Observations of an Expat: Free Speech

August 10, 2018 Opinion , OPINION/NEWS , UK , United States

Reuters photo

 

By

Tom Arms

 

 

Free speech is a cornerstone of representative democracy. Abuse of free speech is one of the biggest threats to that cornerstone.

 

This week we have three examples of the dangers of the abuse of free speech: Alex Jones of Infowars, English Defence League founder Tommy Robinson and former British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

 

Let’s start with Alex who is currently in a Texas court defending the indefensible. On December 14, 2012, mentally disturbed 20-year-old Adam Lanza broke into Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut and shot dead 20 six and seven year olds and six of the school’s staff.

 

This is a fact. The police verified it. Inquests have been held. The bodies have been seen, grieved over and buried.

 

Wrong, according to Alex Jones. The children never died. The grieving parents are actors hired by the anti-gun lobby to deny Americans their gun-toting Second Amendment rights.

 

It seems incredible, but a proportion of Jones’s audience actually believe him. Enough that grieving parents have been forced to move house because of harassment and even death threats from Infowars viewers. Those parents are now suing Jones for defamation and slander.

 

Sandy Hook is not the only wild conspiracy theory peddled by Jones. According to him: The UN is about to flood America with 600 million immigrants, Michelle Obama is a man, Hillary Clinton is a demon-possessed extra-terrestrial, Robert Mueller is at the centre of a child sex ring, 9/11 was staged by the federal government, the US government controls the weather and uses it as a weapon against alt-right political opponents, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was murdered and many more.

 

It is easy to dismiss Jones as an irrelevant crackpot conspiracy theorist. The problem is that he is a crackpot conspiracy theorist followed by six million people who has been publicly endorsed by the president of the United States.

 

Alex Jones must know that he is lying. Why does he do it? The answer is simple: To make money. The more outrageous the lies the more people who watch his show which he uses to sell dubious pseudo-medical products which, according to Celebrity Net Worth, have helped him accumulate assets in excess of $10 million and a drawerful of Rolex watches.

 

Jones justifies his false and vitriolic broadcasts with America’s First Amendment. I am certain that the founding fathers did not intend their ground breaking free speech law to be used for the propagation of lies.

 

Britain also has free speech laws, although the international alt-right is claiming that the treatment of Tommy Robinson demonstrates that the UK, under pressure from the political correction lobby, is forcing the country to jettison that traditional English liberty. But let’s be clear. Tommy Robinson was not locked up for racist comments or hate speech. He was sent to prison for contempt of court. His Facebook reports of a gang rape and sexual grooming involving Pakistani men was threatening a mistrial and breached laws protecting the identity of minors.

 

Furthermore, he has not been found innocent of contempt. He has been released on bail pending a retrial because the Lord Chief Justice Lord Burnett said that his sentence was “rushed and flawed”. He did not rule Robinson not guilty.

 

The case of Boris Johnson is different. His is not so much a case of what he said as who said it. It is an open secret that the Brexiteering former British foreign secretary wants to be prime minister and is busily plotting to achieve that goal as soon as possible.

 

Last week Denmark followed France, Belgium and Austria in banning the Burqa—the head to toe shapeless black cloth worn by some Muslim women. Johnson actually defended the right of Muslim women to wear it, but then went on to insult them by saying they looked like bank robbers and letter boxers.

 

I think he is right. But he is wrong to have said it. Elected officials are elected to serve the entire community—not just those who voted for them. Boris Johnson’s comments—under the guise of free speech—have exposed him as divisive and thus unfit for high office.

 

 

 

 

Tom Arms

I am a journalist, entrepreneur and historian with extensive experience in print, web and broadcast journalism. I started as a diplomatic correspondent, wrote several books (The Falklands Crisis, World Elections On File and the Encyclopedia of the Cold War), and then in 1987 started my own business (Future Events News Service, www.fensinformation.com) which over 25 years established itself as the world and UK media’s diary. Our strapline was: “We set the world’s news agenda.” I sold FENS in December 2012 but retained the exclusive broadcast rights to all of FENS data. To exploit these rights I set up LookAhead TV which produces unique programmes which “Broadcasts Tomorrow Today” so that viewers can “Plan to Participate.” LookAhead has appeared regularly on Vox Africa, Radio Tatras International, The Conversation and Voice of Africa Radio.

In addition to being a syndicated broadcaster and columnist on global affairs, Tom is also available for speaking engagements and can be contacted on TwitterLinkedin and emailtom.arms@lookaheadnews.com.

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1 Comment

  1. Sarah Ito August 12, at 23:33

    The issues that should be so simple have become so complex. Alex Jones is free to say what he wants. It is that element that is so odd, for lack of a more polite term, that takes his word as truth and harasses. threatens and otherwise antagonizes the Sandy Hook families that is incomprehensible to most of us. In the words of someone unmentionable, "Lock them up." As for the Burqa , while most of us support religious freedom, in this post 9/11 world I would prefer that we err on the side of public safety. My personal belief is that religion is a matter of faith, not of garment worn. Very thought-provoking article.

    Reply

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