Protected Class Confirmed

This story is generating plenty of comment on social media:

The European Court of Human Rights has ruled a woman convicted by an Austrian court of calling the Prophet Mohammed a paedophile did not have her freedom of speech rights infringed.

The woman, named only as Mrs. S, 47, from Vienna, was said to have held two seminars in which she discussed the marriage between the Prophet Mohammad and a six-year old girl, Aisha.

Mrs S. was later convicted in February 2011 by the Vienna Regional Criminal Court for disparaging religious doctrines and ordered her to pay a fine of 480 euros plus legal fees.

After having her case thrown out by both the Vienna Court of Appeal and Austria’s Supreme Court, the European Court of Human rights backed the courts’ decision to convict Mrs S. on Thursday.

The ECHR found there had been no violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the European Convention on Human Rights.

For those who doubt the Daily Mail story, the original ruling is here (pdf). A lot of people are saying this effectively outlaws blasphemy, but I’m not so sure. For my part, I think it merely re-affirms that Muslims are a protected class in Europe and the ruling classes will tolerate no criticism of them or their beliefs. Despite this decision you can be sure criticism and abuse of Christians and Jews will still be acceptable, and even encouraged in some instances. This is hardly a new development.

In a statement on Thursday the ECHR said: ‘The Court found in particular that the domestic courts comprehensively assessed the wider context of the applicant’s statements and carefully balanced her right to freedom of expression with the right of others to have their religious feelings protected, and served the legitimate aim of preserving religious peace in Austria.’

You could write a whole dissertation on what’s wrong with the above statement, but what strikes me most is that there is even a danger of the “religious peace” in Austria being broken. The last time there was religious strife in Austria was when the Protestant Reformation swept the country in the mid 1500s, followed by the 30 Years War a century later. If there are now extremist religious elements in Austria threatening the peace, it is because the ruling classes, egged on by their counterparts in Germany and the EU, have invited them in from outside.

Now note the original conviction occurred in 2011. In 2017 Austria elected a new chancellor. Here’s how The Guardian reported his forming of a government:

At the weekend the new chancellor, Sebastian Kurz, of the Austrian People’s party, struck a deal with the Freedom party, a nationalist group founded after the second world war by former members of the Nazi party and now headed by Heinz-Christian Strache.

The coalition deal makes Austria the only western European country with a far-right presence in government. At 31, Kurz is the youngest head of government in the world.

Kurz’s People’s party won 32% of the vote in October’s elections, securing 62 seats in the 183-seat national council. The Freedom party came third with 26% of the vote and 51 seats.

Which suggests the Austrian people had become fed up to the back teeth of the sort of ruling elites who prosecuted a woman for saying mean things about Mohammed, and were happy to elect anyone who pushed back.

The new interior minister, Herbert Kickl, a former speechwriter to the Freedom party’s ex-leader Jörg Haider, is the author of widely criticised campaign slogans such as “More courage for Viennese blood” and “Daham statt Islam” (“Home instead of Islam”).

Well, if you go around prosecuting ordinary people for blasphemy against Islam, you stand a strong chance they will elect a staunchly anti-Islamic government in future elections. Similarly, as we saw in the US, if the political classes suppress all discussion of immigration people will vote for the guy who talks about immigration, regardless of who he is. And how’s this for a tin-ear:

Donald Tusk, the Polish president of the European council, said he looked forward to welcoming Kurz in Brussels. “I trust that the Austrian government will continue to play a constructive and pro-European role in the European Union,” he said.

One of the few critical reactions came from the United Nations, whose rights chief said that Austria’s rightward lurch marked a “dangerous development … in the political life of Europe”

That this “dangerous development” is a direct consequence of their own contempt for ordinary people didn’t seem to occur to Mr Tusk, and now another supranational European body has doubled-down on the mindset which brought it about. As I said yesterday, Brexit really is a sideshow.

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Supreme Courts 2, Political Activists 0

This is good news:

A Belfast bakery run by evangelical Christians was not obliged to make a cake emblazoned with the message “support gay marriage”, the supreme court has ruled, overturning a £500 damages award imposed on it.

Ashers had refused to produce the cake, featuring the Sesame Street puppets Bert and Ernie, in 2014 for Gareth Lee, who supports the campaign to legalise same-sex marriage in Northern Ireland. He wanted to take it to a private function marking International Day Against Homophobia.

Crucially the judgement, which was unanimous, was based on the fact that the baker wasn’t discriminating against Lee for being gay, but objected to the message being put on the cake:

“It is deeply humiliating, and an affront to human dignity, to deny someone a service because of that person’s race, gender, disability, sexual orientation or any of the other protected personal characteristics,” Hale said in the judgment.

“But that is not what happened in this case and it does the project of equal treatment no favours to seek to extend it beyond its proper scope.”

Freedom of expression, as guaranteed by article 10 of the European convention on human rights, includes the right “not to express an opinion which one does not hold”, Hale added. “This court has held that nobody should be forced to have or express a political opinion in which he does not believe,” she said.

“The bakers could not refuse to supply their goods to Mr Lee because he was a gay man or supported gay marriage, but that is quite different from obliging them to supply a cake iced with a message with which they profoundly disagreed.”

Quite so, and it was on this issue of compelled speech which the United States Supreme Court ruled in favour of the Colorado baker back in June. It is good to see the right to freedom of expression upheld by the highest courts on both sides of the Atlantic.

After the ruling, Lee said: “I’m very confused about what this actually means.

It means you cannot demand that a business or service provider promotes political messages with which they fundamentally disagree, even if you’re gay.

We need certainty when you go to a business.

Yeah? Try getting a delivery date from a sofa company.

I’m concerned that this has implications for myself and for every single person.

Indeed it does. It means everyone must now be fully aware business owners cannot be forced to express opinions via their work with which they do not agree. If this concerns you, perhaps take a look at your own behaviour.

The original decision to turn down his order had left him feeling like a “second-class citizen”, he said.

