On Katie Hopkins and Free Speech

Greetings to you all. I hope the yuletide season brought much good cheer. Cherish that memory as you trudge through the dreary morass that is January, where, as ever, legions of narcissists scour the internet in search of things to be offended about and validating one another’s sense that some wrong has been perpetrated against them.

Their victim of late is Katie Hopkins, who, as I’m sure you’re all aware, is a person who pens cuntish words for a living.  Now, don’t get me wrong. If one were to embark on a witch-hunt in 2015, I can think of few more suitable witches than Katie Hopkins. She is a repulsive boil on the buttocks of England, whose gurning visage brings about many infant tears, and whose passing causes many flowers to spontaneously wither.

However, I am of the opinion that everyone should be allowed to say pretty much whatever they like. I’ll spare you all a long explanation as to precisely why. Conceited though it may sound, I feel as though my audience is far too sophisticated to benefit from one. You’re all doubtless nodding your heads while reading this over a tipple of evening port.

But perhaps that would be a mistake. Perhaps this is the attitude which has fostered this age of intolerance. I fear we’ve all become a bit lazy in our defence of freedom of speech. We recall its label, but rarely its substance. Someone will say ‘you can’t say that!’ and we’ll reply, feebly, with: “but, errrr….free speech?”

There now exists a twenty-seven thousand-strong petition calling for Hopkins to be arrested. Let’s examine a few of the arguments put forward by the petitioners, shall we? All the while ensuring that we treat them all with the required respect. I don’t, after all, wish to be arrested. However, I’d advise that you at least mentally read these comments in the sort of high pitched whining voice – as I certainly did.

I’m a Glaswegian, and I am deeply offended by Katie Hopkins and her racist views towards Scotland. Katie Hopkins is no different from Ross Loraine, a boy from Sunderland who was arrested for his vile tweets regarding the victims of the George Square incident on 22nd December 2014. Katie Hopkins should be held accountable for her actions, and should face the same consequences as everyone else who breaks the law using Social Media.

Gary Sinclair, Glasgow

Gary is a Glaswegian. What’s more, he is offended – nay – deeply offended. Well we can’t have that, can we, Gary. Let’s arrest everyone who offends Gary Sinclair.

If you don’t know who Ross Loraine is, then he’s a kid who said something unpalatable about that Glasgow bin-lorry crash and was subsequently arrested for it. Thanks Gary, for illustrating the inefficacy – nay, the dangerousness – of looking the other way while a person is bullied into silence.

I think we can all envisage the disastrous trajectory toward which this nation is pitched. This is like that priest who wrote that poem about the Nazis in his jail cell or whatever. First they came for Ross Loraine, then they came for Katie Hopkins, then they came for…well, not me, obviously. But eventually me. I feel as though I’ve done that priest a disservice by forgetting exactly what his name was. I like to think that if he were alive today, he’d call for my arrest.*

She is no different from the rest of us, man gets charged for saying offensive things about bin lorry tragedy the same should happen here.

Craig Davis, Glasgow

Craig Davis also cites the precedent of Ross Loraine, even if he can’t remember his name. He’s just the nameless Geordie knuckle-dragger who no-one cared before or since his run-in with the thought police.

This is all quite scary, isn’t it? I’m not personally in jeopardy, I don’t think. I don’t go out of my way to offend people on this blog, but neither do I take pains to anticipate offence which my words might incur. I just write whatever I think. I fear that’ll soon become an act punishable by the cat-o-nine tails.

This tweet is insulting and racist. If others get charged with tweets similar then so should this woman.

Colette Cunningham, Motherwell

Well, Colette, I think the first sentence is pretty inconsequential. But the second sentence is utterly terrifying, which more than makes up for it. In fact, it’s probably one of the most terrifying ‘if-then’ sentence ever written, in which an injustice inflicted on one person justifies an injustice inflicted on another.

Note, by the way, how Colette is not merely insulted. This is a common ploy to use this year, if you haven’t already picked it up. No right-thinking person gives two shits about someone being insulted. But if the insult is racist – then, by golly, that’s something to be taken very seriously indeed. The reason is obvious – racism is universally despised, and for good reason.

