British Blogger Threatened with Arrest for Inciting Racial Hatred

Glenn Reynolds over at reports that a British blogger was recently threatened with arrest for inciting racial hatred. The blogger, who runs a controversial Christian blog and goes by the pseudonym Lionheart, stated on his blog that British police are threatening to arrest him for "stirring up racial hatred by displaying written material" contrary to sections 18(1) and 27(3) of the Public Order Act 1986.

Reynolds recommends that if you're interested in supporting free speech rights -- and you should be if you are reading this blog -- you can contact the British Embassy to let them know that people shouldn't be arrested merely for writing things that the powers-that-be find distasteful.

(Note: Glenn Reynolds is on the CMLP's Board of Advisors.)


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You don't do your reputation a service by trivializing "incitement" laws as simply distasteful. A brief review of history of German, the United States and many other nations will show you the difference of "distasteful" and "inciting." The question for proponents of all free speech is whether or not you believe someone has the free speech right to yell "fire" in a crowded theatre as a joke or "commentary" or "bomb" in an airport - which creates a public safety issue. If you do, then the end of the story. If not, then do you support someone yelling "Jews are setting fire" in the same way? There is a difference between incite, political correctness and distasteful.

It's a question of imminent harm

It's really a question of whether the speech at issue will lead to imminent harm. Falsely yelling "Fire!" in a crowded theater would likely lead to an immediate panic and that will result in harm (or, as you put it, a threat to public safety). If someone makes that same statement on their blog, is there still an imminent threat to safety? Unlikely.

Most laws against the "incitement of racial hatred," while they could "incite" someone to act on that hatred and cause injury to property or another person, are far too vague and don't require that the threat be imminent -- the sine qua non in my opinion for determining which speech should be (and under the U.S. Constitution can be) prohibited.