A little bit like how I feel whenever I try to open a bank account or buy a bed. But making people feel bad isn’t illegal.

Lee said he would be considering his options, which could involve appealing to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.

So who’s paying for this? Ah:

Michael Wardlow, the head of the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland, said it had spent £250,000 supporting Lee’s appeal. It will now have to pay costs.

The British taxpayer, that’s who’s paying. Little wonder Lee has pursued this with enthusiasm; if he was paying £250 an hour for lawyers from his own pocket he would probably have just gone to a different bakery.

He said: “We are very disappointed. This judgment leaves a lack of clarity in equality law. Our understanding of certainty of the law has been overturned.

On the contrary, it has provided some much-needed clarity. That your taxpayer-funded, government department decided it had won the culture wars, and erroneously though people could be forced by law into saying things they didn’t want to, is a consequence of your own arrogance.

The supreme court seems to see this as something that should be done on a case-by-case basis.

And you seem incapable of reading a judgement.

A spokesperson for the gay rights organisation Stonewall said: “This is a backward step for equality which needs to be urgently addressed. The decision that Ashers bakery were not discriminatory in the so-called ‘gay cake’ row is very concerning for anyone who cares about equality.”

But very uplifting for anyone who cares about liberty. Now I don’t like Peter Tatchell much, not least because he seems keen to force LGBQT madness on Russians, but he’s spot on here:

But the human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell, said: “This verdict is a victory for freedom of expression. As well as meaning that Ashers cannot be legally forced to aid the promotion of same-sex marriage, it also means that gay bakers cannot be compelled by law to decorate cakes with anti-gay marriage slogans.

“Although I profoundly disagree with Ashers’ opposition to marriage equality, in a free society neither they nor anyone else should be forced to facilitate a political idea that they oppose. The ruling does not permit anyone to discriminate against LGBT people. Such discrimination rightly remains unlawful.”

Indeed.

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Speech uncompelled, at least for now

I’ve spent the afternoon reading the US Supreme Court decision regarding Masterpiece Cakeshop, Ltd. v. Colorado Civil Rights Comm’n (16-111), the case of the Christian baker refusing to make a wedding cake for a same-sex marriage. The court found in favour of Masterpiece Cakeshop by 7-2, having determined that the act of creating a custom cake constituted speech hence could not be compelled.

There are a few interesting bits in the ruling:

That consideration was compromised, however, by the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ case, which showed elements of a clear and impermissible hostility toward the sincere religious beliefs motivating his objection. As the record shows, some of the commissioners at the Commission’s formal, public hearings endorsed the view that religious beliefs cannot legitimately be carried into the public sphere or commercial domain, disparaged Phillips’ faith as despicable and characterized it as merely rhetorical, and compared his invocation of his sincerely held religious beliefs to defenses of slavery and the Holocaust. No commissioners objected to the comments.

The remarks in question were made by a Commissioner Heidi Hess, who said “freedom of religion used to justify discrimination is a despicable piece of rhetoric.” According to her bio:

Heidi Jeanne Hess is the Western Slope Field Organizer for One Colorado, coordinating the organization’s grassroots efforts, developing diverse coalitions, and bridging gaps within LGBTQ communities in Grand Junction and along the Western Slope.

Heidi is relatively new to Colorado … has been actively involved in LGBTQ rights and activism since 1982.

She has a Bachelor of Science in Journalism and a Master of Arts in Communication both from the University of Nebraska-Omaha.

That such people hold positions on Civil Rights Commissions telling bakers they must create cakes bearing a message they vehemently object to explains why this case has arrived at the Supreme Court. Thankfully they’ve given her a verbal shoeing in the process of finding against them. And this made me laugh:

In her spare time, Heidi enjoys reading, going on day trips with her partner, Dannie, and being involved with their church.

Given the Supreme Court thought her “hostile to religion”, I wonder what sort of church it is. This is interesting as well, from the court’s ruling:

The Commission ruled against Phillips in part on the theory that any message on the requested wedding cake would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the cases involving requests for cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism. The Division also considered that each bakery was willing to sell other products to the prospective customers, but the Commission found Phillips’ willingness to do the same irrelevant.

So three other bakers refused to bake cakes with anti-gay messages on them; Phillips was told this was irrelevant to his refusal to make a cake with a pro-gay message.

It’s also worth bearing in mind that this happened in 2012:

JUSTICE ALITO: It did not at the time. That is — this is very odd. We’re thinking about this case as it might play out in 2017, soon to be 2018, but this took place in 2012.

So, if Craig and Mullins had gone to a state office and said we want a marriage license, they would not have been accommodated. If they said: Well, we want you to recognize our Massachusetts marriage, the state would say: No, we won’t accommodate that. Well, we want a civil union. Well, we won’t accommodate that either. And yet, when he goes to this bake shop and he says I want a wedding cake, and the baker says, no, I won’t do it, in part because same-sex marriage was not allowed in Colorado at the time, he’s created a grave wrong. How does that all that fit together?

In other words, the baker was prosecuted for refusing to make a cake celebrating gay marriage at a time when Colorado didn’t allow or recognise gay marriage. Go figure.

I believe the Supreme Court has done the right thing in siding with the baker, but what the whole thing shows is how much of an almighty mess American law has become with the establishment of various “protected classes” each with its own set of activists looking to assert their “rights”, and when two such classes collide you’re left with judges trying to work out the pecking order.

The judges’ decision is too narrowly defined to be seen as a pushback against continued erosion of freedom of association and individual liberty in the name of anti-discrimination, and anyone raising the spectre of gays becoming second-class citizens being denied basic services is either lying or hasn’t read the ruling. I expect there will be plenty more cases like this, each more farcical than the last.

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Allowable Tolerance

This story is refreshing:

Jaelene Hinkle’s decision not to play for the U.S. women’s national soccer team last summer was, she said, a simple one. Because of her religious beliefs, and a decision by U.S. Soccer to highlight LGBTQ pride month with special jerseys during their June 2017 friendlies, Hinkle declined a call-up from the team, something she said she had dreamed about her entire life.

