurst has now been dismissed and silenced as the university has opened an investigation into him.

Culture war? Rather an unconditional surrender of those responsible for defending the values ​​on which our civilization is based.

Pictured: A march in support of the black LGBTQ + community on June 27, 2020 in London, England.  The Black Trans Lives Matter Walk Held To Support And Celebrate The Black Transgender Community

Pictured: A march in support of the black LGBTQ + community on June 27, 2020 in London, England. The Black Trans Lives Matter Walk Held To Support And Celebrate The Black Transgender Community

Freedom of speech has always been under attack, but threats change over time. During the 20th century, totalitarian states sought to crush free speech. Today we are faced with demands for bottom-up censorship.

A generation or two ago, they were young, idealistic left activists who fought against those in authority for the right to think, to say and very often to do what they wanted.

Now the young warriors of the identity politics culture, mad at their power to annul people, demand less freedom, more prohibitions of “hate speech” and the right to “have no platform.” For those who disagree with them. Awakened people are at war with freedom of expression.

These radical neo-Puritans should have the right to voice their opinions, of course: freedom of speech includes the right to oppose it.

The problem, as the cases of Rod Liddle and Kathleen Stock show, is that those in authority give in to a handful of activists and shamelessly submit to their demands.


It is time to raise a banner for free speech and rally the many people around him. In doing so, we must remember that freedom of speech must be free for everyone: not just for those with whom we agree.

Offensive opinions must be distinguished from rare acts of incitement to violence. After all, only speech that is likely to “offend” will ever need to be defended in the first place.

Above all, we must recognize that defending freedom of expression is never the easy option. It is to remain silent and allow others to be censored. But as difficult as it may be, there is always one thing worse than tolerating and, if necessary, fighting for freedom of expression, that is, living in a non-free society.

Now let’s stop our march on this dangerous road.

  • Mick Hume is the author of Trigger Warning: Does Fear of Being Offensive Kill Free Speech? ‘ (William Collins)


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