The Corner

The Death Spiral of Free Speech in Britain

Free speech is under constant assault in Great Britain. Police are investigating a user on Twitter in Derbyshire for calling Chelsea soccer star Ashley Cole “choc ice.” “Choc ice” is a derogatory term for “black on the outside, white on the inside.” The tweet came to prominence when it was retweeted by Manchester United’s Rio Ferdinand, “I hear you fella! Choc ice is classic hahahahahaha!!”

Following complaints from members of the public, the police are now pursuing the original tweeter. The controversy that spurred these accusations against Ashley Cole stems from his teammate John Terry’s racism trial. Terry was accused of racially abusing Anton Ferdinand, Rio Ferdinand’s brother, during a soccer game, and Ashley Cole testified on Terry’s behalf that he was not a bigot.

While both Cole and Rio Ferdinand have declared the matter moot and insist that there is no rationale for an investigation, the police have promised that “these concerns will be fully investigated to establish whether any criminal offenses have been committed.”

It is a sorry state of affairs that in the birthplace of the Magna Carta and liberty every instance of hateful speech now requires a police investigation. This case also provides an excellent illustration of the irrational nature of the British thought-police — the Derbyshire tweeter is being pursued, but Rio Ferdinand, who concurred with and repeated the original sentiments, is not under investigation. The ridiculousness of this entire situation demonstrates why freedom of expression must be preserved even in cases of hateful rhetoric; otherwise we are left at the mercy of bureaucrats capriciously determining what constitutes appropriate speech.


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