Last Call for your Freedom of Speech! Drink up, Happy Hour is now Enforced by Law!
On May 18th 2016 Big Queen ‘Liz gave her annual speech at the State Opening of Parliament. Sitting atop her royal throne in the House of Lords with her millions-of-pounds-worth of bling and fur she looked pretty pimpin’ reading out her government’s policies for the next political term. Immediately she drew attention to a recovering economy — presumably to draw attention away from the fact the garms’ she was wearing, the chair she was sitting in and her Xzibit-inspired-ride outside were, and still are, individually worth more than her average countryman earns in a lifetime. I’m sure QE2 (how is that not the start of her postcode?) is so glad this prolonged period of austerity is over — looks like she has really been feeling the pinch.
After making her countrymen feel good about how rich she and her government were, she dropped the bomb on extremism by pulling up her blouse to reveal a black t-shirt that said “FUCKING SUCK MY DICK, BOKO HARAM!” Across the front in bold white print, with a similar message on the back reading: “DAESH, I’M GONNA TAKE A DUMP ON YOUR FLAG AND THEN SEND MY ARMY OF SWANS TO GET IN THE WAY WHENEVER YOU’RE FISHING ON ALONG THE KENNET & AVON CANAL!” Ok maybe she didn’t quite say that, it was more-or-less-exactly this: “My Government will continue to work to bring communities together and strengthen society. Legislation will be introduced to prevent radicalisation, tackle extremism in all its forms, and promote community integration.” I’m sure Old Prince Philip’s old royal sceptre is firmer than that stance on extremism. I actually am sure, just don’t ask me how.
The government has defined extremism as: “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values, including democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of different faiths and beliefs.” I love that Liz’s government get to preside over how everyone lives, but they can’t form a sentence that doesn’t take a shit all over itself. I mean, I can’t not love it: soon it’s going to be against the law to give vocal opposition to the rule of law… so much for that “mutual respect and tolerance for different […] beliefs.”
At least our government decided to include “individual liberties” as something that’s protected under what they consider “fundamental British values”. These liberties include, but aren’t limited to, freedom of speech, expression, movement and press. Those are some pretty tasty liberties; it’s a shame that the freedoms of speech and expression are undermined by the whole “vocal or active opposition to fundamental British values” thing. I guess soon we’ll be free to say whatever the government wants us to say — I wonder if QE2 ever met the late Kim Jong Il?
I’ve been trying to come up with something that’s an undisputable fundamental British value, genuinely the closest I can come up with is warring with the French and persecuting Islam. How far do I go back in history to find a value that acted as the foundation for Britain? Do I go back to 795,000BC when the first, locally known, human-like footprints were made in Norfolk; or is that idiotic because our head of state is also the head of a church that believes the Earth isn’t that old? Instead perhaps I should go back to 12,000BC when Britain and Ireland were separated by the Irish Sea, meaning that island known today as Great Britain was formed? Perhaps 43 AD might be a better year, when the Roman’s first started ruling what they called “Brittania” — but what values could the society that murdered ‘our Messiah’ ten years earlier have that are intrinsic to who we are today? 1707, when England and Scotland joined in a tender embrace of a singular parliament; but then Holyrood had its first session in 1999. Maybe values can only be British if they’re 17 years old or younger — it could explain why I feel so disillusioned. Or maybe the idea of “fundamental British values” is a bullshit one, made by a bullshit monarch’s bullshit government. Our democracy is Greek, our European individual liberties took hundreds of years to establish into law (1998 HRA, from 1215 Magna Carta), and our rule of law is supposedly divine (Romans 13:1, Daniel 14:7 etc.)
This means that either none of these values are British, or un-British values can become British. It’s hard to come up with a good reason as to why the Queen and her government would want to protect the status quo of her values and not have them challenged without the culprit being legally tried as an extremist. Hands-up: can anyone theorise why a group of multi-millionaires, in charge of running a country, wouldn’t want to be challenged by the country they’re running?
True to QE2’s words in front of Black Rod (Queenie’s favourite glam metal band), the government has followed up with the Home Affairs Select Committee trying to force social media sites to ban and remove extremist content. Social media sites, for all their faults do have value: they allow people across the world to freely express them self and communicate with others; in turn allowing others to rebuff, rebuke or celebrate other’s expressions. If Facebook had to monitor every post for any content that opposes British fundamental values, would they only bar the likes of Anjem Choudary; or would some content relating to Donald Trump also be removed? Would you still be able to share certain articles from the papers online? Should those papers still be allowed to publish articles? Does that spit in the face of the freedom of press?
Of course, all of this scorn I’m pouring is extremism — but how dangerous is it? If the papers are to be believed: very dangerous indeed. Anjem Choudary, by being a non-muslim youth that enjoyed having a good time by drinking, experimenting with drugs and having sex out of wedlock, was just like many young people living in Britain over the past fifty years. Perhaps we should fear each other, for all we know we could all be the next Anjem Choudary!
In truth, exercising free speech is as dangerous as society is. Anjem Choudary only became a threat to society when other people started listening to him — if no one paid him any mind, no disillusioned people would have known about him nor sought him out for answers. Instead Britain trying to understand Anjem’s worldview, or why he holds those views, we lock him up for having those misguided views. Perhaps, if extremism is on the rise, we should look the aspects of our society that enrage the most people and actually do something about it — rather than blaming people for becoming enraged. I’m not saying Anjem Choudary was a good/innocent person, he wasn’t — but how much worse is he than Trump, Palin, Farage, Cameron, Blair or Bush? Haven’t they all either advocated or accomplished bringing down foreign governments — not to mention the war crimes, perjury and necrophilic bestiality that should probably tip the scales in Anjem’s favour. Surely they’re just two sides of the same coin.
Benjamin Franklin once wrote “Those who would give up essential liberty, to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Instead of having archaic communist legislation brought in to combat extremism, we should simply use those liberties more responsibly. Simply put: with the freedom of speech comes a responsibility to, every once in a while, shut-the-hell-up! If you don’t agree with Donald Trump or Anjem Choudary — instead of giving them free publicity, just ignore them. Let their misguided group of secular support see how alone they are in their views. That’s not to say turn a blind eye to racism, misogyny or anything else — it’s just if someone expresses those views to you, use that to decide if you’ll form any kind of relationship with them. Similarly, don’t feel as if you need to express yourself to everyone else — have enough decency to try and avoid offending others, but enough conviction to believe something which isn’t popular. Have a voice that people can hear, just don’t force them to listen. The only way any society can evolve is through what Her Majesty’s government deems extremism. If we want to see real change in how our country is run, and what our country does — then we must change the values it holds, or at least enact the real values it does hold instead of being pitted against each other for the few values we don’t share.