X Close

How offensive is Edinburgh Festival? If new legislation passes, actors could be criminalised for hurting an audience member's feelings

Should we be policing pig kissing? Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty

Should we be policing pig kissing? Credit: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty


August 14, 2020   5 mins

Imagine you’re in the audience of a controversial play at the Edinburgh festival. The author has decided — bravely or recklessly, depending on your point of view — to tackle the conflict between some feminists and trans people. The characters include a campaigner for women-only spaces and a trans woman, neither of whom is presented in an entirely favourable light. You might expect the production to attract mixed reviews and even some protests, which is hardly unheard of at the Edinburgh fringe. But if the Scottish government’s ill-conceived hate crime bill passes into law, the outcome might be much more sinister: one of your fellow audience members could take offence, go to the police, and report the production for “stirring up hatred” against trans people.

Everyone involved in the play — playwright, actors, the producer, the director, even people who handed out flyers on the streets of Edinburgh — could find themselves under investigation. In time, they might be charged with a new criminal offence, whose penalties include up to seven years in prison.

Sounds like scare-mongering? It’s not. A whole section of the bill, snappily titled “culpability where offence is committed during public performance of play” [sic], has been drawn up with theatrical performances in mind. Its definitions are so widely drawn as to catch stand-up, one-person shows, even opera. One of the bill’s critics, the Faculty of Advocates, has pointed out that there does not have to be “any intention on the part of the performer, director or presenter to stir up hatred”.

Have MSPs ever been to the theatre? Read a book? Don’t they know that authors often create unattractive characters without endorsing them or condemning an entire group? There would be no way of knowing in advance what might lead someone to use the new law to close down a production that offends their views on religion, say, or one that focuses on gay men using surrogacy to have a child. The chilling effect on the performing arts is not hard to imagine, but the legislation would also have the bizarre effect of criminalising performances in Scotland that would be perfectly legal in England.

What kind of government blithely steams ahead with legislation that would muzzle one of the world’s most successful arts festivals? Let me introduce you to the SNP’s Justice Secretary, Humza Yousaf. The 35-year-old MSP for Glasgow Pollok has managed to create an impressive coalition of opponents to his Hate Crime and Public Order (Scotland) bill, even though it’s being presented as a tidying-up exercise that merely brings together existing hate crimes laws into a single piece of legislation. Its critics, who include everyone from the crime writer Val McDermid and the comedian Rowan Atkinson to the Humanist Society Scotland, the Scottish Police Federation and the Catholic church, take a very different view. Earlier this week, McDermid was among 20 writers and performers who signed an open letter warning that the bill could stifle freedom of speech.

Yousaf’s response is best summed up by a tweet he posted last month, which managed to be patronising and dismissive while also getting a core part of his own legislation wrong. “The Bill will not prevent you expressing controversial or offensive views”, he lectured his critics. “Just don’t do it in a threatening or abusive way that is likely or intended to stir up hatred”.

As I’ve already pointed out, you don’t have to intend to stir up hatred to be caught by the legislation, something that the Justice Secretary should surely know. Rank-and-file police officers in Scotland are horrified: “We are firmly of the view this proposed legislation would see officers policing speech and would devastate the legitimacy of the police in the eyes of the public,” says Calum Steele, the SPF’s general secretary. New powers to forcibly enter and search premises in pursuit of an offence of “possessing inflammatory material”, whatever that may be, are hardly likely to improve relations between the police and the public.

The Scottish government has fallen into a familiar trap, in assuming that we all agree on the definition of subjective words like ‘hate’, ‘insult’ and ‘offence’. We don’t — and there isn’t even agreement on which groups need enhanced legal protection. To return to my theoretical example for a moment, if I were offended by the negative portrayal of the feminist in the play, I would just have to lump it. I’m not complaining about that — I’ve campaigned for the right of authors and performers to offend for years — but it’s striking that women have been left off the list of people who will receive additional protection under the bill. (Age is being added to the protected characteristics, joining disability, race, religion, sexual orientation and transgender identity.)

