For my critical analysis I have decided to take a slightly different approach. As Stanley Black believes he is engaged in a culture war, rather than critique traditional cultural artefacts like books, artworks or exhibitions I have instead decided to analyse news events and real life incidences to highlight Stanley Blacks position on notions of free speech.
COUNT DANKULA AND THE NAZI PUG
Mark Meechan is a Scottish you tuber who posts under the moniker Count Dankula. In April 2016 he released a video called M8 yer dugs a Nazi. At the beginning of the video he states “My girlfriend is always ranting and raving about how cute and adorable her wee dog is so I thought I would turn him into the least cute thing I could think of, which is a Nazi” In the video he then trains the dog to perform a Nazi salute to the command "sieg heil", respond to the phrase "gas the Jews" and the dog is also seen watching clips of Adolf Hitler. Now this video is clearly distasteful and can be viewed as offensive, but it is clearly a joke. Whether you find it funny or not is a matter of taste but the reason I have chosen to reference it is that Mark Meechan was arrested, charged and found guilty under the Communications Act 2003. This means that in the United Kingdom (the state famous for codifying and developing classical liberal principles and institutions) which purports to be a free country, a citizen could have been sent to jail for making a joke.
This is clearly a breach of civil liberties. Under the rubric of Hate Speech, this is by no means an isolated case in 2017 over three thousand people were questioned regarding facebook, twitter or you tube posts. This is why freedom of speech is essential in a free and functioning democracy. In a free society everybody is entitled to think what they like (and by proxy say what they like, barring incitement to violence and slander) as long as there thoughts and actions do not impede other people liberties. It is not the role of the state to police peoples speech, we know the type of states that do this, they are called police states.
GIRL FOUND GUILITY FOR POSTING RAP LYRICS
As an artist I am strongly opposed to hate speech laws. On the face of it this seems like an unlikely position because most people view them as a lawful protection of minority groups. My argument against them is a simple one all the offences they cover are already on the statute book and are therefore technically unnecessary. Instead they grant the state apparatus far too much power and are a clearly being used to breech of civil liberties. The main problem being who defines hate? The ever-increasing slide towards subjectivity within the law is a dangerous precedent. The laws are applied in a draconian manner eschewing common sense and often ignore context.
An example of this occurred in early 2018 when the 19 year old Chelsea Russell was prosecuted by Liverpool magistrates for uploading hip hop lyrics by the rapper Snoop Doggy Dogg on to Instagram. They contained a racial label which was deemed offensive and she was found guilty under hate speech laws. Unfortunately, free speech does include hateful speech but it a necessary evil but the solution is not to restrict speech but in fact to promote more speech – people who hold hateful options, when given the opportunity to talk often reveal themselves for who they are. Such people should be debated in an open market place of ideas.
THE PROBLEM WITH FREE SPEECH
The main problem with freedom of speech is that essentially everybody has the right to talk even the idiots. This means sometimes being in the uncomfortable position of defending it in all cases, even those cases where you find it abhorrent or personally deeply offensive. In fact, in the classical John Stuart Mills text ‘On Liberty’ he gives a robust case that this is in fact the most important time to defend the principle. As the importance of free speech is not in who is participating in it but in those who are trying to suppress it. Although you may agree with initial censorship, once the principle is broken there is no reason why your opinions could be the next to be deemed unacceptable. As the Voltaire quote states (even though he didn’t pen it) “I may disagree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” The Grenfell bonfire is an example of this. Any right-minded person should find this video deeply troubling however the participants should be free to do it. The reason I am interested in this case was the public response which quite rightly was one of anger but I was dismayed by that the participants were arrested for the action much like the Mark Meechan case this should be a civil matter and not a police one