Ed West is on fire at the moment. He keeps writing one great piece after the next – and I’m almost ready to forgive him for being completely unsound on lockdowns. His latest Substack post is about the need for a First Amendment in the UK and, as usual, it’s a tour de force.
Today, Britain in effect has two sets of blasphemy laws. There is a de facto law protecting Islam, illustrated by the recent removal of a film depicting Mohammed. And there are the more official hate speech laws protecting people’s identities, which are treated with almost comically-absurd harshness by the courts, like with the ancient crime of asebeia.
Just this week an ex-police officer was jailed for 20 weeks over racist messages sent to a WhatsApp group. James Watts had sent 10 offensive memes during May and June 2020, “including one featuring a white dog wearing Ku Klux Klan clothing and another showing a kneeling mat with [George] Floyd’s face printed on it”.
The magistrate told him that “The hostility that you demonstrated on the basis of race makes this offending so serious that I cannot deal with it by a community penalty or a fine. A message must go out and that message can only go out through an immediate sentence of imprisonment.“
Well, that message has certainly been sent out.
To illustrate how jarring this sentence is with the usual standards of British justice, just a fortnight ago two men in Lancashire were spared prison after putting a complete stranger in intensive care for no reason.
The Watts ruling is not an isolated incident. A teenager who sent a racist tweet to Marcus Rashford was given six weeks in jail, a quite extraordinarily harsh sentence in a country where violent offenders regularly avoid prison. In contrast a young man the same age who set fire to the flag on the Cenotaph avoided jail. What does society consider sacred — racial identity, or the sacrifice of young men dying for their country? The judiciary have clearly given their answer.
Like all Ed’s pieces, this one is worth reading in full.
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