Bigoted Landlord Files Criminal Complaint Against Critic Who Called Him Bigoted

from the if-you-criminalize-opinions,-only-criminals-will-have-opinions dept

In yet another example of how the UK’s government’s stated respect for free speech is continually undercut by its actions, a bigoted landlord is bringing charges against a YouTuber for calling him bigoted. (via Innocent Abroad)

Fergus Wilson said he will ‘bankrupt’ Danny Hyde over a video criticising his policy to ban non-white tenants ‘because of the curry smell they leave behind’.

Hyde was referring to statements Wilson made last year, which were part of a bigger leak of inside info that exposed Wilson’s extremely questionable tenant standards.

In addition to banning “coloureds” (Wilson’s actual words), Wilson also refused to rent housing to single mothers, “zero-hour workers,” and battered wives. Quite the humanitarian. So there’s no shortage of criticism waiting for Wilson, who actually had to be told refusing to rent to people with darker skin tones was gasp illegal.

Multi-millionaire Fergus Wilson, 69, tried to ban non-white tenants because of the ‘cost of removing the smell of curry at the end of their tenancy’. Today a county court ruled the policy was unlawful.

Hyde’s video is full of stuff Wilson doesn’t want to hear, but that shouldn’t make it illegal. Hyde suggests banning curry rather than entire races and describes Wilson as a “penis” and a “bum splat.” Here in the United States, those statements would be protected hyperbolic statements of opinion. In the UK, however, they’re arguably illegal. This is the video Wilson hopes to shut down with his abuse of a badly-written law. (NSFW: language)

Wilson has filed a complaint stating Hyde’s video violates the Malicious Communications Act of 1988. This UK law criminalizes communications “sent” with the purpose of “causing distress or anxiety.” The scope of the law is incredibly broad. Ironically enough, the purpose of the legislation was to curb “racially or religiously motivated comments.” You know, like saying you’re banning “coloureds” for making apartments “smell like curry.”

Instead of being wielded against Wilson and his bigoted statements, it’s being used to silence a critic of Wilson’s bigoted statements. And Wilson has threatened to sue Hyde into bankruptcy if the law fails to result in a $10,000 fine and the forcible removal of the video.

This is the problem with laws targeting speech. Supporters of this type of legislation claim this will make public discourse better and friendlier. Who wouldn’t want to see online harassment and bullying brought to a halt? But it never works out that way. The bullying and harassment continues. The only thing that changes is who’s handing it out.

Groups frequently targeted by hateful speech never benefit from these laws. Powerful people like Wilson are the ones most likely to use bad speech laws to punish the little guy who just won’t shut up. And if it’s not powerful people doing the bullying, it’s the government itself, handing out fines and removing content it doesn’t like while claiming to be offended on behalf of others.

Bad laws encourage legal thuggery. There’s no ignoring that fact. Speech laws are often bad laws because they’re written with an eye on the hypothetical situation where do-gooding government types clean up the internet by punishing hateful, bigoted people. But when actually put to use, it’s hateful, bigoted, powerful people shutting people down for calling them hateful and bigoted.

Filed Under: , , , ,

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Bigoted Landlord Files Criminal Complaint Against Critic Who Called Him Bigoted”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
55 Comments
Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Here's to lysdexia!

>> Misread that headline, and instantly prayed that I’d never need to know how big my landlord’s toes are.

There was sage advice last week to not advertise when you’ve figured out that made a mistake. The advice so displeased fanboys that the comment admitting such failure was elevated to funniest of week.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

We’re not talking North American-style rentals or condos. Under the leaseholder/freeholder system, you buy a long-term (centuries-long) lease.

Think of how a North American-style condo board may decide that major repairs or renovations are necessary, and pass the costs on to the owners. (Like glass-wall condos in Canada having to be reclad at $100,000 per unit, and a great many new condos in British Columbia that quickly needed roof replacements.)

But leaseholders in the UK, with no elected condo board, have no say. They have to pay up, or leave and lose their investment.

Anonymous Coward says:

Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

Common law set limits to what tyrant George could do in “the colonies” in 1776. Yet today’s beneficiaries of the Revolution are eager to toss it aside and become corporate serfs.

[ But the smell of curried cooking IS offensive. If possible, I’d condemn you to live with it for a year, then ask your opinion on the headline point. This Landlord is acting on behalf of other tenants, to some degree. ]

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

I had the smell of curried cooking often coming in under my apartment door for a couple years.

It meant that I was hungry all the time, because the smell was wonderful.

Now there’s a douchebro who alternates between pot and cigars.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

Being a particular race has nothing to do with liking any kind of food. I LOVE curry – enough to cook it at least twice a month. I make a pretty mean curry, if I do say so myself. Mostly a northern-India based recipe. I use plain yogurt instead of yak yogurt, though. Anywho, this guy is a moron – the smell is gone as quick as the meal itself, and doesn’t linger for any appreciable amount of time. He’s not just offensive, but stupid as well.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

You forget about, or have never run into, boiled cabbage. It tastes good, along with corned beef and boiled potatoes (think St Patrick’s day fare) and a good mustard and some Irish soda bread. But, the odors given off while cooking can linger, and linger, and linger.

