#thinkbeforeyoupost – Policing speech and thought

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Imagine the kind of dystopian police state you would have to inhabit for it to be normal for the authorities to routinely warn citizens to be careful about what they think or say, on pain of criminal prosecution and potential incarceration.

Well, you don’t have to imagine, because Police Scotland and the Greater Glasgow Police are busy constructing their own tribute to North Korea right here in the UK. The tweet shown above was posted on twitter by the Greater Glasgow Police along with the menacing hashtag #thinkbeforeyoupost.

Apparently before offering up our thoughts to the internet, whether they be on politics, cooking or sport, we are to ask ourselves whether what we are posting is True, Hurtful, Illegal, Necessary or Kind. The clear implication is that if our speech fails the THINK test, some snarling Scottish police officer will turn up on our doorstep to drag us away, much as the London Metropolitan Police did with Matthew Doyle last weekend.

This is something of a scope increase for the police, to put it mildly. Where once they largely confined themselves to preventing and solving crime, apparently having since eliminated all actual crime in our society (…) and finding themselves at a loose end, they are now eager to swoop in and punish speech which passes Britain’s already draconian hate speech laws but which happens to be arbitrarily perceived by others as hurtful, unnecessary or unkind.

Let’s call a spade a spade: this is tyranny. When an enforcement arm of the state can post jocular messages on social media warning citizens to be on their best, blandest and most inoffensive behaviour on pain of arrest, we do not live in a free society any more. And it is time that more of us acknowledged this, so that we can get on with the task of rolling it back and re-establishing our corroded right to freedom of expression.

Alex Massie thunders:

Whatever next? The monitoring of conversations in public houses? Why not? Twitter and Facebook, after all, are merely digital, virtual, gathering places. As the wags on social media have put it today, Thur’s been a Tweet and Detective Chief Inspector Taggart is on the case.

Beneath the necessary and hopefully hurtful mockery, however, lurks an important point. One that relates to something more than police stupidity and over-reach and instead asks an important question about the value placed on speech in contemporary Britain. The answer to that, as this and a score of other dismal examples demonstrate, cannot cheer any liberal-minded citizen. Such is the temper of the times, however, in which we live. Nothing good will come of any of this but you’d need to be a heroic optimist to think it will get any better any time soon.

What a country; what a time to be alive.

All very good points. If social media is fair game for the thought police, why not the local pub, too? What restraint should there be, besides time and resources, on blanket surveillance of everyone all the time in the pre-emptive battle against speech crime?

When will people finally start waking up to the the authoritarian nature of contemporary society?

When will people finally realise that weaponised offence-taking and the cult of Identity Politics do not create a utopian paradise of peace and harmony, that in behaving this way we are only driving bad ideas underground to fester and grow while punishing those who dare to think differently?

When will people get that having the state act as an overbearing, always-watching surrogate parent figure, monitoring our behaviour and punishing those who do no more than hurt our feelings, is creating a weak-minded population who are unable to handle slights and setbacks without running to an external authority figure for redress?

In a healthy society, the author of that tweet by Greater Glasgow Police would have broken the law by using their position to threaten the right of the people to freedom of expression – a liberty which would be guaranteed in a written constitution enshrining our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

But we do not live in a healthy society, the police are free to do as they please without censure and there is no written constitution guaranteeing our liberties. Instead, we have a “make it up as you go along” constitution and form of government with a strong tendency to attempt to solve the immediate problem in front of it by taking power away from the people to act in their own interests and vesting those same powers in the state.

We are approaching the point where some kind of rebellion against this censorious, bullying, tyrannical behaviour by the police must be mounted – perhaps some kind of co-ordinated mass action whereby everyone tweets something “offensive”, gets a partner to report them to the police and vice-versa, the idea being to gum up the workings of the police and criminal justice system until the whole rotten edifice collapses in upon itself.


 Samuel Hooper is a journalist and blogger. He is passionate about politics, free markets and civil liberties. Follow him on Twitter here

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The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty