Actually, the proposal is not to outlaw speech. Just some speech.
That is, speech that conveys ideas too fundamentally orthogonal to authorized ideas, or that too brusquely nettles sanctioned sensibilities.
Who’s the censor? Some minor shire functionary? No, it is Theresa May, Home Secretary, who is proposing the “extremism disruption orders.”
Ms. May complains that at present, British officials “will only go after you if you are an extremist that directly supports violence.” (It’s not a bug, it’s a feature, Madam Home Secretary.) Under her plan, if you’re an “extremist” served with an EDO (Extremist Disruption Order), you must obtain an official go-ahead, in advance, for anything you wish to publish in any public forum.
Would pen names also be banned? Then what?
Even the most strenuous society-wide efforts to regulate speech don’t stop people from speaking. They still shop, give directions, exhort children, argue about soccer. The most severely repressive regimes permit plenty of public communication along approved channels on approved topics. People learn what not to say or think to skip a trip to the gulag for re-education. But the freedom to say anything you want if only the censors let you means that you have no government-respected right to say anything.
The British proposal may go nowhere. Like comparable assaults on either side of the Atlantic, if enacted it may be only partially or briefly effective. But all such efforts are baleful in their immediate consequences.
And they pave the way to worse.
As illustrated by May’s gall in advancing her “anti-extremist” program.
This is Common Sense. I’m Paul Jacob.
Photo courtesy of Stephen Mcleod, under Creative Commons License; altered.