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You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 4:03 pm
by Ted
As long as you're not actually dumb enough to try and use it...


A friend had this poster in his window:

Image


Mid afternoon friday he received a visit from 5 police officers saying that they had had a complaint. (Some local christians had already complained to him directly, so he's assuming they went to the police) They asked for ID.
D. closed the door on them and went to get some. At this point they booted the door in, pinned him against the wall and cuffed him. He's 63 and not a very big bloke.They then made him (still cuffed) show them where his ID was. When it turned out to be an NUJ card they suddenly became a lot more polite and took the cuffs off. They then tried to extract an £80 fine from him and he politely refused. Eventually they went away, having got him to agree to take the poster down.

Later that day he put the poster up again with the offending word replaced with "Onanist"...

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 5:48 pm
by Des
Unbelievable. It has made me very angry to read this. Great poster though - and the amended one would have been just as funny!

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 7:48 pm
by jackdaw version
"Seed Spiller" might have worked also.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 10:05 pm
by Neil Foxlee
I've suggested more than once before that we're sleepwalking into a police state. How much more anecdotal evidence do you need?

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 11:37 pm
by Gordon Neill
Neil asked:

I've suggested more than once before that we're sleepwalking into a police state. How much more anecdotal evidence do you need?


Well something a lot more convincing than that. "Wanker" isn't exactly up to the level of a Tom Paine or a Martin Luther King, or even an Oscar Wilde, is it? It's just a bit potty-mouthed. Or, dare I say, given it's lack of intellectual penetration, a bit wanky. I mean, what is the point that the guy was tryng to make? That Mrs Cameron just can't keep up with Dave's needs? Or that his children (including his dead son) were actually fathered by someone else? What point is this right of free speech supposed to be protecting here?

As far as I can see, some neighbours have complained about a poster which is offensive to them. We have to be understanding about these things, not everyone is as hip as journalists and us guys - I mean like 'squares' or what? Their personal complaint has been ignored so they've contacted the police. Why the guy has shut the door on the police, I've no idea (did the wind catch it?). If he was trying to piss them off, then he certainly succeeded. The red mist has descended and the door has been kicked in. After all this crap, the poster has been taken down. Why not just do it in the first place, when the neighbours - the 'local christians' - complained? Or do their views not matter? And how much did all this nonsense cost in police time?

There's plenty of things to set to rights in this world. There are so many things to speak up about (including Dave's background and policies). But I can't see that the right to put up a poster in public view saying 'wanker' is one of them. I can't see that this presents a threat to free speech. If there was, this thread would be closed down.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Sun May 09, 2010 11:58 pm
by Neil Foxlee
It's the use of five police officers and the massive over-reaction over a trivial matter. The poster may have been juvenile, but kicking the door down, handcuffs and trying to extract an £80 fine? And the backing down because he was a journalist? What would have happened if he hadn't got an NUJ card? Come off it.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:07 am
by Gordon Neill
I agree, the poster was juvenile. Shouldn't the right to free speech just apply to adults? Or is it to apply to any old rubbish? I suppose the point I was trying to make is that the right to free speech is valuable and shouldn't be devalued on this drivel.

Of course, from the account we've been given, there was police over-reaction. That looks to be pretty obvious. It might have been more appropriate if they'd just stuck a photo of the guy outside his house with the word 'wanker' witten on it in crayon. But why did they have to react in the first place? Why not just respect the views of your neighbours and avoid the police having to be involved in the first place? What was the guy ineptly trying to say that hasn't been said much better before? Shouldn't free speech be constrained by at least the need to have a point of view?