This is par for the course: misogyny isn’t a hate crime anywhere in the UK and senior police officers baulk at the very notion, on the grounds (I paraphrase) that there’s so bloody much of it. The omission speaks volumes about the motives behind hate crime legislation, which are well-meaning — but only up to a point. Governments are selective about who they see as vulnerable, even though women are far more likely than men to be on the receiving end of sexual harassment, murder and rape threats.

The Scottish government says it is considering adding women as a protected group at a later date but the bill won’t protect Edinburgh’s most famous resident, the author J. K. Rowling. She has been the target of a vicious campaign of abuse in recent months, facing nonsensical accusations of ‘literally’ killing trans women for defending women’s rights. If the legislation is passed in its present form, however, Rowling might well find herself reported to the police for stirring up hatred against trans people, an offence that will be very much in the eye of the beholder. Indeed the legislation seems to have been drafted by people who haven’t given any thought to the possibility of vexatious or misguided complaints.

Countless people have been driven off social media sites, not for “stirring up hate” but for posting material that zealots of one sort or another disagree with. The acronym DARVO — deny, attack, reverse victim and offender — refers to a common tactic used against feminists, describing the way hateful people turn the tables and present themselves as victims. That’s bound to happen if the bill isn’t amended, and women will be among the biggest losers. Genuine hate speech — threats to kill, rape or hurt someone’s family — is already a criminal offence and should be prosecuted under existing legislation, without putting authors, comedians, playwrights and campaigners at the mercy of malicious reporting.

To be fair, there is one aspect of the hate crimes bill that has been almost universally welcomed, and that is the abolition of blasphemy. It is an outdated law, incompatible with the values of a modern, secular society, and it has not been prosecuted in Scotland for almost two centuries. Yet the very same legislation threatens to criminalise the free expression of ideas that challenge prevailing orthodoxies, whether they are religious or (more likely) rooted in social movements. It would be ironic if Nicola Sturgeon’s government was to go down in history as the administration that got rid of blasphemy, only to introduce a secular form of heresy into Scottish law.


Joan Smith is a novelist and columnist. She was previously Chair of the Mayor of London’s Violence Against Women and Girls Board. Her book Unfortunately, She Was A Nymphomaniac: A New History of Rome’s Imperial Women will be published in November 2024.

polblonde

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

78 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago

I suspect this is being used by Mr. Yousaf to introduce a “back door” blasphemy law. It will also be used to shut down criticism of the SNP, e.g. Tracey Ullman’s portrayal of Nicola Sturgeon as a Bond villain trying to take over the world.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

That much has been obvious from the start.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

There are other aspects to this Bill that are even more chilling than have been explored here.

Let me put this hypothetical example on the table. Priti Patel gives a speech to party members using an online forum in place of her conference speech. The BBC run a section of the speech on the “6 o’clock news” which is also broadcast in Scotland. During that speech she says that illegal immigration has put additional pressure on Kent Council due to the fear of them carrying Covid 19 and it was difficult to make them self isolate.

Now just imagine someone in Scotland sees this on the news and thought it was offensive to suggest illegal immigrants put pressure on Council resources. As the cases taken by Joanna Cherry prove, the courts in Scotland have no issue in extending parts of Scottish Law into the rest of the UK, so would a report to the Scottish police lead to an investigation into Patel and the BBC for running the piece? I don’t know the answer but my guess is there are a lot of SNP MP’s and MSP’s who will be itching to find out!

This also leads to some very tough questions for the media as well. Will they have to run two news bulletins, one for Scotland which will only run the approved SNP news and one for the rest of the UK. This is the SNP Holly Grail because it divides the UK further and gives them control over the media output. You only have to watch the First Ministers Covid press conferences to see how spinless the media are in Scotland and this gives the SNP the opportunity to make it worse!

Andrew Shaughnessy
Andrew Shaughnessy
3 years ago
Reply to  David Bell

The difference between patriotism and nationalism? Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power.

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago

very true

David George
David George
3 years ago

“Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power”
I think that’s imperialism, there’s little difference between patriotism and nationalism. Nationalism is more the political manifestation of the patriotic impulse.

