Last night I was reminded once again of why I should probably avoid the local news, because a lot of the time it just gets me worked up into a frenzy. Usually the lack of stories in the local area means that our attention has to be brought to something completely ineffectual but what I basically learned last night is that we in Britain lack a little certain something a lot of Americans take for granted. Essentially, what Britain needs to consider taking into account is the right to free speech.
Two of the stories featured on the BBC’s ‘East Midlands Today’ last night (they might have been the top two but I can’t quite recall exactly) fixated on very loose definitions of the concept of a hate crime.
1. Posting anti-gay leaflets
2. A chanting football crowd being potentially racist
Now, despite the fact that both of those acts, assuming they were meant in the way they were reported, were wrong and show the prejudices of the people involved to what some would say was too far.
However, in the first case the distributors have gone to court and in the second there is an ongoing police investigation.
Does it strike you as odd that people can get arrested just for saying these things? Sure it’s wrong but there are people saying much worse things around the country that aren’t being disturbed for it, and in fact they shouldn’t be, because people have a right to free speech, and given that no-one has actually been harmed by these actions and that no-one has a right not to be offended, surely this does not qualify as a hate crime?
Essentially there’s no crime here, perhaps the men from the first incident should be banned from distributing leaflets in the future and if they break that ban that can count as a crime, perhaps those people who chanted should be investigated if they’ve been known to perform assaults on other races, but in effect this issue has been blown out of all proportion.
And while the anti-gay sentiments may have been violent, the most you should be able to do truly is give them a warning of a harsh sentence if they engage in what would be an actual hate crime.
Am I wrong?