Why the hate crime bill has no place in a free society
THE Scottish Government’s proposed hate crime bill, if passed, will quite possibly be the most illiberal and intolerant piece of legislation in any liberal democracy, worldwide. Thankfully, opposition to this bill is growing. If you haven’t read the bill, you should, because you can have your say by writing a submission to Holyrood – the deadline is the end of this week.
There is a problem with all hate crime legislation of course, not least of all the subjective, almost infantile use of the term “hate”, something that may work as a polemical, political term but at the level of law is a nonsense.
And of course, there is the problem of undermining the universality of law by creating caricatured “protected characteristics”, that many believe encourages a competitive victim industry. Putting these broader points aside, the new hate bill remains in a league of its own.
Unlike the laws in the rest of the UK, where the crime of “stirring up” hatred needs evidence that it is deliberate and also threatening, here we have a new law that potentially requires neither. Simply being “abusive” or “insulting”, unintentionally, could become a crime. Both these terms are incredibly flexible and subjective, most especially the idea of being insulting.
Additionally, where other laws make a distinction between what you do and say in private compared to what you do in public, here the private sphere is being targeted, opening up the possibility of comments at dinner parties becoming criminal offences.
Having material that can be said to be hateful could also become a crime. At the age of 16 I read both Mein Kampf and Marx’s Capital, or tried to. That I thought Hitler’s book was an endless stream of tedious ramblings is unlikely to act as a defence if this law is passed.
Organisations have to show an active attempt to ensure no hatred is expressed by their people. If material is shared that can be said to be hateful this could lead to a prosecution. What, I wonder, does this mean for newspapers or even academics?
Plays and art works are often exempt from these types of laws. Here they are specifically targeted. First they came for the football fans and we said nothing etc. etc.…..
The Free to Disagree campaign has been launched in opposition to this profoundly dangerous piece of legislation. It’s time for academics, artists, journalists and anyone who wants to live in a free society to take a stand.