Jena Mason, a sixty-five year old grandmother, was charged with racially aggravated harassment. This heinous crime consisted of a golliwog being seen on her window sill. Apparently, her neighbours were so offended by the sight of this doll that they complained to the police, who said: 'The charge relates to the display of writing, signs or other visible representations, which are threatening, abusive or insulting, within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress.' It seems that the mere sight of a doll is a cause of 'harassment, alarm and distress'.
This oppression is not exceptional; nor is it restricted to England. In Holland, the opposition party leader, Geert Wilders, was put on trial for promoting his party's political platform. In France, novelists have been put on trial for opinions expressed by their fictional characters. In Denmark, Lars Hedgaard, head of the Danish Free Press Society, was convicted of racism for pointing out that women are treated badly in Islam. Christians have been arrested and convicted for pointing out that homosexuality is a sin. Indeed, a police officer in Woking arrested a street preacher on the ground of homophobic harassment. She had received no complaints. She simply asserted that she felt harassed. School children have been arrested for racism. The list could be extended indefinitely.
However, of even greater concern is the fact that accuracy is no defence against these ridiculous, oppressive laws. In Austria, a woman was convicted because she had described Mohammad as a pedophile. The fact that he had sexual intercourse with a nine year old was no defence, according to the judge, whose tortuous logic defies belief. The judge reasoned that a pedophile is exclusively fixated on children and that as Mohammad had remained married to Aisha, he could not be a pedophile. I cannot but note that if a current pedophile used such a defence, it would be recognised by all for what it was - a risibly pathetic attempt at an excuse.
Another example of accuracy being no defence is neatly illustrated by the case of the Gay and Lesbian Humanist magazine that was convicted for the crime of Islamophobia because it had had the audacity to accurately point out that Islam is homophobic. The lunacy of this is underlined by the fact that Iqbal Sacranie, who was knighted for his contribution to community relations, and is the head of the Muslim Council of Britain, is on record, indeed, has appeared on the BBC, making homophobic assertions.
The case of Simon Ledger illustrates the utter madness of these ridiculous laws. Mr Ledger was performing on the Isle of Wight. In the course of the performance, he provided a rendition of the old seventies song, 'Everyone was kung fu fighting', which contains the words: 'There were funky Chinamen...' Well, unfortunately for Mr Ledger, a couple of passing Chinese people took offence.
The cases of Mrs Mason and others are not exceptional. All over Europe the authorities are deciding what cannot be said, by whom and about whom. Freedom of speech, for hundreds of years a fundamental value of European civilisation, has been eaten away by an ostensibly commendable concern not to offend others. However, taste and good manners cannot be legislated for. Nor can it ever be right to deny people the right to freedom of expression simply in order to protect the feelings of others. This is a clear example of the state over-reaching itself and becoming oppressive, arbitrary and capricious. There is simply no way to know what can be legally said or not said. This is beyond Orwellian. Stating the truth has become a crime. It is time to repeal all such restrictions on the right to freedom of expression.