Anyone who spends a decent amount of time on Twitter has probably come across Old Holborn. Many will probably have been offended by him at some point because he was kind of a twat and tended to post things to wind people up. Some people tweeted abusive messages back to him, some flounce-unfollowed him. Some ignored him. Some reported him to the police.
On this occasion, Old Holborn had tweeted some rather uncomplimentary things about Liverpool, Hillsborough and the death of Jamie Bulger. Crass? Yes. Offensive? Yes. Illegal? Well, um… The resulting outrage emanating from the general direction of Liverpool led to Holborn’s real name being exposed, along with his address, phone number and details of his employer. He also received death threats and the aforementioned complaint to the police.
Much as I disliked some of Old Holborn’s tweets and thought the persistent anarchy schtick was rather juvenile (though I’m sure someone will be along to tell me I wasn’t reading it ironically enough or I’ve missed the point or something), here’s the thing. He was exercising his right to free speech. We seem to now have this bizarre and absurd situation in this country where someone can actually accuse you of a criminal offence simply because you offended them. It is, pardon my vernacular, fucking madness to be able to hold up a piece of statute and tell someone that because you didn’t like what they said, you’re going to complain to the police.
This is effectively the government telling us what we can and can’t say. And some people are charging happily headlong into using that legislation to shut other people up when you don’t agree with them. And for anyone who comes along and suggests that the notion of free speech means one can be racist, homophobic (or anything ist/phobic for that matter), you are wrong. The piece of legislation held up in the above tweet is nothing to do with hate speech or discrimination.
People are so busy looking for something to be offended or outraged about that they can’t seem to see the logical conclusion of these kind of ludicrous abuses of free speech. Because the government would never report someone to the police because they were offended, would they? No, of course not.
Oh god, I’ve become Old Holborn.