by Greg Mayer
The same day that Jerry wrote about the waning of free speech, Andrew Sullivan independently made the same points at the Dish, decrying a Tory (UK) proposal, already in their election platform, that would be “the most draconian crackdown on free speech since the press won its independence centuries ago.” In a move which he rightly describes as Orwellian, the proposal would create “Extremism Disruption Orders”, which would allow the government to silence speech it considers “extreme”. Once an order is placed against someone, they could not challenge the order on the basis of the facts, and once so ordered anything they wished to publish, either in print or online, would be required to be submitted to the police for approval prior to publication.
Originally intended to be used against Jihadist preachers, the proposal’s scope has been extended to include, among other things, criticisms of religion itself. Andrew writes
So this is how blasphemy laws get a comeback in a post-Christian country: all religions are now immune from any public criticism that could be regarded as “extremist”. And not just religions: also gay people, women and the disabled. And why end there? You can see the multiple, proliferating lines for government interference. If a gay man attacks Islam for being homophobic, he could be prosecuted. But ditto if a Muslim cleric denounces homosexuality. It’s win-win for government power to monitor and control public speech in all directions!In fact, the proposed law is an invitation for an orgy of allegations of victimhood, for a million ways to define hatred, and for countless lawsuits which would be extremely hard for most people to defend against. I’m sure this blog could be liable in England under these terms – if the government decides my questioning of the Matthew Shepard myth is hateful or my insistence on the Islamic factor in contemporary Jihadist terrorism is Islamophobic. And if this blog were in the UK, I’d be constantly worried that it could be shut down [emphasis added.]
Like Jerry, he notes the strange bedfellows such proposals make: elements of both the left and the right support such proposals to shut down speech they dislike, while critics who decry the waning of free speech also come from both the left and the right. Andrew, as most WEIT readers know, is a conservative, gay, Catholic, so on this issue both ends of the spectrum join to oppose these Orwellian attacks on free speech.