In a recent political podcast, Radicalisation and the Amplification of Extremism Online, the Irish Times make clear that they have no intention of allowing “Gemma O’Doherty or any of her supporters” on their current affairs podcasts. One would presume that being the person discussed in a podcast would surely merit being allowed to defend one’s character?
As the law would have it; no, you’re not. Despite the Irish Times’ podcast clearly fulfilling the criteria set forth by the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (in that the topics were of political/current affairs nature, and by one of the largest publishers in the country), such a podcast is placed squarely outside the remit of the BAI because it does not technically transmit through radio or television.
Whilst the TV license fee will be expanded to include content not consumed through broadcast radio or television streamed on smart-phones, apparently there exists no such drive to bring the same restrictions on what broadcasters can do in the same medium. Who’da thunk it?
This is the conundrum we find ourselves in with regards to the push for the implementation of “hate-speech legislation.” Where those advocating for the introduction of such legislation wish it only to apply to the people they dislike, saying things they disagree with. It is the functional equivalent of Section 31 – except its intended targets are not Republicans, but those who would post something boorish and racist on Facebook and Twitter.
“Hate speech” legislation, to use its oafish name, has nothing to do with protecting minorities. Its architects, particularly the ones who assault Gardaí and blame the Jews for “stealing the land” in the Middle East, will of course never be the ones to suffer at the hands of the legislation – it will be people who make idiotic posts in Facebook groups.
Just think how ludicrous the premise of the legislation is – that seeing something racist written online is enough to goad otherwise normal people into acts of violence against that group. Do you think you would be convinced of the need to bomb an abortion clinic by seeing a Christian fundamentalist say abortion is murder online? Do you think you could be convinced of supporting ethnic cleansing by watching a three-minute long YouTube video? If you could, that says more about your mental health than the efficacy of the legislation in place.
This is the same tired trope conjured up by the class of the patronising people who are so common in today’s world – that if only the poor dumb masses weren’t told of the evils, all evil would be vanquished. If ISIS had just been told they can’t post clips beheading people and calling for ethnic cleansing in the Middle East on social media, perhaps they wouldn’t have committed such attrocities! The average person is not some low-IQ dolt who can be convinced to support something as morally reprehensible as unjustified murder. The average person is you and me.
Leaving the flawed logic to one side – how on Earth is such legislation supposed to be enforced? Are we to arrest people for stupid comments they make on The Journal.ie? Should we imprison people posting behind anonymous accounts on Twitter and put them into an already over-stretched prison service where convicted child abuses are released four days after their sentencing?
In summation, hate-speech legislation is the playground of politically motivated bullies who seek not to protect the innocent, but solely to silence the views of those they disagree with. Such legislation must be resisted by all means.