Mark M
Mark M
3 years ago

Although this formally abolishes blasphemy against the Christian god I suspect that it will soon be used to punish those who criticise the Islamic god, his prophet or his supporters.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

And any heretic who dares challenge the Gaelic mythology.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

That’s already happening in Sweden and the European Court of Justice (one example is the recent upholding by the latter of the conviction of an Austrian woman for calling Mohammed a “pedophile”, something which the Islamic texts clearly confirm, at least on a technical and legal level).

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Poynton

Muhammad was a schizophrenic paedophile mass-murderer. Pass it on.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

Or as Martin Luther put it “a devil and the first-born child of Satan”.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

I’ll take that. I’m not exactly sure about ‘schizophrenic’ – perhaps ‘megalomaniacal’? But I’m not going to quibble about a technicality, and especially when we are now forbidden to say such things in the interests of ‘safety for oppressed minorities’.

chrisjwmartin
chrisjwmartin
3 years ago
Reply to  Dan Poynton

I say schizophrenic because after he went off the reservation (withdrawal, a classic sign of schizophrenia) he heard a voice talking to him (schizophrenia again), telling him that he was the greatest person who ever lived (schizophrenia). He believed he had done various bizarre things like flying on a donkey (schizophrenia), and he had all his critics murdered in a rage (schizophrenia). It’s schizophrenia.

Dan Poynton
Dan Poynton
3 years ago
Reply to  chrisjwmartin

The guy obviously had problems. Sounds like they could have used him as a text book case for quite a few classic mental disorders.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

Well said, Mark. Groups that need enhanced legal protection are those that are attacked because of their religion, so if passed it may not end up being too different from being sharia law prohibitions on blasphemy against Islam into Scottish law. Yousaf’s father was from Pakistan where sharia law was in force, so it isn’t an illogical inference.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark M

No law is required for that already to be a thing. Church & cathedral choir dissolution hurt me more than I imagined. I’m an atheist who, as a child, sang for years in my local church choir. Bringing it to mind now, half a century later, I recall a country unrecognisable to many who are under 40. It’s a helluva tradition of English choral music & organ recitals, plus wonderful standards from many German composers for whom their Christian religion was central to them. I particularly love the music of Thomas Tallis, John Taverner & his modern peer & near namesake, John Tavener, if that’s not too great a stretch. Please find the most famous pieces from each & spend a few minutes letting the music, offered to the Glory of God, wash over you.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

No sympathy for the luvvies. They all vote for these loonie-leftie authoritarians at every opportunity. At least they are getting a taste of what life would be like in the communist societies they advocate so often.

Joff Brown
Joff Brown
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Not all of us.

A Spetzari
A Spetzari
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

Yes quite, sadly.

Now that (predominantly white, western) feminists are at the bottom of the medals table at the oppression olympics, people are starting to wake up. I hope they realise that the real issue is the ideologies behind this law and more recent feminist thought.

Whilst I agree with the denouncement of such laws, much like the Harper’s letter, the individuals do need to go further and acknowledge their role in propagating that style of thought. Now the loonies are running the asylum, the ones who gave them the keys seem confused.

All said, I think people should stick together against the common issue.

penangtom
penangtom
3 years ago
Reply to  A Spetzari

If, as suggested, protection is extended to women in the future I expect a lot of criticism will be quelled; I thought I detected a whiff of that hypocrisy in this piece.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

‘Have MSPs ever been to the theatre? Read a book?’

Probably not, except for the Koran. People in public office tend to be extraordinarily ignorant and unread. This applies particularly to Scottish MSPs.

Andrew Best
Andrew Best
3 years ago

It’s very simple the SNP have not the best track record where it counts, education, health, policing etc
So like every failing politician in Britain they start getting involved in meddle in people’s lives because it looks like they are doing things because the hard things take time and effort and you can be judged on their success or not.
Hate speech laws easy to pass, looks good and nice, see we don’t like the haters we are good and nice but is essentially pathetic.
I could be wrong but I think there may be a grain of truth?

David Bell
David Bell
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Best

And the legislation can be used to keep the opposition quite as well

Stewart Ware
Stewart Ware
3 years ago

When this pandemic is over, it may be decided that because of the danger of malicious prosecution of performers the Edinburgh Festival would better be moved to, say, Newcastle. That really would endear the SNP to the Scottish people.

Malcolm Ripley
Malcolm Ripley
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

They could move it to Berwick. Nice and handy for transport and I bet a lot of people think it’s in Scotland anyway. It couldn’t get much closer!

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Malcolm Ripley

Or perhaps Carlisle, at least its Castle is still standing, and it’s just as accessible, and almost as close to the ‘enemy border’.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

The weather is better further south. I nominate York & it’s glorious surrounding countryside.

Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

London has plenty of theatres that really need the work right now. Let’s go the whole hog and have it where most of the performers actually live.

David Walsh
David Walsh
3 years ago
Reply to  Stewart Ware

If the law acts as alleged, the fringe will not need to be moved, it will move itself or fold. Has anybody thought to jog Sturgeon’s elbow and advise her of the financial loss to Edinburgh in particular, and Scotland in general. On past record, she seems oblivious to financial reality, but perhaps some of the small businesses who lose out will notice that Holyrood House is quite literally only a stone’s throw away…

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  David Walsh

She’s prepared to make Scotland an Economic desert…and call it Westminster’s fault if it brings Independence.

Very recently she was dog whistling about her superiority in dealing with Covid-19 compared to the UK govts. (I would have said ‘her government’s’ but in actual fact in Scotland it is all about her) and mentioned the unachievable aim of *eliminating* Coronavirus transmission in Scotland, but that this might need shutting the border with you know who.

The technique was actually to have a question asked as to whether she would consider closing the border, to which in her usual mealy-mouthed way, to provide deniability to some folk’s minds; she answered she ‘wouldn’t rule it out.’

Cue some of her wilder support standing on the border in poundshop hazmat attire telling people driving North on the M6 or A1 to F-Off.

Now followed by Visit Scotland, some weeks later, deploring this and pointing out that around £2 out of every £3 spent by non-Scots taking breaks in Scotland (ie not locals on days out) come from people driving North across the border…and with Scotland’s longer lockdown the vital tourist industry is already on it’s knees without someone furiously dog whistling to make things worse…a self inflicted economic wound accentuated by her supposedly politically neutral *scientific advisor* from the USA Devi Sridhar, just this week again.

The big problem for the SNP is the economic pain was all supposed to arrive after Independence but Covid-19, acting as it does, as a political accelerant, is likely to be real economic pain that will prove impossible for the SNP to wish away or pin on England…sorry, I mean Conservatives.

Richard Roe
Richard Roe
3 years ago

“…women are far more likely than men to be on the receiving end of sexual harassment, murder and rape threats.”
I’m pretty sure that men are far more likely (more than a factor of two) to be murdered than women. In an otherwise excellent article this one thing stood out as being in need of correction.

Karen Lindquist
Karen Lindquist
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Roe

Men murder men. Men rape and murder women. Men rape and murder trans identifying people and women are crucified over it as if it’s oir fault.

We have a man problem. Men tend toward violence, and violent sexuality, and this is the problem.

But if you want to be honest, women and children are trafficked at such a high rate globally now, by men, that they can’t even keep track.

And they are raped and murdered in numbers so high it is a human rights crises. And those crimes are committed against us by men.

The number of women assaulted, raped or murdered y men they are in domestic arrangements with is staggering.

So don’t downplay men’s violence against women. It clearly is meant to do nothing but downplay women’s very real need for protections from male violence.

And the numbers of trans identifying men -they aren’t women-also committing sexual assault and murder against women and kids is quite high. So we need more protection from them while they are working overtime screaming at women as if we oppress them.

This is just all male entitlement. It’s obscene.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago

‘And the numbers of trans identifying men -they aren’t women-also committing sexual assault and murder against women and kids is quite high.’

And you won’t be allowed to type that sentence, because it causes offence to someone ‘trans’, which is rather the point.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago

All you’ve listed applies to a tiny fraction of a percent of men, not to men as a category.
The vast majority of men don’t do & would never dream of it, or be complicit in any of it.

penangtom
penangtom
3 years ago

I reckon we should institute apartheid – keep men and women separate; that would fix it surely?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  penangtom

Fix everything pretty quickly…except keeping a weed free garden lawn……..