Note she didn’t make a fuss, or refuse to wear the jersey at a critical moment. She just passed up the opportunity to play for the national team because they wanted her to wear a gay pride shirt, and this went against her religious beliefs. This is her right, and given the sacrifice involved I’m somewhat impressed by the strength of her convictions.

She is playing for the North Carolina Courage in the National Women’s Soccer League; during a game Wednesday night against the Portland Thorns in Oregon, fans booed Hinkle, while some waved pride flags. One fan carried a sign with the words “personal reasons” — the reason publicly cited when Hinkle declined the call-up last year — in rainbow letters.

So fans booed her. A bit intolerant, but no big deal. And given this is women’s football, those pride flags might have been waving as a matter of course. But this is refreshing:

Hinkle did not speak after the match, but teammate Jessica McDonald expressed support for her. “She is high on her faith, and in my honest [opinion] that’s absolutely incredible,” McDonald said, according to the Associated Press. “If she’s for God, then that’s fine, that’s great if that’s what keeps her going in her life and keeps positivity in her life, then let that be. Everyone has their opinions about the Bible and God. It’s obviously not in my control what she thinks.

Blimey! Tolerance for other’s beliefs? I think I’ve just stepped back in time.

“At the end of the day, I’m still going to be friends with her. We have no problems with each other. She’s never said anything bad about me. She never said anything bad about anybody. So, for people to pass on that kind of judgment on another human being, I think it’s sort of uncalled for. She’s got her opinions. That’s fine. Everybody does. It hasn’t affected our team at all.”

A footballer seems to be showing more maturity than the whole of western academia combined.

Paul Riley, who coaches the Courage, said he heard the boos Wednesday, and that he supports his player.

“She’s got a good heart, and she battled through the game. It’s not an easy thing for her,” Riley said, according to the AP. “I give her a lot of credit, to be perfectly honest. Whatever her beliefs are, whatever she believes in, that’s her. It doesn’t affect the team. It doesn’t seem to affect anybody on the team.”

I think I need a lie down.

Now, contrast that story with this one:

Wallabies superstar Israel Folau has again created controversy on social media, after posting a seemingly homophobic Instagram comment.

Folau posted an image on Twitter and Instagram on Wednesday night in reference to his latest injury setback, comparing an individual’s plan to God’s plan.

Instagram user @mike_sephton commented on the image, writing: “@izzyfolau, what was gods (sic) plan for gay people??”.

Folau replied: “HELL…Unless they repent of their sins and turn to God.”

Predictably:

New Zealand’s players have added to the criticism of Australia full-back Israel Folau over anti-gay comments.

TJ Perenara, who has 42 caps, has joined fellow scrum-half Brad Weber in condemning his remarks.

“Let it go on record that I am 100% against the comments that were made by Israel. It was not OK to say that,” he said on Twitter.

“It’s not an attitude I want to see in the game I love. There is no justification for such harmful comments.

Sorry, but what’s harmful about these comments? For a start, Folau was merely answering a question put to him on social media, not standing up and declaring a formal position. What was he supposed to do, lie? He’s a Christian, and many Christians believe – rightly or wrongly – that homosexuality is a sin and its practitioners will go to hell. Aren’t we supposed to respect the religious views and practices of others? Or does that only apply to certain religions? We know the answer to that one. And in any case, if you don’t share Folau’s Christian beliefs, why do you believe in hell?

“As professional rugby players, whether we like it or not, we are role models for a lot of young people.”

And why would a player with strong Christian views not make as good a role model as one who is pro-gay?

Rugby Australia said it would not punish Folau for the remarks,

I expect because he is both very good and very popular. But good on them to resist calls for him to be punished.

but Waikato Chiefs player Weber earlier posted on Twitter: “Sick of us players staying quiet on some of this stuff. I can’t stand that I have to play this game that I love with people, like Folau, who say what he’s saying.”

So you don’t want to play rugby with people who hold certain beliefs. Note Folau didn’t say he hates gays, or doesn’t want to play with them. He simply said, in response to a question, he thought they’d end up in hell. For my part, I’m confident I’m going to end up in hell along with half my friends, this really isn’t something I worry too much about and nor should anyone.

“My cousin and her partner, and my aunty and her partner are some of the most kind, caring and loving people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.

Did Folau suggest they weren’t?

“To think that I play against someone that says they’ll go to hell for being gay disgusts me.”

Did Folau say he’s disgusted? Did he say he doesn’t want to play against anyone in particular? No, yet he’s supposedly the intolerant one. Folau has written a lengthy statement here which quite clearly lays out his religious beliefs and how they relate to sin and repentance – of any kind. If these beliefs are outlawed, we might as well ban Christianity. Perhaps that’s the plan?

Other players have thankfully taken a more mature approach:

David Pocock and Israel Folau might disagree fundamentally on the issue of LGBT rights but the Wallabies are united in believing their diametrically opposed views will not have an impact on the Australia team.

Pocock … was an outspoken advocate for equal marriage rights for same sex couples ahead of last year’s Australian referendum on the matter and has in the past called out homophobic abuse on the field of play.

“There’s nothing personal towards each other,” the fullback told reporters in Brisbane.

“I’m looking forward to seeing him … we’re both grown men and talk about things openly. We just had an open chat about our different beliefs.

“We respect each other. It doesn’t change the way we feel about each other. It won’t change anything when we step out onto the field. I’ll be there to cover him and same with him. We’re 100 percent behind each other.”

“I’ve got family who have those views and we’ve had it out over the years,” Pocock told Fairfax Media in Canberra after the match.

“The bottom line is they’re family. You talk about it in a civil way … and when you do that you realise we’ve got far more common ground than we have in difference of belief.

“I just don’t see who wins if we aren’t able to relate to each other as humans and keep talking about things rather than having these really nasty polarising debates to decide who is and isn’t part of our tribe based on their beliefs.

