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« Back | Main | DECC and sociology »
Saturday
Oct202012

The right to be rude

Tom Chivers  in the Telegraph on freedom of speech:

...there is a difference between taboos on rudeness, held in place by social convention, and legally enforced politeness. Have we outsourced our sense of decency to the state? The law as it stands can be used to make almost any angry or offensive speech criminal. As I hope I’ve shown in this piece, some of the greatest English literature, and much of humanity’s most entertaining language, is angry or offensive. Should the law suppose that we are so volatile that we need to have our every word policed for inflammatory content?

Luckily, Charles Dickens has prepared an insult that does just the job at answering that question: “ 'If the law supposes that,’ said Mr Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, 'the law is an ass – an idiot.’ ”

http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/tomchiversscience/100185612/how-can-rudeness-be-criminal-the-best-insults-are-pure-poetry/

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Reader Comments (20)

Without doubt some of us are far too thin-skinned now. However, being rude to a policeman is not only unwise - he has a job to do, and you should be sanctioned - but when being rude from a position of power, such as a member of the government, it shows a distinct lack of breeding.

Oct 20, 2012 at 9:52 AM | Unregistered CommenterHuhneToTheSlammer

Since when did people have a "Human Right" to be 'not offended'?

Oct 20, 2012 at 10:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterJoe Public

In the link it is correctly quoted as "a ass" not "an". Which is better.

Generally, what a strange and unpleasant world we are creating.

Oct 20, 2012 at 10:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterMike Fowle

They must give us a list of insults we can use with impunity.

Or sell us that list. If, at the end of the year, we have some left over we could trade them to people who have used theirs all up.

Oct 20, 2012 at 10:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

The PCC very helpfully gave out some guidelines when adjudicating on UAE v Delingpole last year. If our utterances are to be ruled by law then then they can also be tested in it.

...described Professor Phil Jones as “disgraced, FOI-breaching, email-deleting, scientific-method abusing”.

For those that may have not noticed it.

Oct 20, 2012 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered Commenterssat

The media is in the pocket of the authorities, the MSM has closed down all debate concerning just about anything contentious - propaganda is the norm and the state is becoming totalitarian - Orwell had words for it: newspeak and thought crime.

It's the white middle class PC Stasi, government apologists and those who inhabit that nether world of the grauniad-o-sphere and twitterati-sphere - who take offence on 'behalf' of others who are at fault here, plus, the 'I'm a victim' industry is out of control - life is hard, life can be good and cruel and that's the way of it.

If people cannot bear to hear the truth and lets face it - this is what it is all about; be it about energy, CAGW, immigration, systemic rape of young girls in care - if you cannot bear honest and forthright opinion articulating the reality - then, just who is the one with the problem?

Oct 20, 2012 at 11:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterAthelstan.

I'd comment but I'm scared I'd be locked up.

Oct 20, 2012 at 1:27 PM | Unregistered CommenterShevva

@ HuhneToTheSlammer: Sorry but you have completely - and I mean COMPLETELY - missed the point. Apart from that, I disagree with literally everything you said.

"Without doubt some of us are far too thin-skinned now."
By who's standards? And why "now?" You think earlier generations were less easily offended than today's? By what evidence? Remember Mary Whitehouse?

"...when being rude from a position of power, such as a member of the government, it shows a distinct lack of breeding."

Utter nonsense. Churchill (to give one example) was famous for his rudeness and not many would doubt his moral class, wit and humour. Lack of breeding, my arse!

But ALL of this misses the point, which is that in a free society being rude or offensive is not (and should not) be a criminal offence. And screw anyone who thinks otherwise. With knobs on! Ha!

Oct 20, 2012 at 1:33 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid, UK

Incivility has been made criminality. Times are bad.

Oct 20, 2012 at 2:10 PM | Registered CommenterSimon Hopkinson

Andrew Mitchell was a complete arse, Winston Churchill was probably a complete arse from time to time but considering the weight he carried on his shoulders I think we can forgive him.
The criminality is the problem because there is no doubt that some of the ways in which people behave is genuinely unacceptable; deciding how to deal with it is the question that needs to be answered.
The British sense of humour is/was very sarcastic and this should be protected; it should be perfectly acceptable to poke fun at anyone or any organisation and that includes swearing. However how do you then deal with say the Muslim response to a picture of a man with a turban which has rockets sticking out of it? The picture was an almost totally accurate picture since there had just been an assassination attempt by a man wearing a turban stuffed with explosives. However death threats and a fatwa followed.