Tom Hawk
Tom Hawk
3 years ago

Legislation being proposed by a governing Nationalist party with a Socialist agenda.

Legislation that can be used to denounce people for having the wrong thoughts.

History shows where that leads.

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

The sooner Scotland gets its independence the better and then they can get on with ruining their own country in their own way and the English will no longer have to subsidise them.

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago

Until the hordes of illegal Scottish migrants and refugees come pouring across the border to set up refugee camps in northern England to escape the North Korea style Scotland! Imagine all those plaid tents, strange accents, and the stench of haggis cooked over open fires.
We should build the new Hadrians Wall wall now. Before it is too late.
We can hunker down in Little England and cut off the rest of the world.
Warm beer and cricket for everyone.

Katy Randle
Katy Randle
3 years ago
Reply to  K Sheedy

” the stench of haggis cooked over open fires” has made my morning. Thanks 🙂

mark taha
mark taha
3 years ago

If this gets through,I suggest moving the Edinburgh Festival down south and offering asylum in England to the Bill’s victims.

Douglas McCabe
Douglas McCabe
3 years ago

The SNP government of Scotland has nasty form in the area of Orwellian legislation. Not so long ago it was forced to withdraw proposed legislation for the Named Guardian Scheme that was designed to assign a government agent (a so-called Named Guardian) to every child under the age of 18 to ensure the child was being raised in accordance with SNP preferences. Children were to be interviewed regularly and privately by the Named Guardian and reports on every child from schools and GPs were to form part of the SNP assessment of the parents. Children could be removed from their parents’ care in the event the Government didn’t consider their upbringing ‘correct’.
Even the Chinese Communist Party at the zenith of Maoism didn’t descend that far in the surveillance of citizens.
The SNP is a truly dangerous gang of left-wing zealots, but I don’t suppose that’ll make any difference to its electoral chances in ultra-PC Scotland. But it is deliciously satisfying that the group that has been most vociferous in it’s support for the SNP, the arts and farts, are now feeling the lash of neo-Marxism. As Mao said, “Revolution is not a garden party”, or for that matter an Edinburgh Fringe jolly of free speech and political iconoclasm.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Douglas McCabe

spot on! 🙂

Alan Girling
Alan Girling
3 years ago

Typical sleight of hand. A negative portrayal of a feminist isn’t negative because she’s a woman, it’s because she, or he, is a feminist. It’s not misogyny. It’s about ideas. And where is the “equality” asking for women to be a protected class? Being ‘more’ of a victim doesn’t preclude the opposite gender from also being one. Offense is offense, hurt hurt, if we’re going down that rocky road. I mean, hey. Misandry absolutely needs to be a hate crime, too. Prosecute Gillette!!

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago
Reply to  Alan Girling

If I had the temerity to suggest that I was offended by anyone objecting to the suggestion of having a Man’s hour on the BBC and a Man’s day in Parliament – will I or the objector have committed a hate crime ??

Karen Lindquist
Karen Lindquist
3 years ago
Reply to  Ian Barton

Every day and every hour is man’s hour. That is the crime women commit, in being feminists, is that we are asking that as 50% of the population we be allowed to have our rights and sit at the table that governs.
How dare we!

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

Western women are the most privileged demographic in the world. They can divorce their husband, lay claim to his salary and take his children. They’re also outearning men.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Your gender increasingly controls the agenda of our national broadcaster. if your aim is equality, then please help sort this out …

It’s obvious that many promoters of individual sub-groups are not after equality at all – they are after as much as they can get … and don’t care if it’s more than their fair share …

Peter Morrison
Peter Morrison
3 years ago

culpability where offence is committed

…But this kind of offence is never committed. It is taken i.e. it is dependent upon the feelings of the person doing the listening/reading/etc.

If every hurtful thing said is a crime, better start arresting literally every schoolchild in the country. There also appears to be no protection for points of fact: so better get the politicians, the scientists, the statisticians and the doctors in too, and anyone else who delivers unwelcome news.