“We all lose something when we aren’t able to engage with people just because we disagree on something.”

Now up until this point I thought David Pocock was the most self-righteous prick to ever set foot on a rugby field, but full credit to him for the maturity and tolerance he’s shown here. Maybe he’s picked up some ideas watching American women’s soccer? The Kiwis could certainly learn something from them.

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Not a good week for Britain’s image

There’s actually not very much wrong with this per se:

A company director who fitted a laser jammer to his Range Rover and made rude gestures as he drove past police safety cameras has been jailed.

Timothy Hill, 67, threw the device in a river behind his home in Grassington when he found out that officers had launched an investigation.

Timothy Hill, 67, threw the device in a river behind his home in Grassington when he found out that officers had launched an investigation. But today he was jailed for eight months at Teesside Crown Court and banned from driving for a year for perverting the course of justice.

Now we might quibble over whether using a device to jam a speed camera constitutes perverting the course of justice and whether that deserves a custodial sentence, but what I’ve quoted above doesn’t seem too concerning. Ah, but this is Plod, and he just couldn’t keep his mouth shut:

Traffic Constable Andrew Forth, who led the investigation for North Yorkshire Police, said afterward: “If you want to attract our attention, repeatedly gesturing at police camera vans with your middle finger while you’re driving a distinctive car fitted with a laser jammer is an excellent way to do it.

“It’s also an excellent way to end up in prison. As Hill’s case shows, perverting the course of justice is a very serious charge which carries a custodial sentence.

I suspect the police are as incensed at the lack of deferential behaviour as the laser jammer, and in modern Britain that will do more than anything to bring the full weight of the law down on your head.

“It’s our job to keep road users safe across all 6,000 miles of North Yorkshire’s roads. Mobile safety camera vans are an important tool to do that – they are proven to reduce collisions and they help save lives.

“Drivers who fit laser jammers may mistakenly feel smug about ‘getting one over’ on the police. But we can tell if motorists are using these devices, and we will always endeavour to bring them to justice.”

Perhaps, but Timothy Hill isn’t the only one looking smug here. The public are getting increasingly fed up with Plod harrassing drivers and using speed traps as revenue generators, passing them off as safety measures. Condescending remarks like “it’s also an excellent way to end up in prison” only serve to illustrate the yawning chasm between the police and the public. Bad enough that Forth’s comments were, North Yorkshire police then decided to brag about it on Twitter:

The reaction to this has been absolute fury from Brits and, having crossed the Atlantic and gone viral, disbelief and mockery from Americans. Many people read the above tweet and noted the smug, condescending language from the police and, with good reason, believed this guy was jailed in part because he’d flipped off the police. Now you wouldn’t expect the tin-eared idiots who run the media accounts of British police forces to realise this, but perceptions matter. In the same week, this story did the rounds on the internet:

A teenage refugee who molested and tried to strangle a young woman as she waited for a lift home outside McDonald’s has been spared custody.

Eritrean Filmon Kbrom targeted the lone 25-year-old at 5am on July 18 last year after a night out in Maidstone.

Having urged her to follow him while grabbing at his crotch, the 18-year-old grabbed her by the wrists before trying to throttle her.

But a judge decided that there were exceptional circumstances which enabled him to avoid sending Kbrom to a young offenders’ institution.

He instead imposed a sentence of 19 months’ youth custody suspended for two years.

But Judge Philip Statman was unable to include a condition that he attends a ‘vigorous and intensive’ sex offender treatment programme, as is usually imposed in such cases, due to Kbrom’s basic knowledge of the English language.

Now perhaps the stories in the papers don’t adequately reflect the details in each case, but nevertheless you have millions of people seeing a policeman crowing about jailing a British citizen who flipped them the bird while an Eritrean asylum seeker is spared jail for sexual assault due to his poor English. Does anyone in this shambolic, idiotic government we have realise how bad this looks? Obviously not, because a few days before we had this story:

A teenager who posted rap lyrics which included racist language on Instagram has been found guilty of sending a grossly offensive message.

Chelsea Russell, 19, from Liverpool posted the lyric from Snap Dogg’s I’m Trippin’ to pay tribute to a boy who died in a road crash, a court heard.

Russell argued it was not offensive, but was handed a community order.

Prosecutors said her sentence was increased from a fine to a community order “as it was a hate crime”.

She was given an eight-week community order, placed on an eight-week curfew and told to pay costs of £500 and an £85 victim surcharge.

That’s right: a teenager has been successfully prosecuted for hate crimes for posting rap lyrics on a restricted Instagram account. So how did Plod come to hear of it?

She was charged after Merseyside Police were anonymously sent a screenshot of her update.

The screenshot was passed to hate crime unit PC Dominique Walker, who told the court the term was “grossly offensive” to her as a black woman and to the general community.

So a policewoman was sent an anonymous screenshot and decided to make it all about her. Those wondering where the crime is are not alone. Then on Monday we had this, (the background to which I wrote about here):

A man who filmed a pet dog giving Nazi salutes before putting the footage on YouTube has been fined £800.

Mark Meechan, 30, recorded his girlfriend’s pug, Buddha, responding to statements such as “Sieg Heil” by raising its paw.

The clip was viewed more than three million times on YouTube.

Meechan, of Coatbridge, North Lanarkshire, was sentenced at Airdrie Sheriff Court after being found guilty of committing a hate crime last month.

He had denied any wrong-doing and insisted he made the video, which was posted in April 2016, to annoy his girlfriend.

But Sheriff Derek O’Carroll found him guilty of a charge under the Communications Act that he posted a video on social media and YouTube which was grossly offensive because it was “anti-Semitic and racist in nature” and was aggravated by religious prejudice.

I am sure Meechan will crowdfund the £800 within minutes, and whatever it costs him to appeal this ruling, but the point is that a man can be arrested and prosecuted for making a joke, albeit a very stupid and tasteless one, and posting it on the internet. Were it not for the massive publicity surrounding his case and the outrage his prosecution generated on both sides of the Atlantic, I am sure he’d have been given a custodial sentence.

