'This is not just totalitarianism in action but a recipe for ever angrier and more resentful behaviour.'By Kathy Gyngell: Well before the end of the last century, Britain had established a democratic rule of law and civil society that was the envy of the world.
Ask almost any immigrant arriving in this country in the last 50 years why they chose to come here instead of elsewhere and they will tell you it was for the rule of law. That is how the once Filipino, now British, man at the till of my local Waitrose put it to me the other week. To live safely in a civil society was his primary desire - above and beyond even getting a job or speaking a known language. If there was any remaining concern about equality under the law, it was dealt with by new anti-discrimination laws in the 1970s
Now the DPP is set on destroying the very civility so valued by these new arrivals through a corruption of the purpose and principles of the law, representative of less open and more totalitarian societies.
This is what Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, is doing with her newly constructed online hate crime law campaign. It is a pity she cannot be laughed off as a bossy head girl. But, as Laura Perrins tweeted yesterday, Robespierre would be proud.
Hate crime law is flawed in the first place and a licence for paranoia. It does not just punish the act, it speculates as to the motive, muddling the distinction between bad acts and the ‘bad thoughts’, which it attempts to judge.
The case against it is that it is social construction, based on the questionable idea that we are beset by prejudice. Arguably we have never been freer of it or more tolerant. Hard cases make bad law at the best of times.
The fact is that crime is not synonymous with the prejudice problem; there is little overlap between the two. As Jacobs and Potter (1998, p. 153) point out: “With the important exception of crime against women, most crime is intraracial and intragroup. Hard core ideologically driven hate crimes are fortunately rare”.
Yet Saunders is set on extending this construct to online verbal abuse or mockery - treating it as seriously as a real life attack.
This is not just totalitarianism in action but a recipe for ever angrier and more resentful behaviour. It is, as Brendan O’ Neill has described it, a ‘snowflakes charter’ on whose behalf our already hard-pressed police will be encouraged to be as vigilantes - policing these 'safe spacers''Twitter feeds for abuse. They all also have to be there for any resentful individual or lobby with an axe to grind.
It is true that the anonymity of Twitter encourages bad and base behaviour. But if Saunders had any understanding of what makes for a civil society, she would know that policing words and thoughts (as opposed to actions) will discourage civility and increase fear.
A properly functioning civil society is maintained by social sanctions as well as by the law. Prosecuting thought is no way to instill codes of good behaviour. We once expected our spiritual leaders to guide us in the virtues of kindness, sensitivity, understanding and gentleness. Now sadly they just compete in expressing their own virtue
No law can replace moral guidance.
Saunders's moral priorities are anyway dangerously skewed. For example, there has not been one, not one, successful prosecution for FGM. Yet she believes that something called bi-phobia – a social construct if ever there was one - should be prosecuted.Saunders is not just setting the culture of complaint into law, she has invited the chief identity politics complainants to frame the law in their own interests. For once legislatures begin to enact hate-crimes laws, everyone — that is every constituency with political clout — gets into the act of agitating to be included. Ms Saunders shamelessly listed who these constituencies were in a chilling interview with Nick Robinson on Today on Monday (see full transcript below).
Society it appears has no responsibility either for encouraging, endorsing, or restraining or disapproving of other people's actions.
Yet we know that it is social sanctions, or people voting with their feet, that changes people’s behaviour. Shame is still a powerful tool. Even big corporations like Google or a Facebook can be shamed. And people too can vote with their feet. No one is forced to sign up to Twitter.
We are warned. The individual alone is in the DPP’s sight. What has happened in Canada is on its way here. Since it became illegal to use the wrong gender pronouns any Canadian who fails to subscribe to progressive gender theory can be accused of hate crime, jailed, fined, and made to take anti-bias training. Be very very careful what you write on-line.You may be calling a 'she' not a 'they' at your peril.
Criminalising the individual's thought while relieving civil society of its duty influence and contain behaviour is to return to the dark ages. It is a recipe for a society living on resentment and hate - not happiness – and a Charter for ever-greater discontent.
A full transcript of Saunders’s 'explanation' of her actions in an interview on BBC Radio 4, Today, 21st August 2017 is posted below: