Wondering how badly freedom of expression has been deteriorated in Britain? This man is running for parliament:
For the record, free speech is not an unassailable right. It's a privilege to be treated with care
— Simon Danczuk (@SimonDanczuk) March 31, 2015
Elsewhere on his feed, Danczuk boasts that he called the police after he was criticized by a prominent media personality:
— Independent Voices (@IndyVoices) March 31, 2015
What did Katie Hopkins say to Mr. Danczuk, pray? Did she threaten to kill him? Did she propose that her Twitter followers start an armed revolution at 4am the next day? Nope:
Last week she attacked me on Twitter for attending a small ceremony to mark National Pakistan Day. I attend lots of events likes these, whether it be to mark St Patricks Day or remember the Ukrainian Holodomor. Some of the same people who attended the Pakistan flag raising will also be at the Saint George’s Day English flag raising ceremony next month. This is the nature of representing a diverse community, but we’ve been doing this for years and had no complaints.
That all changed following Katie’s comments, which pointedly linked the Pakistan flag to paedophilia. Employing her usual hateful and provocative shtick she went on to demand whether the nine men convicted in Rochdale of child grooming and sexual offences in 2012 were “my friends”. More abuse from Katie followed before she finished with a promise to come to Rochdale and “explain why no one messes with our white girls”.
It would be easy to dismiss this as the vacuous posturing of an ill-informed pundit except my timeline suddenly became filled with a deluge of racist bile from Katie’s supporters. Soon I was getting threats from the EDL. A far right group called the North West Infidels suddenly announced they would be marching on our town and the Internet was quickly awash with intolerant abuse directed towards anyone of Pakistani origin in our town.
So, to recap: Hopkins a) asked a question; b) said she would come and speak in public; and c) prompted others to suggest that they would march. In the meantime, some random people on the Internet were mean on social media. In response, our would-be legislator called the police.
At one level, it seems that Mr. Danczuk recognizes the need to at least pretend that he respects the basic rights of those he would represent. And yet, in his attempt to pay lip service to freedom of expression, he ends up giving the game away:
I’m a strong champion of free speech, but when irresponsible comments by someone who hasn’t even got a tenuous grasp of what she’s talking about starts to manifest itself in hateful intolerance, which puts people in danger, then we have a problem. And that’s why we need to talk about Katie.
How many mistakes can a person make in one statement? There’s the classic, “I’m a strong champion of free speech, but” formulation, which in this case effectively ends with “. . . when somebody is nasty to me I’ll use the state to persecute them.” There’s the pretense that marching and speaking and asking questions is “putting people in danger” — a favorite trick of censors the world over. And there’s the willful conflation of ”we need to talk” and “I am inviting the police to use the force of the government against you.”
Mr. Danczuk is a symptom, not a cause, of Britain’s appalling lack of regard for free speech. Indeed, he is not the first to go down this road, and he will not be the last. But that he is not a trailblazer does not mean that he is not a disgrace. Indeed, given his flagrant disregard for essential liberty, one has to wonder aloud whether tarring and feathering would-be tyrants is an unassailable right, or if it is a privilege to be treated with care. Hopefully, the people in his constituency will consider that it is the former. Can I say that, Simon?