British police becoming too woke for their own good

Reader barriejohn called my attention to this article from the BBC (click on the screenshot), which shows about how far the British police and the British law are going in suppressing speech.

The pictured suspect, 21, is wanted for “breaching his license conditions” (I guess that means violating the conditions for his parole) after serving time for dealing drugs. Police put the photo on Facebook, and then hilarity ensued:

It prompted hundreds of jokes, puns and memes among the nearly 90,000 comments left on the Gwent Police Facebook post.

Police later said offensive comments could leave people facing action.

People can be prosecuted for posting offensive messages online.

One contributor joked that police should look in Edinburgh, which hosts the fringe festival, while another said officers were “combing the area”.

On Monday, Gwent Police said: “We’re really grateful to everyone who is assisting us in locating Jermaine Taylor, and we must admit a few of these comments have made us laugh.

“However, when the line is crossed from being funny to abusive, we do have to make sure we are responsible and remind people to be careful about what they write on social media.”

I’m not sure what they mean by “abusive”, but I’m worried about any country in which a guy can be convicted for teaching his dog to make the Hitler salute when he said “Gas the Jews”, and posting it on YouTube. Joke or no, that would be free expression in the U.S., and it didn’t incite any violence. This “warning” by the police, humorous as it is, is a sign of how fragile freedom of speech appears to be in the UK.

24 Comments

  1. merilee
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

    What was the make of Boris’s or Trump’s hair?

    • merilee
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

      Whoops, I meant what Would they make…still dictating or typing left-handed.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 12, 2019 at 6:18 pm | Permalink

        I like the original Trunp/Boris question better. The answer is eClinique’s I’m An Asshole range of hair dyes – both guys are sporting the ever popular Don’t Eat That Yellow Snow tint. Chaps, make sure to wear gloves during application & then stab yourself in the eye with a Sharpie.

  2. GBJames
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

    sub

  3. DW
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

    Dr. Wily has really fallen on hard times.

  4. Steve Gerrard
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

    “Gwent Police warn people mocking wanted Jermaine Taylor’s hair”

    They just kind of gave up trying to make that headline read well, didn’t they. “Just stick all the words in, people will sort it out themselves.”

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

      Yup.

      🙂

      cr

  5. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

    Dude’s got a little static cling, is all.

  6. Michael Fisher
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    The BBC headline is perhaps inaccurate – the Welsh cops are enjoying the Barnet mockery of this drug dealing scum as much as anybody & they are not warning posters about “Edinburgh Fringe” type comments. A few examples by the police of what constitutes “abusive” would help, but I don’t use fb so can’t check how far over the line comments are going – very far if I know fb from old!

    THE GUARDIAN headline is no better, but the article there is more informative:

    The response ranged from memes to one-liners such as: “Push his release date back further than his hair line, that should teach him.”

    Another poster said: “He was last seen in town; Police are combing the area.”

    However, other comments prompted Gwent police to issue a follow-up statement on Facebook telling users to remember that harassing, threatening and abusing people on social media could be against the law.

    The force added: “Our advice is to be as careful on social media as you would in any other form of communication. If you say something about someone which is grossly offensive or is of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, then you could be investigated by the police.

    • BJ
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know whether the BBC is or is not accurate in this case, but there’s no doubt the UK has been seeing a serious increase in restrictions on freedom of speech in the past few years.

      I can only post two links per comment before getting auto-moderated, so I’ll just post the first two I have in my folder where I keep track of this stuff:

      https://www.yorkshireeveningpost.co.uk/news/crime/arrests-for-online-hate-speech-in-county-on-rise-1-8697659

      and

      https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-merseyside-43816921

      Of course, the was the whole South Yorkshire police “non-crime” kerfuffle, but you probably remember that. It was pretty hilarious once people started mocking it.

      • Michael Fisher
        Posted August 12, 2019 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

        Nowehere. Absolutely nowhere did I touch on free speech in my initial comment. Don’t burden me with that load please – that is NOT what I commented on.

        I am ONLY interested here in disputing the accuracy of the title of this WEIT post & the titles of the two articles [BBC & Guardian] I’ve seen on the matter.

        I am saying that…

        [1] the Gwent Police are certainly not “…becoming too woke for their own good” as this WEIT post by JAC claims – that is if the only evidence for that their facebook post on this moron drug dealer.

        [2] the Gwent police don’t give a damn about this moron drug dealer’s feelings on the subject of the mockery of his hair, but they DO care about their social media platform being used for harassment, threats, bigotry & so on. [I assume because i haven’t scanned the fb comments]

        That is how I interpret their statement that I quoted above & their statement might almost be part of Da Roolz at this pro Free Speech site too! [Yes I know about USA Free Speech & it’s application in relation to private actors, private property & private companies]

        • BJ
          Posted August 12, 2019 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Um…

          OK. Sorry.

          I won’t even explain why I posted what I posted.

