The right to be rude
Oct 20, 2012
Bishop Hill in Civil liberties

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.’ ”

Article originally appeared on (
See website for complete article licensing information.