Politicians, of course, will love it – gives them a chance to have all their opponents arrested in classic autocratic dictator-state fashion (did somebody say Mugabe?)

War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.

Sean V
Sean V
3 years ago

It’s only a matter of time before they add “looks” to the list.

After all, if we are going be really, really honest about harsh realities of the human condition (and if we are determined to alter those realities via legislation) – attractiveness (while it lasts) dwarfs all the other privileges put together.

All that said – Trump is a throughly disgusting human being, and he has been pouring gasoline on the ugliness of the far right for four years – so I do get the instinct to go to the other extreme. The problem is countering one extreme with the opposite extreme is a recipe for disaster.

Personally I can’t stand either side.

K Sheedy
K Sheedy
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean V

Good looks are indeed the source of massive privilege. It seems only fair to have a committee of average looking people determine which pretty people should go around wearing masks to neutralise their ‘aesthetic privileges’.
Also, exceptionally ugly people could wear masks to – leveling up.
You know it makes sense.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  K Sheedy

Funny you should say this. A simpler expedient would be to keep the Covid19 Farcedemic going indefinitely, which appears to be the direction of travel.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago
Reply to  Sean V

What a leap from the privilege of being attractive to Trump, Sean! What was going on in your mind? Does Melania Trump strike you as the sine qua non of attractiveness and that brings you to the Donald? Joe Biden is a thoroughly disgusting human being, who was part of the administration that broke up Ukraine, and then installed his son there as a Ukrainian oligarch. Trump has nothing on Biden.

Sean V
Sean V
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

I am a moderate liberal/centrist who has a lot of respect for moderate, non-racist, non-gay hating, non Q-Anon believing, conservative thinkers like George Will and Jordan Peterson. I also have a lot of respect for the (most of) the people who signed the Harper’s letter, as well as liberals like James Lindsay.

What I hate with a passion are closed-minded extremists on both sides. The far left wants to convince minorities that all of their problem are the fault of white men, and the far right wants to convince their followers that all their problems are the fault of minorities. Sorry – but I refuse to choose between two such ridiculous extremes.

As to your question, I wanted to be clear that my contempt for the far left was in no way an endorsement of Trump. George Will is far more eloquent than I could ever be, and he has begging his readers to vote Democratic for the last 4 years. That oughta tell you all you need to know.

Richard Lyon
Richard Lyon
3 years ago

The day before Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary Carl Sergeant committed suicide following unspecified allegations, feminist Guardian columnist and celebrated misandrist Jessica Valenti claimed: “Honestly, I think part of the problem is for too long men haven’t been afraid enough. In short: Make Men Afraid Again”.

The comment is relevant because it demonstrates the absurdity of this author’s implied claim that legislation to prescribe speech should be extended to include misogyny because “women are far more likely than men to be on the receiving end of sexual harassment, murder and rape threats”. Misandry is so institutionalised that a leading newspaper’s contribution to an atmosphere in which men are driven to suicide is considered “journalism”. Meanwhile, while academic research reveals that 50% of social media misogyny is perpetrated by women, we can be certain of the author’s misandrist intention that it is that male perpetrators only who are the intended target of such legislation.

In fact, she need not be concerned. Entryist feminist MPs such as Harriet Harman (who’s main contribution to strengthening our social fabric and relations between men and women has been to have the world “Father” removed from UK Family Law) are working assiduously to have criticism of feminism (of which this post is an example) classifiable has “hate speech” in UK law, and critics of feminism silenced under such law.

Ian Barton
Ian Barton
3 years ago

Adding “women” to this bad bill – without adding “men” – would just make it even more ridiculous …

Paul M
Paul M
3 years ago

Genuine question – what do people think has been the main reason for them personally, that such potentially damaging piece legalisation to the freedom of speech or the freedom to offend has come about? All I can see in the future is us all being separated more and more by authority wanting more inclusivity for everyone but it will push us apart into “agreement societies”
I’m thinking it’s because society is less accepting of everyone’s differences? I’m lost on it all!