This week, many Brits and Americans have referred to these stories and made the point I made myself here:

The thing that always enrages me about governments is they are doubly shit at performing vital state functions: murdering scumbags go free and innocent people get banged up; police harass citizens over trivial matters while serious crime remains a problem; jihadists are let into the country to carry out terrorist attacks but Canadian right-wing journalists are turned back at the airport and banned for life.

The police are happy to ignore gangs of rapists preying on underage girls and take pity on foreign refugees who sexually assault British women, but make a joke, post “offensive” lyrics, or stick a middle finger up to a speed camera and you’ll be prosecuted and fined or jailed. This might be overly simplistic, but it is a perception that has been created by the British government and, as I said before, perceptions matter. Why? Because of cases like this:

The parents of seriously ill toddler Alfie Evans will challenge a High Court ruling preventing them from taking him to Italy for further treatment.

The family’s lawyers told the BBC that a hearing has been scheduled at the Court of Appeal on Wednesday afternoon.

The 23-month-old’s life support was withdrawn on Monday after the court ruled Liverpool’s Alder Hey Children’s Hospital could end his care.

Tom Evans and Kate James want to move their son to a hospital in Rome.

On Tuesday a High Court judge ruled that the family could not take him abroad for further treatment, but that he may be allowed home.

Now I don’t know the details, but these sort of medical ethics cases are fiendishly difficult moral dilemmas, particularly those that require a decision over whether to switch off life support (I remember the Terri Schiavo case well). Regardless of the facts, it is perfectly reasonable for the public to ask why, if the child is condemned to die anyway, his parents cannot seek alternative treatment or better palliative care in Italy. The government’s response, although perhaps reasonable (I don’t know), is cloaked in an air of callous indifference, oblivious to the distress of the parents and ordinary human reaction to the case. Certainly, lining up policemen outside Alfie’s hospital room is appalling optics, but then this is what this post is all about. The Times, a mouthpiece of the ruling classes whose writers look down their noses at oiks who hold opinions on things they’re not clever enough to understand, tells us:

The heartrending case of Alfie Evans has been exploited by groups more anxious to advance a broad ‘pro-life’ agenda than to support a family in desperate circumstances.

By “support a family” they mean persuade them to accept whatever choices the state makes on their child’s behalf, and deal with the consequences. A “broad pro-life agenda” is hardly something beyond the pale in such a case, especially when the alternative, state-approved option is just to let the kid die in a government hospital under police protection. Americans in particular are absolutely apoplectic over this, and see it as a clear example of arrogant, government-employed doctors disliking their expertise being questioned, and supported by judges who believe the state has a greater claim over a little boy’s life than his parents.

Now the criticism in this case might be unfair, but the British government has nobody but themselves to blame for being seen to consist of incompetent, nasty, vindictive, petty, individuals who hold the ordinary citizen in utter, absolute contempt. Theresa May, who exhibited these precise characteristics while Home Secretary and continues to do so as Prime Minister, must shoulder much of the blame for this state of affairs. What a disgrace of a country Britain has become.

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Employers, Employees, and Free Expression

From the Washington Post:

In the hours after Barbara Bush died Tuesday, even those who didn’t share the former first lady’s political views expressed their condolences and recounted warm memories of the Bush family matriarch.

But a creative writing professor at California State University at Fresno had a blunt message for those offering up fond remembrances:

“Barbara Bush was a generous and smart and amazing racist who, along with her husband, raised a war criminal,” Randa Jarrar wrote Tuesday night on Twitter, according to the Fresno Bee.

In another tweet, the professor wrote: “I’m happy the witch is dead. can’t wait for the rest of her family to fall to their demise the way 1.5 million iraqis have. byyyeeeeeee.”

None of this is remotely surprising to anyone familiar with political discourse in the US over the past ten years. The story continues:

Jarrar’s words — and others that she used as she argued with critics for hours during an overnight tweetstorm — sparked a backlash that would soon prompt the university to distance itself from her remarks.

School officials also said they were reviewing the tenured professor’s position, and the university’s president and provost have rebuked Jarrar.

The professor taunted those attacking her, sharing a contact number that was that of Arizona State University’s suicide hotline, and said she was a tenured professor who makes $100,000 a year.

“I will never be fired,” she tweeted.

Fresno State originally responded to the controversy with a statement by Castro that said Jarrar’s words were “obviously contrary to the core values of our University” but that they “were made as a private citizen.”

Leaving aside comments from the masses on Twitter, almost every prominent conservative commentator who has weighed in on this has specifically said she should not be fired. This is good: as I’ve argued in the context of Juli Briskman flipping the bird to Trump’s motorcade, I don’t think employers should have the right to fire employees for political (or any) remarks they make in private without first demonstrating actual, lasting commercial or reputational damage has been done to the organisation as a direct result. American lawyer Ken White, who goes by the name of Popehat on Twitter, has done a good lawsplainer on the Jarrar case, which is further complicated because the government is her employer. It’s worth reading in full, but here are the bits I found most interesting:

Generally, the First Amendment prevents only the government, not your employer, from punishing you for your speech. But what if the government is your employer? Well, then the First Amendment offers you some protection from being punished by your employer for your speech. That protection is governed by a multi-stage analysis.

The second stage of the analysis is another question: was the government employee acting as a private citizen, or as part of their job duties? If they were speaking as part of their job duties, the First Amendment doesn’t protect them.

Here, it seems clear that Professor Jarrar was not tweeting in the course of her duties as a professor. She was apparently on leave at the time and the scope of her duties do not include Twitter. Fresno State proclaimed in a tweet that she was speaking in her private capacity. (That was a clear reference to this analytical structure.)

So, the law recognises the difference between speech delivered as part of their job duties and that of a private citizen. This is important.