The death threats are unacceptable and so was the young Muslim who said all British soldiers should burn in hell and so was the idiot who wore a T shirt celebrating the recent death of women police officers. I have no idea how to deal with that.

Moving on to our glorious state;

My behaviour should be subject to reasonable laws but not how much I drink.
How much salt I consume is my business and nothing to do with the state, similarly with fat, dairy produce etc.
The speed at which I drive my car should not be the business of the state but I should be subject to reasonable laws about the danger to others.

Oct 20, 2012 at 2:53 PM | Registered CommenterDung

I had many conversations with the british police during my stay there. Many a conversation in very many different parts of the country.

It was difficult to find an honest policeman and many were rude beyond extreme including f;;ing and blinding at me. They appeared to enjoy ridiculing as much and as often as possible those members of the public who appeared to be socially more 'mobile' than them.

At no time was I able to persuade very senior officers to either reprimand or dismiss the offending officers. Every encounter I had with the britidh police was defined by the same parameters, Rudeness, lying, swearing animals.

Now as soon as I heard about this Mitchell incident I asked myself the question; why did this officer demand that he dismount? Did this officer deliberately provoke the incident out of shear pique because of the cuts in funding. We all know how angry Crimatologists become over their reductions in funding !

I asked a few friends in the UK about Mitchel, of course, and he does not get raving reviews. In fact, you could say that the two antagonists MAY have been of similar character.

This was a minor contretemp, in my humble opinion, that need not have developed into such a mess. It stinks of political manoevering.

Oct 20, 2012 at 4:31 PM | Unregistered Commenterstephen richards

It's not exactly Shakespeare, but . . .

Once an honest man could go from sunrise to its set
Without encountering agents of his state or government
But a sorry cloud of tyranny has fallen across the land
Brought on by the hollow men who did not understand
That for centuries our forefathers have fought and often died

To keep themselves unto themselves, to fight the rising tide
That if in the smallest battles we surrender to the state
We enter in a darkness whence we never shall escape
When they raise their hands up our lives to possess
To know our souls, to drag us down, we'll resist

Watt Tyler led the people in 1381
To meet the king at Smithfield to issue this demand
That Winchester's should be the only law across the land
The law of old King Alfred's time of free and honest men
'Cause the people then they understood what we have since forgot
That the government will only work for their own benefit

And I'd rather stand up naked against the elements alone
Than give the hollow men the right to enter in my home
When they raise their hands up our lives to possess
To know our souls, to drag us down, we'll resist

Stand up, sons of liberty, and fight for what you own
Stand up, sons of liberty, and fight, fight for your homes
Stand up, sons of liberty, and fight for what you own
Stand up, sons of liberty, and fight, fight for your homes
Stand up sons of liberty, and fight for what you own
Stand up sons of liberty, and fight, fight for your homes
Stand up sons of liberty, and fight for what you own
Stand up sons of liberty, and fight, fight for your homes

So if ever a man should ask you for your business or your name
Tell him to go and fuck himself, tell his friends to do the same
'Cause a man who'd trade his liberty for a safe and dreamless sleep
Doesn't deserve the both of them and neither shall he keep


Frank Turner

Oct 20, 2012 at 4:32 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

Dung,
At my 'speed awareness training' day I was warned that the kinetic energy I was controlling when driving was more influenced by speed than by mass. Seems fair.
I mentioned that my licence allows me to drive a 7.5ton truck with a 4ton trailer up to 30mph in a built up area. I asked why I wasn't granted the same energy budget in a built-up area when driving my Isetta which sports a mass of just 360kg. No-one could do the sums in their head so we moved swiftly on.

Oct 20, 2012 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered CommenterAlan Reed

I particularly like th last line:

. . . Achil. How now, thou core of envy!
Thou crusty batch of nature, what’s the news?
Ther. Why, thou picture of what thou seemest, and idol of idiot-worshippers, here’s a letter for thee. 10
Achil. From whence, fragment?
Ther. Why, thou full dish of fool, from Troy.
Patr. Who keeps the tent now?
Ther. The surgeon’s box, or the patient’s wound.
Patr. Well said, adversity! and what need these tricks? 15
Ther. Prithee, be silent, boy: I profit not by thy talk: thou art thought to be Achilles’ male varlet.
Patr. Male varlet, you rogue! what’s that?
Ther. Why, his masculine whore. Now, the rotten diseases of the south, the guts-griping, ruptures, catarrhs, loads o’ gravel i’ the back, lethargies, cold palsies, raw eyes, dirt-rotten livers, wheezing lungs, bladders full of imposthume, sciaticas, lime-kilns i’ the palm, incurable bone-ache, and the rivelled fee-simple of the tetter, take and take again such preposterous discoveries!
Patr. Why, thou damnable box of envy, thou, what meanest thou to curse thus?
Ther. Do I curse thee? 20
Patr. Why, no, you ruinous butt, you whoreson indistinguishable cur, no.
Ther. No! why art thou then exasperate, thou idle immaterial skein of sleave silk, thou green sarcenet flap for a sore eye, thou tassel of a prodigal’s purse, thou? Ah! how the poor world is pestered with such water-flies, diminutives of nature.
Patr. Out, gall!
Ther. Finch egg!
Achil. My sweet Patroclus, I am thwarted quite 25
From my great purpose in to-morrow’s battle.
Here is a letter from Queen Hecuba,
A token from her daughter, my fair love,
Both taxing me and gaging me to keep
An oath that I have sworn. I will not break it: 30
Fall Greeks; fail fame; honour or go or stay;
My major vow lies here, this I’ll obey.
Come, come, Thersites, help to trim my tent;
This night in banqueting must all be spent.
Away, Patroclus! [Exeunt ACHILLES and PATROCLUS. 35
Ther. With too much blood and too little brain, these two may run mad; but if with too much brain, and too little blood they do, I’ll be a curer of madmen. Here’s Agamemnon, an honest fellow enough, and one that loves quails, but he has not so much brain as ear-wax: . . .

Oct 20, 2012 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered Commentertheduke

In the US it is not illegal nor actionable in any other way to simply be rude or express "angry" speech. If what you say is not knowingly false, or detrimental to society (yelling "fired" in a crowded theater), there's not much that can be done legally. Perhaps the UK should consider such a position.

Mark

*I should note, this is why Mickey Mann does not sue anyone in the US. Not only would he get hammered on discovery, but he'd likely get counter-sued for the trouble caused and quickly find himself in deep debt and out of supporters.

Oct 20, 2012 at 4:54 PM | Unregistered CommenterMark T

I've always said it: I find political correctness highly offensive.

Oct 20, 2012 at 8:56 PM | Unregistered CommenterJimmy Haigh

Jimmy
That is the one case of "offended" where the law does not fall on your side.

How have we let the UK drift into this situation? Health & safety has suffered a similar excessive rise in profile and there are too many other areas.

1984....

Oct 20, 2012 at 10:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterArgusfreak

David, UK said:

"Without doubt some of us are far too thin-skinned now."
By who's standards? And why "now?" You think earlier generations were less easily offended than today's? By what evidence? Remember Mary Whitehouse?

Yes, I do remember Mary Whitehouse and although I think she tended to complain about too many things I also think you do her an injustice. She did not complain simply because she was offended. She complained about things that she thought were damaging to society. It is because people in the media thought that swearing was liberating that we now how people like Andrew Mitchell swearing at police officers.

Mind you the police should not have been so officious as to prevent him from using an entrance that he had used many times before. The apologists for the police have not given any good reason for their preventing Mitchell from using that entrance.

Oct 21, 2012 at 9:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterRoy

Roy said:

Yes, I do remember Mary Whitehouse and although I think she tended to complain about too many things I also think you do her an injustice. She did not complain simply because she was offended. She complained about things that she thought were damaging to society. It is because people in the media thought that swearing was liberating that we now how people like Andrew Mitchell swearing at police officers.

Again, all of this misses the point Roy. There are lots of things happening that at least someone somewhere believes is "damaging to society." You don't build laws on such unquantifiable, subjective matters. You don't outlaw something because it is offensive, unless you feel it's your God-given right to be judge and jury of all things offensive, of course.

As for your theory as to why we have "people like Andrew Mitchell" (whoever they are) swearing at police officers - you say that as if swearing is a new phenomenon or something. Or as if swearing is a bad thing. To you maybe, but not to many of us. My Grandma used to frequently tell off my Grandfather for swearing because she hated it, but he loved it. And I'm talking pretty blue language by their standards; such words as "fiddlesticks," "poppycock" and "codswallop." But he still swore, and you know what? Nobody died. [Manners]

Oct 21, 2012 at 2:17 PM | Unregistered CommenterDavid, UK

In my view, Andrew Mitchell's crime (as so often) was the attempted cover up afterwards.

He weasled immediately he was asked what he said and also claimed not to have used any abusive language. This turns out to have been untrue, unless 'effing' isn't abusive any more!

Oct 22, 2012 at 11:38 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

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