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  Paul M

I think the main reason is pressure from people who critics have called ‘cultural Marxists’, which I understand are people who regard group identity to be more important than is individual identity. I’d be genuinely surprised if more than a very small proportion of the Scottish population actively want this bill, and fewer still if they appreciated the way in which it could be – and certainly will be, see proponents above – to silence people who are seen to belong to an out-group, or more important, people who aren’t willing to adhere to all the lore associated with certain in-groups. The example of JKR is given & she will either be silenced by or prosecuted under the provisions of this bill. MSPs will be nuts if they vote this through unamended. I offer a simple amendment which wouldn’t weaken its reach in overt cases but would put parties on a balanced footing, and it’s that “it will be an offence if what was done could reasonably be anticipated to cause offence”.

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  Michael Yeadon

Why should it be a crime to cause another adult some offence? Is there a universal right to be never offended?
It is, and should be, illegal to threaten or incite violence. Offending people is a byproduct of having different views.

Michael Yeadon
Michael Yeadon
3 years ago
Reply to  D Glover

Good point. Until very recently we’d say “sticks & stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me”.

penangtom
penangtom
3 years ago

If there is leakage of Scottish law to the other countries in the UK then that should be addressed by the UK Parliament perhaps? If we felt we had to follow the EU lead, in castigating laws of a member state, that would be shocking.

Elizabeth Dixon
Elizabeth Dixon
3 years ago

So refreshing to read a balanced, intelligent article on this issue. Those of us who consider ourselves open-minded with a live-and-let-live bent are nonplussed to say the least at the dictatorial left.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

As a critic of the Bill wondered on a discussion about it on Radio 4 the other day, how might Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice and its portrayal of the overtly Jewish moneylender Shylock be interpreted by this legislation in future?

D Glover
D Glover
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Merchant of Venice – Life of Brian – Uncle Tom’s Cabin – Oliver Twist.
An Englishman might find the film Braveheart offensive.
There aren’t many works of art that won’t offend somebody. My point is that you don’t have a general right to be never offended. If you did, free speech is finished.

Alex Mitchell
Alex Mitchell
3 years ago

Anybody remember ‘Not the Nine O’clock News’ with Constable Savage arresting someone for ‘looking at me in a funny way?’. Seems we’re nearly there

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Mitchell

…plus smelling of foreign food and walking around in a loud shirt in a built up area.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago

It is the latest in a long line of legislation created with the sole aim of dividing Scotland from the UK, while simultaneously signalling the supposed superior values of the SNP over , inevitably, the Tories, which they use as a synonym for ‘England’.

The Named Person’s Act was a similar type of legislation that fell only because the UK Supreme Court found it was itself illegal, in respect of data protection and the right to a Family Life.

The Scots Courts had found nothing wrong with it.

It would have allowed children to complain about parents and the information to be shared across multiple local and national government agencies without the parents even being told it was happening.

This attempt at Thought Policing is similarly sloppily drafted and as basically ill conceived as Named Person was, and it like that Act it needs to be stopped in it’s tracks..

The more general point is the SNP also need to be stopped from using their position in govt in Scotland as just another mechanism to create independence by other means, having lost the chance they argued for so repeatedly, in 2014, to achieve it by democratic means.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago

Something tells me Hamza isn’t really concerned about trans

https://www.youtube.com/wat

Warren Alexander
Warren Alexander
3 years ago

The answer to this is quite simple: Move the Edinburgh Festival to somewhere more civilised. I’m quite sure almost any English, Welsh or Northern Irish city would be delighted to welcome the Festival.

Brian Dorsley
Brian Dorsley
3 years ago

I’m not surprised. I saw this coming a while back when this Scottish governmental video performed by the ‘Children of the Damned’ was released: https://www.youtube.com/wat

The Big H
The Big H
3 years ago

Here in the States things are trending in this direction in various locales, but the more and more this kind of thing goes on, the less inclined anyone is to enforce it – there are a number of proposals that law enforcement has stated will be placed firmly on the remote back burner if enacted, these days particularly around some of the Covid regulations – and of course we have taken the precaution of de-funding the police at the same time – the more we ignore our political leaders, the more satisfied everyone seems to be

John Broomfield
John Broomfield
3 years ago

So, it is not what you say but the way you say it.

With good sense and time it may repealed due to lack of usefulness.