The third stage of the analysis involves a balancing test: the interest of the public employee against the interest of the public employer in promoting the efficient delivery of public services. This is by far the most touchy-feely part of the analysis. Can the government employer show that the speech in question so disrupted the workplace that it interfered with orderly business in a way that outweighs the employee’s speech rights?

And this for me is the crucial test that ought to apply to any employer who wishes to terminate the contract of an employee for speech which is wholly unrelated to their duties or profession. Today this only applies if the government is the employer, but I’d like to see this applied more widely as a matter of straightforward contract law. Popehat concludes:

Professor Jarrar was speaking as a private individual on a matter of public interest. It would be difficult for Fresno State to establish that the tweets about Barbara Bush themselves caused the sort of disruption of the school’s business that so outweighs her free speech interests so that it would justify her termination.

Which I agree with.

Now some of you will argue that Jarrar’s comments bring Fresno into disrepute, as many people now see what sort of morons that insinuation employs as professors. This is entirely correct, but it’s not the employee’s fault; the problem is the university for hiring morons as professors in the first place, not the employee for acting like a moron in a private capacity. Fresno obviously has no problem hiring people like Jarrar, and probably encourages opinions like hers in their lecture halls while simultaneously culturing an atmosphere which is openly hostile to conservatives. Their problem is this has now been widely exposed and they’re being subject to ridicule, but I don’t see why the employee should bear the brunt of this. If a university wants to go around hiring lunatics, they can’t then blame the lunatics for publicly expressing opinions which are met with approval in the privacy of their own corridors. Note that Fresno seemed quite happy with Jarrar and her performance until this episode, so why would they fire her?

I expect as time goes on and we see more instances of employees being dismissed for expressing unapproved opinions in a private capacity, many cases will reveal enormous failings on the part of the management who should not have hired this person in the first place, or should have got rid of them for professional reasons years ago. If the employee is good, his or her private opinions shouldn’t matter. But the same is true if the employee is poor. Most of this is the result of weak or bad management, which appears to be widespread. It’s time it was improved.

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Employment and Free Speech

A few months ago I wrote about the case of Juli Briskman, who was fired by her employer over a photo of her raising a middle finger to Donald Trump’s motorcade. Even though I thought Briskman was rather juvenile, and also rather dim for making the photo her profile picture on social media, I believed it was nothing to do with her employer and she’d been dismissed unfairly. Most of my commenters disagreed, either on the grounds that employers have, or should have, the right to fire anyone for any reason (or none), or that the photo could have cost the company future business.

I saw in the news last week that Briskman intends to sue her employer for wrongful dismissal:

A US cyclist who was sacked over a viral photo of her making an obscene gesture to President Donald Trump’s motorcade is suing her former employer.

Juli Briskman was fired by government contractor Akima LLC in November 2017 after a press photographer travelling with the president captured the image.

“Americans should not be forced to choose between their principles and their paychecks,” her lawsuit states.

Her lawyers argue her right to free speech was violated by the firing.

I think she should and I hope she wins. I understand people will disagree with me, but I don’t believe companies have a right to dictate your behaviour outside of working hours, with obvious exceptions for criminal behaviour. That the work contract is drawn up between two free and consenting parties doesn’t change that, unless specific behaviours which could lead to dismissal are identified. Most employers use the vague catch-all of “bringing the company into disrepute”, but I believe the onus should be on employers to demonstrate disrepute has been brought and damage has been done.

Now I understand the principle that any employee is free to refuse a contract which allows for their dismissal should their political opinions fall foul of the HR department, just the same as I understood The Atlantic had every right to fire Kevin Williamson. The problem I have is only one section of society is expected to abide by these principles while the other has none whatsoever. Many government workers – teachers, police, doctors, nurses, council members, BBC employees – frequently engage in politics, often of the extremist variety, at events and rallies which are fully endorsed by their management. I have seen videos from NUT conferences, and reports from the junior doctors’ revolt. I have seen profiles of the sort of people who turn up to anti-government protests, Antifa and BLM rallies, anti-Israel marches, and other events organised by the professionally aggrieved; a lot of them draw their salary from the taxpayer, and feel no reason to refrain from expressing their political views, with many even doing so in their professional capacity. Academia is another area chock-full of people who routinely express extremist political views safe in the knowledge they won’t even raise an eyebrow with their employers, let get alone hauled in front of management and fired.

So we have a situation where hardcore rabble-rousers on the left are free to spout their opinions and attack their political opponents from a safe position of lifelong job security, while everyone else should keep their mouths shut or risk being fired. Because principles. And the right wonders why it’s been utterly defeated in the culture wars.

Unless there is some serious pushback, and companies are required to demonstrate actual disrepute and damages (or at least a credible mechanism for the same, not hypotheticals along the lines of “if a defence worker had seen it, it could have cost us a contract”), political tests in the private, commercial sector will become the norm for all employees. They already exist in academia: ask Streetwise Professor how many Republicans can be found working in American universities. It will also become extremely risky to engage in any sort of political activity that doesn’t align with that of the HR department. I’d not be surprised in the next few years to hear of an employee being fired for admitting he voted for Brexit (or similar), along with a bland statement from the company spokesperson about how his behaviour “didn’t reflect the values of the company”.

It’s becoming increasingly obvious that being an employee is no longer about fulfilling what’s in your job description, but adhering to a vague set of moral values which are policed inconsistently by the sort of people who’d dob you in to the council for putting out the wrong bin. So-called conservatives seem to have nothing to say about this, other than to speak of lofty principles which bear little relation to reality. “HSBC closed your account? Barclays too? Well, that’s their right, you can always go and open your own bank.” Now principles are good; I generally don’t think we should kick in the doors of our enemies’ houses and slit their throats, for example. But if the other side has been slitting throats for some time and they’ve reached the next street, principles of non-violence aren’t going to help very much.

