Saturday, 15 September 2012

Blip: Freedom of the internet

It’s a very sad time for freedom of speech and freedom of the press. Legislation has still not caught up with the fact that the internet is neither private speech nor official publishing so the law still sees everything we say on the internet as an official opinion that we back and can be held responsible for. Azhar Ahmed, a British Muslim, was charged recently for ranting on Facebook about his disdain for soldiers. He said that they should die and go to hell because he is a pacifist and doesn’t believe in violence. I’m glossing over his stupidity a little because although he might not be all there, that isn’t the issue at hand. He has been charged for making ‘Derogatory, disrespectful and inflammatory” remarks: All things that aren’t illegal.

The legal system has simply proven it's biased. How come Gordon Brown wasn’t arrested for publicly calling Gillian Duffy a bigot? Why is Jonathon Ross not arrested every time he does a show and insults someone? Why would I not be arrested for saying what Azhar Ahmed said to a soldiers face? There is a terrible bias against the internet and in the favour of people deemed morally superior. If your job is to go to war then you are given a degree of legal impunity. I agree that the comments he made were not to my taste. They were a little dim and short-sighted and could be offensive to some. But being controversial should not lead to potential jail time.

We like to think that our blog is sometimes offensive. Offending people can be the best way to affect them and that’s what we’re trying to do. We want to get people thinking about important issues yet now our methods are going to have to change. It’s a true shame that the wish to express yourself on the internet, on a page that is freely accessed but by no means forced on anyone, means that you are held personally responsible for a twisted form of slander all because the laws haven’t been updated yet.

The reason, by the way, that Azhar Ahmed was arrested in the first place is that Ashleigh Craig (a woman who knows some dead soldiers) reported him for his comments. That’s the truth of this bias open for us all to see. Soldiers get special treatment and now anyone professing to be doing something in the name of soldiers gets the same preferential treatment, even to the degree that they can get people arrested and charged over an ‘inflammatory remark.’

I am largely a pacifist because I have no delusions that a people can be controlled or supressed by force without problems that will necessarily come out at some point. But, nonetheless, I’m not going to make a comment on the same lines of Azhar Ahmed because I could actually face jail time, as he does, for ham-handedly supporting non-violence. I will, however, happily attack this Ashleigh Craig. She is a despicable human being. She is in full support of suppressing opinions through official and judicial means that she doesn’t agree with. Her friends should be careful, if you offend her, she’ll be arguing for the death sentence. And if the case of Julian Assange shows us anything, it’s that the Americans will be more than happy to oblige.  

Blip (signature in preparation)

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