Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

Freedom of Speech isn’t an Obligation to Listen - Why I'm Backing Priti Patel's New Hate Speech Reforms


We live in a peculiar new age of safe spaces and censorship. A world where the act of not adequately challenging somebody else's opinion can get you in trouble with the Metropolitan Police.

We ended last year with a civic witch hunt (pun intended) against a writer of young adult fiction, for sharing her subjective feminine experience. We began this year with a Twitter culling that gagged a democratically elected, sitting US President (well, online anyway, but nevertheless).

Whether you like any of these people or share their views is entirely irrelevant; but it is the vitriol of those who are more concerned with punishing anyone who doesn't share their beliefs, as opposed to engaging in any meaningful debate, who should really scare you.

As each day goes by, more and more people appear to be married to the notion that freedom of speech comes with an obligation to listen. A notion I for one find utterly perplexing. If you are shopping for groceries and come across a rogue avocado in the cheese section, you don't pick up and purchase that avocado if you don't like avocados. You don't even have to pick up and purchase that avocado if you do like them. And, if you felt particularly strongly either way, you certainly wouldn't demand that Sainsbury's stock nothing but avocados or ban avocados from the supermarket altogether.

It seems trivial when likened to a mushy green fruit, but the point is that protecting free speech is a concept which transcends the personal.

A source in the Home Office has confirmed that Priti Patel is now looking to reform the hate speech laws brought in by Tony Blair's Labour government. The same laws which saw Harry Miller investigated and Joseph Kelly charged for distasteful tweets. The same laws that have ultimately led to the gradual erosion of academic freedom, with so-called 'safe spaces' cropping up at every distinguished university in the country.

Policies like 'no platforming' and 'safe spaces' may have been intended to keep out attitudes that should not feature in civilised discourse, but they are now being weaponised to silence and scorn anyone with different views to those of the woke masses.

It's hardly a mystery why, when left unchallenged, the Law Commission believed itself powerful enough to try revoking our right to speak liberally in our own homes. Though this endeavour failed spectacularly, they are still pushing ahead with plans to expand the existing hate-crime legislation to cover "misogyny and ageism, and hostility towards other groups such as homeless people, sex workers, people who hold non-religious philosophical beliefs and alternative subcultures."

It's important to note that discrimination against any and all of these groups is already illegal, and the perpetrators will be duly prosecuted.

What this means in practice is the annihilation of the right to offend. In other words: goodbye comedy. If the Law Commission are successful, this country's hate speech laws would be on par with Germany's (one of the strictest in Europe). When was the last time you met a funny German?

Meanwhile, at Britain's number one (and only) tax-funded broadcasting house, bosses are desperately lobbying Ofcom to squash any new and competitive ventures which threaten their monopoly. Among them, Andrew Neil's GB News and Rupert Murdoch's News UK TV. Both outlets promise to be opinionated, but impartial. A nice break from the progressives and their careful illusion of free speech who have controlled our airwaves for the past fifty years, methinks. 

To protect our democracy, a serious reform of the existing hate speech rules is long overdue.

Freedom of thought itself is sliding into a thing of the past. We have already edged into territory where the act of not doing something is a rebukable offence. Once sanguine gestures, like choosing to clap for the NHS or voluntarily taking the knee in a show of racial solidarity, are now obligatory social customs. To not partake warrants communal ostracisation and ridicule, apparently.

This week, the woke brigade has mounted an especially nasty campaign against national rugby players who chose not to kneel before the start of their respective Six Nations matches over the weekend.

Just four members of Scotland's squad knelt before their match against England on Saturday, while eleven members of the England squad remained standing. On Sunday, no players from Wales or Ireland knelt, period. The level of abuse these men have since been subjected to for their alleged racism - despite some being ethnic minorities themselves- is simply beyond the bounds of reason.

Though we currently live in a dystopian nightmare, the plot should be more like Soderbergh's 'Contagion' than Orwell's '1984'; it is a fundamental right to hold and express one's authentic opinions, and now that we've made the transition from Cameron's 'Big Society' to Johnson's 'Big Government', it is one of the only freedoms we have left. It is our duty to ensure it survives.

Madam Home Secretary, don't let us down. 

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