A Scottish comedian was convicted recently for making a YouTube video about a pug making a nazi salute. The crime in question is, officially, being "grossly offensive". Which, yes, is a crime in the United Kingdom. Officially; stated in law. It's not hyperbole. Not even making that up.
This has caused quite a stir and furor, for being such an affront to free speech rights.
However, as many people have pointed out, people seem to be unaware that the United Kingdom is actually not a constitutional democracy. There is no such a thing as "the Constitution of the United Kingdom". That country has no constitution. Its citizens have no constitutional rights. Freedom of speech is in no way guaranteed in the United Kingdom, in the same way it's (at least to some level) guaranteed in actual constitutional countries.
Once again, this is not just hyperbole or exaggeration. For instance, the Metropolitan Police of London has some amazingly draconian, and outright Orwellian, stances on "hate speech". Up until very recently the Metropolitan Police website described "hate speech" and "hate incidents" as, among other things, the following (emphasis mine):
If someone does something that isn’t a criminal offence but the victim, or anyone else, believes it was motivated by prejudice or hate, we would class this as a ‘hate incident’. Though what the perpetrator has done may not be against the law, their reasons for doing it are. This means it may be possible to charge them with an offence.That's right. You don't need to even do anything that's illegal. As long as someone thinks that what you did was "motivated by prejudice or hate", it could be prosecuted. Mere motivation is enough. This is pretty much the very definition of thought crime, in its purest form. I don't think it could be stated more openly than this.
But how can the police prove that the person was "motivated by prejudice or hate"? After all, we still don't have machines that can read people's thoughts. Well, the solution is easy: They don't have to. In a leaked presentation made by the Metropolitan Police, one of the bullet points is, and I quote: "We do not need to prove hatred". This is pure Orwellian totalitarianism at its finest.
The website was recently changed to remove the thought crime part of it (as well as changing some of the most egregious parts of the rest), since even in the United Kingdom thought crime isn't actually a crime de jure (at least not yet), and this was pointed out to them. However, it's hard to believe that the attitudes and approaches of the Metropolitan Police has changed accordingly. (What does it tell us that the police forces themselves don't know the laws of their own country?)
But what does still remain is the fact that merely offending people is illegal. De jure. In actual law. No actual harm needs to be done, other than hurt feelings, for it to be a criminal offense. You are not allowed to say anything that offends someone. Or even potentially could offend someone (even if nobody has complained). In fact, in this particular instance there was no defendant in the case at all, other than the Metropolitan Police itself. Nobody had actually sued that Scottish man for anything. The police sued him, effectively, even though the police wasn't the victim of this "crime". There was no actual victim to this crime at all. It was quite literally the state against the citizen, with no defendant, no victim, nobody who was wronged in the situation.
Anyway, back to the point: Even though thought crime is not explicitly illegal (yet), there's still no guarantee of free speech in the United Kingdom, and the judicial system is free to prosecute and convict people for expressing any opinions they don't like. British citizens do not have protections against this.
What's most worrisome about this is, however, the reaction of other entities about this incident. Entities that ought to be defenders of the universal human rights of all people (freedom of speech being one of those fundamental rights). For example, Amnesty International refused to condemn this judgment by the British courts, and on the contrary agreed with it, explicitly stating that free speech is is conditional and has limits.
While some parties, such as some British politicians, have shown support and heavily criticized the British court, they are the minority. Most politicians and entities, and most of the press, that have made a statement, have agreed with the court.
I have been saying for years that free speech in Europe is under attack, and is being eroded and restricted more and more as time passes. It's precisely incidents like this that only accelerate the process. Incidents like this act like a catalyst: They motivate other governments and judicial systems to follow suit. They motivate politicians, not only in the United Kingdom, but all over Europe, to follow suit. After all, if one of the most powerful countries in the world is doing this, it must be right and proper. After all, we must fight against racism and fascism, and obviously convicting people for saying the wrong things is the way to do that. It's precisely incidents like this that may cause such sentiments to start spreading like wildfire all among Europe.
Some members of the press are already expressing more and more openly anti-free-speech sentiments. Free speech is conditional. Free speech has its limits. Free speech must be restricted. Free speech leads to fascism and oppression.
They all maintain the facade of "supporting" free speech. It's just that they have a really convenient excuse, a way around it: "Hate speech is not free speech." Thus they classify everything they don't like as "hate speech", and thus freely claim that it's not protected by free speech. And, of course, the definition of "hate speech" is ever-growing, encompassing more and more.
A time will come when many European countries will have no free speech at all. While still claiming they do. You know, in the same way that North Korea claims to be a democratic republic.