Dead Men Left

Monday, July 18, 2005

Where have all the comics gone?

Where's Rowan Atkinson to protest against this planned assault on freedom of speech?

A new offence of "indirect incitement" to terrorism aimed at restraining firebrand militants will make it a crime to glorify or condone terrorism if the intention is to incite people to take part in attacks...

[Home Office minister Hazel Blears] said direct incitement to carry out terror attacks was already outlawed, but less clear-cut indirect statements would be covered by the new laws. "For example, saying isn't it marvellous this has happened and these people are martyrs - not direct incitement to do something but something that could be construed by someone as giving an endorsement of terrorism."

(See also Jamie at Blood and Treasure.) If there's not a procession of alleged comedians, devoted secularists, and faddish authors lined up pretty damn quickly to oppose Charlie the Safety Elephant it will be quite a blow to my long-held faith in liberals everywhere.

Update: Rowan Atkinson, to his credit, has a letter in the Guardian today:

The bomb attacks in London and their aftermath seem to have rendered the religious hatred bill passing through parliament almost an irrelevance. The recent eloquent and vehement condemnation by the British Muslim community of the extremist factions within its midst has successfully disabled much of the irrational criticism from far-right groups which this bill was intended to address.

It is invariably counter-productive to suppress the expression of unpalatable ideas with legislation. I would oppose equally the gagging of radical Muslim clerics. The more openly arguments are aired, the more easily they can be ridiculed, as long as those counter-arguing can display the kind of courage exhibited this week by moderate British Muslims. Arguments must be won, not suppressed, and yet suppression is a clear intent of the bill.
Rowan Atkinson

Evidently stung by my sneering, hem-hem. Behold the power of blog.