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:08 am
by jackdaw version
I think the theory is well established that if there is to be "freedom of speech" then all speech must be protected bar the obvious cries of "Fire!" in crowded theatres and outright distortion of fact to smear character with libel. "Wanker" may be little more than naming-calling, but it seems clear to me that it's a political form of speech, expressing a legitimate opinion, and so the police had absolutely no business enforcing the narrow-minded, hissy-fit complaints of self-righteous do-gooders. It's the beginning of the slippery slope — and much easier and fairer to never start the slide down than to later try and prevent the inevitable abuses of rights that will follow if we were to just let this one little case slip through.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:23 am
by Gordon Neill
Jackdaw said:

"Wanker" may be little more than naming-calling


Actually, I don't think it's anything more than name-calling. And I've no idea if the complainers were "self-righteous do gooders" or not. It's true, we are told they were 'local christians'. But would you reach the same conclusion if you were told they were 'local jews' or 'local moslems'? How did they suddenly become "self-righteous do gooders"? When did they stop becoming 'other human beings'? Why not respect other people's views and try and avoid offence? Or at least avoid offence about naughty words. There's nothing wrong with causing offence with a stiff point of view. But this is just....flaccid.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:37 am
by Neil Foxlee
jackdaw version wrote:I think the theory is well established that if there is to be "freedom of speech" then all speech must be protected bar the obvious cries of "Fire!" in crowded theatres and outright distortion of fact to smear character with libel.


It may be well-established in Chomsky's book, for instance, but not in mine. As Stanley Fish has pointed out, there are always limits in such cases, and rightly so. We don't, for example, tolerate racist or homophobic language in schools or public life; we don't tolerate verbal incitement to murder.

To defend freedom of speech as an absolute is to place a greater value on the freedom of hate speakers to vilify others than on the freedom of the people they vilify not to be subject to vilification.

But I think we may have been here before.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 1:39 am
by Hugh Weldon
Jonathan:

the narrow-minded, hissy-fit complaints of self-righteous do-gooders.


A rather large assumption about people you know not of. Plenty of people dislike bad language, not all Christians, as we found out not too far from here a few months back. Paxman upset many by saying 'bollocks' on Newsnight last night apparently, or at least enough to get a small news story.

The general point about liberty is clear. Let it apply indiscriminately though, until it risks causing genuine public disorder (BNP, Islamist protesting against soldiers etc). Not to the left-wing-communism-an-infantile-disorder Class War two fingers up to everything types. Not to manic street preachers either:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/newstop ... a-sin.html

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 5:36 am
by jackdaw version
Oh, um, er, yearh to all of the above. It's all true to a degree and I was rushing out a half-baked opinion.

I think some people take offence far too easily and then expect others to take that into account in all their dealings, which is just plain unrealistic and, ultimately, I believe tends to infringe on the rights of others to say what's on their minds — or half-baked minds, juvenile etc. as they may be. And I just lean towards free expression and dislike any form of censorship, especially of this nature. As far as I know there is still no right not to be offended by others' speech or behaviour — and I, myself, am frequently enough so offended. And also baffled much of the time. So what?

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 10:01 am
by Ted
Does it make a difference that D. is a photographer with a long history of documenting police misbehaviour on demonstrations?

I make no judgement about whether the poster was funny or juvenile, and wouldn't expect that to influence whether the police behave legally or not. Incidentally, it can be seen on walls all over London.
If you seriously think that 5 coppers, forced entry and cuffs on a 63 year old man was a reasonable and measured response to a bit of anti-social behaviour, well I think you're mistaken.

Freedom of speech does mean not only freedom to say things you disagree with or that offend , but to say things you think are juvenile, boring or mad. Hugh's example of the preacher is a classic example - let him say what he likes, but the moment he starts to organise action against gays its a different story - but judging where that point lies requires a finely calibrated legal mechanism - including strict controls on police behaviour.

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 3:06 pm
by NormanD
Gordon Neill wrote:Of course, from the account we've been given, there was police over-reaction. That looks to be pretty obvious.
Yes, and also an understatement. Henceforth, such reaction may be called the Stockwell Defence.

Is there much difference between the poster shown above, and a picture like thisImage
that has been doing the internet rounds?

If I print off a large copy and display it in my window, can I expect my door to get kicked in? In fact, if I display this picture on a Facebook page, can I expect my computer to get kicked in or confiscated?

Can anyone please tell me what legislation the police were invoking when they demanded a spot fine of £80? And why they dropped the demand so easily when the money was not forthcoming? Was this the old law of the financial shake-down?

Re: You have the right to free speech....

PostPosted: Mon May 10, 2010 3:18 pm
by joel
Ted wrote:but the moment he starts to organise action against gays its a different story
How, exactly?