I have no time for companies that think they have a right to police employee’s behaviours and opinions outside of work, nor HR departments who scour social media looking for examples of wrongthink they can use to threaten underlings. People join companies to be compensated for the work they perform and the time they put in, not to have their political opinions suppressed and wholly unrelated aspects of their lives regulated. If this isn’t nipped in the bud now, it will get much worse. So far, it is mainly politics, but how long before being a Christian, or a smoker, or enjoying a drink, or mocking polyamory is enough to get you fired? And let’s be quite clear, these things are applied retroactively, as we saw with Toby Young.

Juli Briskman excepted, the political left will be only too happy with this state of affairs, meaning it falls to the right to put a stop to it. This doesn’t necessarily mean government intervention, just a more sensible interpretation of contract law. If I hire a builder for a house extension, and he turns up with the expectation of 3 months work, and a month in I fire him because I find out he supports the wrong football team, I believe he has grounds to be compensated for the entire job. He has been put to huge inconvenience and lost out on work of equivalent value he could have taken instead, because he didn’t meet criteria he was unaware of when he entered the contract.

Similarly, if an employee is fired for something wholly unrelated to their work (and the onus should be on the employer to prove any connection), they should sue for compensation on the grounds they were unaware of this specific criteria, they could not have reasonably foreseen it, and they could have taken a job they were more suited to had the employer not kept this criteria secret. The way I see it is this: if an employer hires somebody who’s personal behaviour and political opinions don’t match those of the company management, it is their mistake, not the employee’s.

Leaving aside the suggestion that Briskman’s photo might have cost her employer work, if “not disrespecting Trump’s motorcade” was a requirement of her employment they should have made this clear during the hiring process. If they didn’t, she has the right to engage in any legal activity outside her working hours that she pleases, including flipping off Trump’s limo and posting the photo on social media. I’m glad she’s suing, and I hope she wins.

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The Defenestration of Kevin Williamson

There’s a big fuss going on in the US right now over the decision of those running The Atlantic to fire the writer Kevin Williamson, who was only recently hired. This came after several days of liberals calling en masse for his sacking because in a recent podcast he had said he thought abortion should be illegal, and women who have them be treated the same as anyone else who commits homicide. He then went further and said they ought to be hanged.

Note that he didn’t say all women who have had an abortion should be hanged. He was simply arguing that abortion should be made illegal, and when it is illegal, women who have abortions should be charged with homicide. As a conservative position this is rather unremarkable, but these days expressing views which Obama held in his first term makes you a Nazi in liberal circles. His remarks about hanging women who breach any future laws on abortion were clumsy in hindsight, but he was speaking on a podcast not writing policy.

Anyway, liberals smelled blood in the water and screamed blue murder, and The Atlantic’s Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg fired Williamson:

The top editor emphasized that Williamson’s firing was not a result of his being anti-abortion—a common position for deeply religious Americans of all political stripes—but because of how his especially violent belief conflicts with the “values of our workplace.”

What he means is that employees at The Atlantic didn’t want to work with someone who held Williamson’s views, just as Google employees demanded management fire James Damore when they learned he held different opinions to them. Naturally, demented liberal feminists stepped forward to exaggerate, misrepresent, lie, and try to convince people they would actually feel unsafe around Williamson:

Such is the level of political debate in the US these days.

I don’t have an awful lot of sympathy for Williamson, however. People call him a conservative but I think at this stage it’s fair to ask any influential American who’s worn that label for more than 10 years what exactly they have conserved. From what I can tell, they’ve ceded so much ground to liberals they might as well stop pretending they’re anything else. Most Republican politicians would much rather be Democrats, and much the same could be said about the likes of Williamson: it goes without saying he was a “never Trumper” and would rather see Democrats running government than a Republican he doesn’t like. They made a decent living from saying stuff that was a little to the right of liberals, but never so far they’d upset them and be excluded from polite company in whichever metropolitan coastal city they reside. Ben Shapiro’s another one who’s done well at this, dismantling lunatic lefty arguments but making damned sure he doesn’t stray too far off the reservation and get tossed off any list of invitations. Consider the serious, right-wing concerns that any ordinary American conservative might have and see how many people outside the Alt-Right are actually speaking bluntly about them, and not just skirting around the issue with so many caveats and contradictions they might as well not have kept quiet.

The problem Williamson has, and this will catch people like Shapiro too, is the Overton window is narrowing at such an alarming rate that even opposing abortion can now get you hounded from your job by a baying mob of lunatic women and castrated men making ludicrous claims they’re being threatened with violence. Jeffrey Goldberg obviously has no balls, or is an idiot, or perhaps both, but if you build an entire career – as Williamson did – which is dependent on people like that, and consists mainly of keeping a close eye on not offending lunatics who despise you, then I can’t say I have much sympathy. Perhaps if he spent less time bashing Trump supporters he’d have seen this coming?

The real concern here is that a baying mob of lefty lunatics are expanding the scope of who they can hound from a job. It started in academia, now it’s moved onto journalism. It’s already creeping into tech. How long before this becomes commonplace, with anyone who expresses perfectly reasonable political views suddenly finding themselves fired from their jobs, and perhaps blacklisted from their industry? A lot of people are defending Goldberg and The Atlantic on the grounds that a private company should be able to hire and fire anyone they like, but we’re on dangerous territory. What are these blacklisted people supposed to do for a living, then? Others defend the likes of Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube closing accounts of those with unapproved opinions, many of which are quite benign but fall foul of the self-appointed moral guardians of the left. Sure they’re private companies, but so are banks, insurers and electricity providers. How long before the wrong comment online causes a howling mob to descend on your health, travel, or car insurer, who suddenly pulls coverage? Or you find your credit card frozen? What options do wrong-thinkers have, short of starting their own company providing every kind of service they could ever want? And how long before everyone reading this blog is a wrong-thinker?

Something’s gone badly wrong, and liberal rent-a-mobs have found a way to seriously screw with the lives of those with different opinions while the government sits back and says “nothing to do with us”. Even if those mobs turn violent, as we see every time a “controversial” speaker is invited anywhere, we get the same line. We also get a lot of conservatives and libertarians defending the right of employers and service providers to fire someone or close their accounts when lunatics like Antonova bombard their email inboxes and Twitter feeds with unhinged rants like the one above, which makes me wonder if the right has grasped the gravity of the situation and where it could lead.

