Friday 9 November 2018

The sacred freedom to burn in effigy whomever you choose, in your own back garden

People in Great Britain burn guys on Guy Fawkes Night, 5th November. It's an old, anti-Catholic tradition.  By its very nature the tradition is politically incorrect.

More than 80 people died in a fire in a public housing tower in London, called the Grenfell Tower, a while ago.

A bunch of people in a back garden somewhere on November 5th burnt a cardboard effigy of the Grenfell Tower, complete with paper figures at the windows, and recorded it. 

The Metropolitan Police then investigated the matter and arrested the people involved, before releasing them. 

Burning the effigy was intended as an exercise in bad taste, a sick joke of the sort that were popular in the 1980s. Dreadful, no doubt. But the action of the police is a much sicker joke.

Thank God journalists, and I presume the public, decided that the police went too far. I suppose the police did too. The men concerned were arrested under the Public Order Act 1986, a very authoritarian and un-English law, conceived by the appalling Law Commission and brought in by Margaret Thatcher's government, that makes 'insulting behaviour' an offence - but fortunately only an offence if committed in public. Not in a back garden.

Reformed Trotskyite and free speech champion Brendan O’Neill, predictably and valuably, wrote this essay, “Is it now a crime to be a twat?” The peerless James Delingpole wrote this.

Most of the people who died in the Grenfell tower were refugees and immigrants, and some were illegal immigrants, which means the fire has been used by left-wing demagogues and populists for their purposes. It also means mocking the dead might be thought to have an overtone of racism, though there was no evidence of any racist nuance in this case. 

An Englishman should be able to burn an effigy in his garden of whomever or whatever he pleases and be free to break the dictates of good taste without breaking the law, obviously. Or perhaps it is not obvious.

At least no-one has been charged. 

A man who tweeted that he hoped a footballer who was in a coma would die ended up going down for two months. In that case the footballer was black and, in angry altercations on Twitter, the convicted man used a racist word, but I suspect his bad taste in wishing for the footballer's death was much or most of the reason for the sentence. 

A man who called his MP a coward was convicted of some offence. 

A man who filmed a pet dog giving Nazi salutes and posted a video of it online was fined £800 this year. I kid you not.

And so on and so on ad infinitum.

Britain is no longer a free country. Romania is much freer but Romania also has appallingly authoritarian laws. A woman (now Mayor of Bucharest) said Klaus Iohannis (now President but then a candidate for the presidency) would not make a good president because he was childless. She was laughed at from one end of the country to the other. But the Anti-Discrimination Council said that she had broken the law. 

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