Now that David Cameron and the Conservative Party achieved a convincing victory in the UK elections, they have set about clamping down on any speech that the government thinks is ‘extremist’, despite their recent loud claims to champion free speech.
The measures would give the police powers to apply to the high court for an order to limit the “harmful activities” of an extremist individual. The definition of harmful is to include a risk of public disorder, a risk of harassment, alarm or distress or creating a “threat to the functioning of democracy”.
The aim is to catch not just those who spread or incite hatred on the grounds of gender, race or religion but also those who undertake harmful activities for the “purpose of overthrowing democracy”.
They would include a ban on broadcasting and a requirement to submit to the police in advance any proposed publication on the web and social media or in print. The bill will also contain plans for banning orders for extremist organisations which seek to undermine democracy or use hate speech in public places, but it will fall short of banning on the grounds of provoking hatred.
Cameron goes on to say. “For too long, we have been a passively tolerant society, saying to our citizens: as long as you obey the law, we will leave you alone. It’s often meant we have stood neutral between different values. And that’s helped foster a narrative of extremism and grievance. This government will conclusively turn the page on this failed approach. As the party of one nation, we will govern as one nation and bring our country together. That means actively promoting certain values.”
He then curiously adds, ““Freedom of speech. Freedom of worship. Democracy. The rule of law. Equal rights regardless of race, gender or sexuality. We must say to our citizens: this is what defines us as a society.”
So according to Cameron, it is no longer good enough to obey the law, even as he praises the rule of law and freedom of speech, something that sounds positively Orwellian.
Glenn Greenwald says that “I personally believe this was all more lyrical in its original German” and adds that Cameron’s move is part of a new and disturbing larger pattern among of restricting free speech in western democracies in the name of fighting ‘extremism’.