          Sorry I pissed you off so much.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted August 12, 2019 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

            You didn’t BJ. It looked to me as if my original comment – you got the wrong end of the stick of [mangled grammar day]. Before I clicked “submit” on my original comment I contemplated adding a note saying I was NOT commenting on the free speech angle, but I decided I would trust that I wouldn’t need to. Any anger you think you see in my reply is frustration at myself for that wrong decision!

            As to the question of free speech in the UK there is nothing codified in a simple way & I don’t mind on the whole although what HAS been codified has often been abused by the people in power & the wealthy. It’s not that difficult if you’re stinkin’ rich to stop the publication of defamatory information of interest to the public at large & that ought to change, but I certainly do not want a US system! High profile court proceedings are decided in the press before the jury is even chosen with all sides feeding info to the media to adjust perceptions – this is not justice & it allows the rich to control the narrative.

            Over here we had the convicted criminal, liar, racist thug, parolee Tommy Robinson [real name Stephen Yaxley-Lennon] transmitting information on his fb feed [claiming himself the role of journalist] from outside the courts identifying Asian male defendants as they arrived at court. This was against the instruction of the courts who wanted the defendants to remain anonymous until the trial was over. Why anonymous? because there was a whole series of separate, but interlinked trials at various venues spread out over time & anonymity was the only way to ensure the integrity of the cases. The parolee racist, thug Stephen Yaxley-Lennon breached his parole licence & was thrown back in jail. Good.

            ‘Tommy Robinson’ supporters portray this as a free speech issue which is not relevant if you believe that courts need protection from corrupting outside interested interests.

            Regarding your second link about Scouseland injustice you should know the background not given in that report. PC Dominique Walker [only a PC please note], pushed & pushed her bosses to recommend to the CPS that that Instagram rap girl be prosecuted. She had the power to do that because her bosses were ineffectual & worried about internal & external politics – she’s the sister of the murdered teen [not a cop at the time of the murder I think – from memory], was on some black police officers committee & spent most of her time successfully politicking rather than policing [I don’t think she policed much actually].

            I believe that there’s stuff ongoing to deal with her [manipulative Dominique Walker] or she’s already been encouraged to move on to a new career. She’s poison.

            I have brought up ‘Tommy Robinson’ & you have brought up a couple of specific incidents leaning the other way & this gets us exactly nowhere. Absolute freedom of speech is not a concept I agree with – the only people in England & Wales who have that might be Parliamentarians in Parliament although you’ll get slapped for the use of bold words such as “liar” while referring to another party who is also a Parliamentarian – you have to craft a form of words that gets the point across within the rules of good manners.

            I DO agree with the EU guarantee of freedom of expression [Article 10, Human Rights Act], but it has many, many exceptions written in [varies per EU country] & I think exceptions are inevitable & essential. The art is in determining when & why exceptions apply & that is where the devil lives.

            • infiniteimprobabilit
              Posted August 12, 2019 at 10:23 pm | Permalink

              Well said Michael.

              And I’d far rather take my chances with the nannyish British police than the (often) trigger-happy American cops. (For examples of their frequent excesses just scan Lowering the Bar)

              cr

            • Jonathan Wallace
              Posted August 13, 2019 at 7:47 am | Permalink

              Yes I broadly agree. In a democracy there are various rights that we should all expect to have but in some instances these rights can conflict with each other so they can never be absolute (in my opinion). Everyone should have a right to a fair trial and publicity in the press and elsewhere before and during a trial can prejudice this. To avoid this the courts can (I believe rightly) impose restrictions on reporting if they consider there is a risk of prejudicing proceedings as was the case with the Tommy Robinson incident. Ironically, Robinson was presenting himself as the fearless opponent of sexual abuse of children but through his actions publishing the names of the defendants he ran the risk that a miss-trial might be called and the defendants released on a technicality irrespective of whether or not they were actually guilty.

              Other areas where it seems reasonable to have some limits on free speech are in matters of national security, in relation to libel/slander and in relation to incitement to violence. In each of these cases though it is important that these limits are not abused – governments are often happy to slap heavy-handed and ill-justified restrictions on reporting in the name of ‘national security’ and wealthy and powerful individuals often abuse the libel laws to prevent reasonable and justified exposure of (truthful) information that the public has a right to know. As a society it is important that we push back against these abuses.

              Finally, I would say that any restrictions on free speech should not include limits based simply on avoidance of causing offence. None of us has a right to never be offended and I am uneasy about the tendency for comedians and others to be facing limitations on what they can say based simply on not offending one group or another.

              • Michael Fisher
                Posted August 13, 2019 at 10:12 am | Permalink

                I agree with all of that Jonathan. Expanding on your closing remark because it’s the part of freedom of expression that’s hardest to define & delineate:

                “I am uneasy about the tendency for comedians and others to be facing limitations on what they can say based simply on not offending one group or another”

                Are these limitations in law or mainly in the venues/medium hosting that comedian? It is my perception that the limitations on comedian freedom of expression are nearly always coming from the venues [say the Edinburgh Fringe] or the medium [say the BBC].

