U.K. Police Urge Citizens To Report Neighbors For ‘Offensive Or Insulting’ Speech

U.K. Police Urge Citizens To Report Neighbors For ‘Offensive Or Insulting’ Speech

Freedom from criminal investigation and arrest may now be subject to someone else’s feelings or perceptions in England thanks to hate crime laws.
Benjamin R. Dierker
By

English police are now calling on citizens to report hate incidents. Reporting friends and neighbors to the police has terrible historical connotation, and for good reason. It is legitimate fascism. Timid citizenries are easy to control — fear that even a coworker could file a report to the police can keep people in check.

The latest call for action in England is from the South Yorkshire Police on Twitter. Similar reporting requests are posted on the United Kingdom government website. Two tweets from the South Yorkshire Police over the weekend requesting citizens to report hate matters to police should grab our attention.

The first calls out any hate “incident or crime.” There is a meaningful distinction there. The tweet defines hate incidents as “motivated by prejudice or hostility (or perceived to be so)…” The tweet ends with, “Report it and put a stop to it.”

To be clear, reportable incidents under this scheme have as low a bar as non-crime incidents merely perceived to be hostile. This would be hilarious if it was not so serious. Law enforcement is now soliciting people to turn others in for being offensive. Freedom from criminal investigation and arrest may now be subject to someone else’s feelings or perceptions in England.

The second tweet explicitly calls on citizens to “please report non-crime hate incidents, which can include things like offensive or insulting comments, online, in person, or in writing.” Reporting non-crimes to the police already seems like a waste of time and resources, but reporting people to the police for being offensive crosses the line into fascist territory.

Of course, hate crimes and legitimate hate incidents are wrong, and the perpetrators should face justice. But there can be no freedom when perceived victims’ subjective feelings can bring down the power of the state on citizens. Jokes, comments taken out of context, or simple misunderstandings can easily be conflated with legitimate hate.

The overbroad definition of hate incidents virtually guarantees that people will report frivolous complaints, which could drown real problems. It could also lead to government invasion of privacy for regular law-abiding citizens.

There is also no sense of proportionality here. A dumb comment online is subject to arrest by force because someone’s feelings are hurt? The over-broad definition also means there is likely no consequence for bad faith and frivolous reports. No limiting principle exists to discourage false or careless reports, further damaging the reputation of innocent people and wasting law enforcement time and resources.

England is once again validating the American Revolution. This grotesque power dynamic and attack on personal freedom should be condemned and rejected. Calling on citizens to report one another is unnecessary. Certainly a free people should be able to report crimes to the police, but police encouraging such a low bar for reporting will gin up controversy, suppress free speech and expression, and damage trust between the people.

When people say they want to make America like the rest of the world, keep this in mind. America stands alone in the preservation of individual liberty. Hate speech laws that give false empowerment to illegitimate, self-declared victims have no place in America. England has not only embraced this, but advanced it, and now calls on its citizens to act on it.

Benjamin Dierker is a law student at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University. He holds a master's degree in public administration and a bachelor's degree in economics, both from Texas A&M University. He is a Christian and a Texan and loves to talk about both.

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