Prashant Kotak
Prashant Kotak
3 years ago

The litmus test for me for any legislation of this kind will always be, ‘Life of Brian’. The kinds of questions to ask are: would anyone who were to want to make this now, be intimidated sufficiently by the wording of the law to shy away from doing so because they don’t want to end up behind bars? Would anyone be brave enough to make a belated sequel, ‘Life of Big Mo’? And I think this law is designed, quite deliberately, precisely to prevent anyone making such content in the future. And the inevitable consequence is, it will soon enough start encroaching into other areas, depictions of nudity, violence etc as law lords start putting interpretations, not on what is ‘threatening’ and ‘abusive’, but on what is ‘art’ and ‘not art’ – in effect an Inquisition, even if them Scottish legal eagles all quite fancy themselves as art critics.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

With this one can’t help but wonder whether the SNP is SO desperate to distinguish itself from its ‘fascist, unPC, bully boy masters’ south of the border that it will stop at nothing, no matter how daft, to achieve its aim?

Mark Beal
Mark Beal
3 years ago

It could of course be argued that the proposed legislation is a kind of blasphemy law, since it clearly adheres to the tenets of the Church of Woke.

Regarding the point that intent won’t matter – it already doesn’t matter in Scotland, as the Count Dankula case revealed.

If, from a certain viewpoint, there appears to be an awful lot of misogyny around, it’s because feminists have created a definition so broad as to be perfectly useless, other than as a cudgel they can use whenever they feel the need to beat someone down.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

‘Revolutions ultimately consume their own children’

Be it JK Rowling, Anne Applebaum or Margaret Atwood, all highly accomplished, intelligent, fascinating, informative individuals, they have all, perhaps unwittingly and paradoxically, helped to contribute in their own way to this pervasive cultural McCarthyism through their own actions in the past.

Maybe it’s an abject lesson for us all, but seeking to publicly pillory and skewer something or someone that you don’t like, apparently feel eternally oppressed by (despite personal, tangible evidence to the contrary) or no longer approve of, particularly for essentially what amounts to personal profit, might well have unforeseen, less than pleasant consequences for wider society as a whole?

https://www.spectator.co.uk

aelf
aelf
3 years ago

The Inquisition never arrogated such sweeping powers to itself.

Simon
Simon
3 years ago

One aspect of the desire to implement such a restrictive law that concerns me is the belief, now widely held it seems, that anyone’s feelings and sensitivity about anything outweighs the right to touch on that topic in either the arts or in academia, where it is already a matter of heated contention.
I recently had first-hand experience of the way this focus on feelings can stifle discussion. I was preparing to take part in an online discussion for a colleague’s research. Before the fourth member of our group joined us, the three of us already in contact inevitably touched on the Covid crisis. Seeing restrictions increasing here in the UK at that time, I made a comparison between current governments around the world and Stalin’s draconian regime, which I admit may be something of an overstatement, but was intended to have a thought-provoking effect, even if that effect was to strongly disagree with me.
The reaction I actually received was from an American man I’d never spoken to before. He looked deeply upset, but politely asked me not to make any reference to Stalin, as members of his family had died under his regime. I was a little taken aback and the conversation topic abruptly changed. His demeanour towards me remained distant, and I felt he left the group still aggrieved and upset by my comment.
I have the deepest sympathy for anyone who suffers, or whose family suffers under any circumstances, but should this be a reason to exclude those circumstances from debate? I happen to have Irish, Scottish and Jewish ancestry. Does that give me the right to stop discussion of the Potato Famine, the Highland Clearances and the Holocaust? I am also estranged from my son; a very upsetting situation. Do I have the right to stop any talk about children in my presence?
For me, there can be no justification of any kind of censorship. freedom of speech has to mean complete freedom of speech on any topic. Otherwise, who decides what is or is not permissible? There is real hate expressed online, but the way to fight such hate is not censorship. This can actually exacerbate the feelings we wish to combat, and persuade people that, indeed, there must be some truth to the view, or why are the powers-that-be frightened of it?
Don’t we claim to be the champions of free speech in the West? If we fail to live up to this claim, we all lose.