Thus the merely insulted aspire to become the racial aggrieved. This way, they’ll have many more ears bent toward their tedious whinge-athons. Is Scottishness a race? Is Islam a race? Is monstrous obesity a race? Well, arguably, they all are. If they’re not technically races, they’re races in spirit. Races in the ‘you there, stop saying that shit’ spirit.

She is being racist towards Scottish people and I being Scottish have taken offence and it has really upset me that someone could actually say this and get away with it.

Dianne Mason, Blackburn

Dianne is similarly convinced of Hopkin’s racism (or whatever) against Scottish people – to say nothing of the Palestinians, Muslims, fat people and people whose children’s names do not meet the demented Hopkins standard. It’s okay to be upset, Dianne, really. For example, it upsets me that you’ve said this (or, more accurately, the prospect of you getting your way upsets me), but it does not upset me that you’ve ‘gotten away with it’.

As a health professional her comments offend me. She is a disgrace to all that is British.

Cathy Mcarthur Coventry

Cathy does raise an interesting point – she is a health professional. Well, consider your profession acknowledged, Cathy. Anyway, she’s offended. Katie Hopkins will doubtless, in her private moments, reflect on this while weeping and perhaps sodomising herself with a bloodied crucifix while inside one of those transparent ebola quarantine tents. This scenario might also involve her singing ‘Scots Wa Hae’ during the act, but that’s inconsequential. She’ll be upset – and that’s the important thing.

This woman is just simply racist and is a vile example of humanity. It’s time she was gagged, permanently.

Gail Mackay, Hamilton

Well, that’s a little sinister, isn’t it?  I’d like to think that Gail Mackay isn’t advocating that another person should be killed, but it is difficult to read this in any other way. Perhaps Hopkin’s tongue should merely be cut out and fed to ravenous gulls; perhaps her lips should be superglued together. She is, after all, a ‘vile example of humanity’.

Gail may be subtly calling for a person’s death; she may be calling for mere disfigurement. Either way, this is a pretty ironic choice of venue for voicing such an opinion. Presumably freedom of speech should be lax enough that you can advocate that someone be killed (or at the very least, maimed) yet not so lax that Gail should be offended.

I am signing because Section 127 of the Communications Act 2003 makes it an offence to make improper use of a public electronic communications network such as grossly offensive, indecent, obscene, menacing or annoying phone calls and emails. In addition the Malicious Communications Act, 1988, purpose and scope is to make provision for the punishment of persons who send or deliver letters or other articles for the purpose of causing distress or anxiety.

Section 1 of the Act covers the sending to another of any letters, electronic communications, photographs and recordings that are indecent, grossly offensive or which convey a threat (which may be false), provided there is an intention on the part of the sender to cause distress or anxiety to the person who receives them.

The offence refers to the sending, delivering or transmitting, there is no requirement for the communication to reach (or be read by) the person who is intended to read it.

I believe that there is no doubt that Katie Hopkins is in breach of both Acts and must be charged by the Police in order that the law is upheld.

Alasdair Lamont, Edinburgh

Probably best to conclude with this lengthy defence of the indefensible. I’m not sure acts passed in 2003 and 1988 can be expected to cover Twitter. Hopkins has not, after all, sent thousands and thousands of malicious letters or emails out. She cannot be said to have targeted anyone, she has merely voiced her opinion via a medium which reaches people who have chosen to read them.

The situation is not helped by the legions of outrage-vampires fervently retweeting her bullshit to one another, nor by the news media using her bullshit to lure us all in to their non-news articles. But then, I doubt that anything can be done about that.

Enough of this, anyway. A conclusion is in order. The police should not be in the business of arresting (or even questioning) people for voicing an unpopular opinion. And any law which allows them to do so is in dire need of review. Consider that when you’re all dreaming up your wanky election manifestos, party-political types.

Until next week.

*It’s Martin Niemöller, by the way.

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