                The BBC is a strange one because we Brits own it & yet we don’t as it’s controlled by trustees. It’s very difficult to balance the BBC when most ‘creatives’ [who manage, commission & produce content] are by their nature left-leaning & some of the BBC control of content is rather ‘knee jerk’ & holier than thou. It comes down to personalities I think in the end – has the current comedy controller got the necessary grit or is s/he a blancmange or too much of a wacky ideologist with an agenda to push [a bit of ideology is good]?

                At the BBC there’s a LOT of agenda at the moment – thus EVERY panel show MUST have a female guest/MC in the line up which is a great boon for emerging comediennes, but many are frankly not prime time ready. As a BBC consumer how happy/unhappy am I that the comedy isn’t very funny at the moment? Can I put up with ten years of this until the women have developed the skills & experience? [I go to NetFlix is the answer]

                From the law perspective there is no law against hate speech in the UK. Legal protection is provided under various statutes. e.g. The Public Order Act 1986 forbids racial hatred against individuals of groups including colour, race, ethnic origin & nationality.

                BUT, currently it doesn’t cover misogyny or ageism both of which are being reviewed at the moment [I think] – there is a problem here because if misogyny is included, but not misandry there will be an outcry from various outfits & if you DO include misandry there are other outfits who will talk about the power relation between men & women – the difference between ‘punching up’ & ‘punching down.’ The case law that will come from this [if it comes about in law] will be complex, fascinating & somewhat futile I expect, except for the lawyers eager to finance the holiday home in the Algarve.

                Another example: in the ‘UK’ we have named groups that have protection against “hate”, but there are wrinkles in the fabric e.g. There are good pragmatic reasons [according to the CPS] for arguing that Jews are a race as well as a religion, but then the law offends some Jews who are not happy at the suggestion that there is a Jewish race, because of course conversion & intermarriage has resulted in there being Jews from many races. But as I say above the CPS takes the view that “the Jewish community can properly be considered both a race and a religion”.

                So what am I saying? It’s wrinkles all the way down & I’m happy for the ironing to be done via case law rather than employing absolutes. The law evolves organically alongside social attitudes – I’m very, very glad that “Love Thy Neighbour”, “On The Buses”, “Robin’s Nest” & Bernard Manning are dust & we’ve got beyond jokes about the Gay or the one-armed “don’t worry about him, he’s ‘armless”, but [like you] I DO think the pendulum has swung a bit far into nanny land right now.

  7. E.A. Blair
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 2:39 pm | Permalink

    With hair like that, he’s probably wanted by the Fashion Police as well.

    • Filippo
      Posted August 12, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

      Maybe he can redeem himself in their eyes by inserting safety pins in his temples, rings in his nose and tongue, and walking around with his pants drooping below the lower limb of his gluteals. (Assuming that hasn’t fallen out of fashion.) Quite the “cool,” “edgy” fashion statement, that.

      I dare say anyone so mocking likely has won the tonsorial genetic lottery, not content to be grateful for their luck. Those who have lost the tonsorial genetic lottery are the ones most credibly positioned to presume to critique their follicularly-deficited confreres.

  8. Posted August 12, 2019 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

    The British police are a joke. They allow the sexual abuse of children to continue for decades but harass Twitter users for the non-crime if misgendering. And I can understand their presence at Pride but what has posing with human ‘pups’ got to do with gay rights? How did men in leather thongs and dog masks being led around on leashes by their *wives* become an oppressed minority?

  9. Jenny Haniver
    Posted August 12, 2019 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    That hairdo is hilarious. So are the comments.

    Not infrequently the British magazine Spike has articles commenting on the PC excesses of British police, social workers, commissions, and other public bodies. I find many of the incidents recorded in Spike jaw-droppingly egregious and ridiculous.

  10. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 13, 2019 at 6:41 am | Permalink

    Joke or no, that would be free expression in the U.S.,

    And it is under free expression rights in EU – just different.

  11. max blancke
    Posted August 13, 2019 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    “it is an offence to make comments online which are perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice…”

    Perceived by the victim or any other person.

    That certainly narrows it down a bit. One only needs to limit one’s online comments to statements that no person could find offence with. And they do not qualify it as “any reasonable person”.

    The only point I can see in the vigorous effort to suppress “offensive” speech is to delay any organized populist resistance to intolerable policies until perhaps resistance would be futile, so to speak.
    The alternative would be to actually address the underlying conditions that breed such dissent, like all the rape gangs already mentioned.

  12. Lady Mondegreen
    Posted August 14, 2019 at 1:33 am | Permalink

    That’s nothing. Express disagreement with transgender dogma and they’ll interview you under caution.


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