I don’t know what the solution is, and government intervention will only make things worse, but they could at least get out of the way. Having tens of millions of people in protected, unionised government jobs or working in taxpayer-funded organisations who are able to mobilise and demand CEOs of private companies clobber their political opponents is something which probably ought to be addressed. Otherwise I don’t really know, but I can see there is a problem and I’m confident in saying it won’t end well.

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Death Threats in a Land of Suppressed Speech

This is interesting:

Count Dankula is the chap who has been prosecuted in Scotland for teaching his dog to effect a Nazi salute, as I wrote about here. Now I suspect the “death threats” were nothing of the sort (similar to Cathy Newman’s complaints about receiving “death threats” after her car-crash of an interview with Jordan Peterson), or were not credible. But nowadays someone tweeting “get in the sea, you idiot” will have Plod on television speaking sternly about “death threats” provided the recipient belongs to a protected class and the sender is just some oik. There was a time when the police used to be able to differentiate between credible death threats and some idiot mouthing off, but nowadays you’d be impressed if they could tell a nerve agent from a travel agent.

Now I don’t know why Dankula is raging so much about this – maybe he thinks he’s done enough martyrdom and it’ll help with his sentencing if he’s seen denouncing it? – but he needs to realise it’s out of his hands. If this death threat is real, it won’t be sent out of concern over the fate of Mark Meechan, but of free speech and what its curtailment could mean for life in Britain. It might come as a surprise to Britain’s ruling classes, perhaps even Meechan himself, but there might be people out there willing to fight and possibly die to ensure citizens are not sent to jail for telling jokes.

This is a serious matter, and if the judge didn’t carefully consider the full potential implications of his ruling then he’s remarkably stupid. Those responsible for Meechan’s conviction are the government, police, and judiciary. Traditionally, if anyone were to disagree with how these organisations conduct themselves they could campaign to have them changed, but if they can jail people for saying the wrong things then this is no longer an option. So what are people left with? Well, they could hoist the flag and start slitting throats. But we’re not there yet, not quite anyway.

Like I said, I doubt this death threat is credible but the Sun’s headline ought to have sparked a conversation as to what form political protest will take in a society where someone can be jailed for teaching a dog to salute. It doesn’t seem as though anyone in power has thought about this, and it’s taken the judge quite by surprise. I’m sure he’ll be quite safe, but if Britain continues down this road of arresting and charging people for unapproved opinions, sooner or later the death threats will start becoming real, and later they will stop being mere threats. Nobody wants that, and the solution is for the government and the imbeciles that work for them to stop this madness now, before it’s too late.

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The British police should be avoided at all costs

This is sort of a follow-up to my previous post. Over the past week, the good folk on Twitter have posted three things which ought to leave British citizens in no doubt as to the nature of the police forces which rule over them:

This state of affairs would not matter so much were real crimes not a problem in the UK. The trade-off in having oppressive laws in Singapore, and a police force willing to enforce them, is that violent crimes and crimes against property are extremely low. Now crime might be dropping overall in the UK (not that I trust the government figures), but knifings and acid attacks are a weekly occurrence in London, young girls are being groomed and raped en masse in various cities across the country, and every few months some lunatic Islamist pulls off an attack and we all light candles. Regardless of what the actual crime figures show, the perception among the public is that serious crimes are not being dealt with while the police, who are always moaning about a “lack of resources”, are engaged full-time in monitoring people’s speech and arresting anyone who utters unapproved opinions. A year ago I wrote:

[F]or policing to work a critical mass of ordinary, law-abiding people across both the middle classes and working classes must see them as being on their side against the criminals. Not necessarily on their side per se, just on their side against the criminals. It doesn’t really matter what the rich think, they can hire their own security and/or lobby government to have the police look after their interests as first priority. It is the masses that need to be kept on side.

If the police in Britain … want to remain relevant, they had better make up their minds whose side they are on and inform the law-abiding masses of their decision, preferably via demonstration rather than empty speeches.

I already think we are well on the road to many British people considering the police part of the problem, merely another branch of the criminal classes to be avoided at all costs. I keep hearing that the “rank-and-file” don’t buy into this crap and it is foisted on them by politicians and upper management, but this doesn’t explain the almost gleeful manner in which ordinary policemen and women go about enforcing these Orwellian rules. There is plenty of room for a bobby on the beat to turn a blind eye or refuse to report actions which will obviously result in a gross miscarriage of justice and perhaps that happens, but I read about far too many instances like this:

A van driver was arrested by a group of police officers after challenging them because they were parked on a double yellow line. Andy Mayfield, 53, was held in custody for 12 hours and strip searched under anti-terror laws after he started filming the cops, who were parked illegally outside their own police station in Ashton-on-Ribble, Lancashire in January. He was detained under the Terrorism Act and submitted to a rigorous questioning at the Newton Heath terrorism centre in Manchester before eventually being released.

I think it’s high time British policemen were shunned from polite society, particularly those in the higher ranks, unless they have unequivocally demonstrated whose side they are on. The default approach to a policeman should be that afforded to a bouncer at a Manchester nightclub, someone to be avoided except when absolutely necessary and even then contact kept to an absolute minimum. The day policeman cannot arrest ordinary citizens on trumped-up terror charges and expect to interact with normal society afterwards is the day they will start to change. But while the middle-classes support this stuff and engage with policemen on supposedly equal terms, rather than demand those responsible are fired on the spot, things will only get worse.

I will not ever call for policemen to be lynched by a mob. I would not ever condone policemen being lynched by a mob. But I suspect there will come a point in future where, if I see a mob lynching policemen, I will walk on by having seen nothing. If the police don’t wise up soon and change course, there is even a chance I’ll stop and watch. I doubt I’ll be alone.

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