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

I believe you have a point. The only ways I like cabbage is raw in coleslaw, or fried in an egg roll. So it’s been a LONG time since I’ve smelled boiled cabbage and had forgotten how bad it can be.

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:4 Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

Does anyone remember Jeremy Clarckson’s depiction of onions? A product of growing up with English fare, I guess.

For Chef’s, an onion (there are six sub varieties that include garlic) contains more flavor than the entire spice rack. But they can sure give off some (delicious) odors. Some neighbors object, other come looking for an invitation to dine.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

The smell does linger. We lived next door to a lovely Indian couple, and they cooked curry every single day I can remember them being there (this is a house, not a flat … an entire house away from them, and I was nauseous every day they lived there). After they moved (left in the middle of the night, no one knows why), the house was vacant for a month before we bought it for our daughter. The smell was still there … in the carpets, the paint, the wood floors … sorry to say, but it still made me nauseous. It took several months, a complete repainting and new flooring throughout the house to get rid of it.

I found it strange they cooked all hours of the day or night, but shift work means you eat at different times. Still, their kitchen window was under my bedroom window … ugh.

I never once complained to the neighbours – after all, their house and they were entitled to cook what they wanted, but I was relieved when my daughter moved in. She doesn’t like curry either 🙂

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

It’s the fenugreek. That gives curries its familiar smell. I can’t stand the smell myself either, but I love making curries without it. Sure it tastes different, but it doesn’t reek.

wereisjessicahyde says:

Re: Re: Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

Mike. Just because someone “Files [a] Criminal Complaint” against a critic in the UK, it doesn’t mean anything. He can complain all he wants – it means nothing.

The guy is a racist dick, and his complaint has no chance at all. But surely ‘freedom of speech’ means the freedom to file a complaint if one wishes?

Oh, and try not to quote the ‘metro.co.uk’ too often – it’s the free version of the Daily Mail.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- pleased to meet you, hope you guessed my name!

Oh, is Blue taking time out from whining about how it’s illegal censorship when people flag his posts to explain that it’s okay for a landlord to refuse housing to brown people if their neighbors complain about other, completely different brown people?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

You know, not everyone who visits this site is an American, or a knuckle-dragger of your level. Some of us actually like curry. Or is that only for pirates?

Seems to me that you have a track record for finding “anomalies”. Maybe they’re not actually anomalies and you’re just a massive tool.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: 'Common law', shorthand for 'I win'

At this point I’m fairly sure they believe that ‘common law’ is basically a magical ‘I win the argument’ phrase, much like ‘national security’ is for government agencies. Simple mention the two magical words and instantly they win the argument, because reasons.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re: Re: 'Common law', shorthand for 'I win'

It may refer to common-sense notions held by authoritarians and trotted out at every opportunity. On Twitter last night I learned from a true-blue Tory that benefits claimants are scroungers akin to the old woman who lived in a shoe so they ought to be sterilised. I trolled the hell out of her to mine the seam of ignorance to put it on display. Awful woman. Anyway, Blue’s comments remind me of people like her: so utterly mired in their own self-righteous desire to impose their version of morality upon us there’s no room for debate, only unquestioning obedience.

Common law is what Blue says it is, i.e. Blue’s opinion using the idea of law as a fig leaf.

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

“But the smell of curried cooking IS offensive”

No, it’s not. But, even if you do find this to be the case, you’d have to be a racist moron not to realise that a lot of white people in the UK also cook & eat curry. Go to any curry house, and you’ll see a parade of white people eating it, many of whom will at least be heating up their doggy bag the next day in their apartment even if they don’t cook it from scratch another day.

“This Landlord is acting on behalf of other tenants, to some degree”

Then, he’d ban the food, not the group of people he assumes are most likely to eat it.

Thad (user link) says:

Re: Re: Congratulations, congratulations, well done, my friend, you've done it again, you've gone and broken another heart, yeah, you've torn it apart

Blue presumably knows even less about foreign countries than he does about the US. His lack of knowledge about the popularity of curry in the UK is unsurprising, but it’s rather similar to assuming that the only people in America who eat tacos are from Mexico.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Congratulations for finding another horrid anomaly -- by which the primacy of common decency and common law is proven.

So I assume you don’t eat anything made with potatoes (Native American), Oranges (Africa), Apples (originated in the Lebanon), pears (middle east), chocolate, flour (mostly shipped in from China), or use TVs (china again), computers (china again), or leather (south america), or anything that isn’t 100% british grown, or made including ZERO percent of anything that has ever been outside the UK (including scientific theory and ideas) ?

Or are you just a racist piece of crap troll?

Anonymous Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Is there something about plunbers?

Is there something about plunbers that I ought to know, but have somehow managed to remain unaware of?

They seem to charge more than the perceived value of their services? That may or may not be true, but the next time you have a leak, or a stoppage, try fixing it yourself. Especially in an apartment building!

PaulT (profile) says:

“Multi-millionaire Fergus Wilson, 69, tried to ban non-white tenants because of the ‘cost of removing the smell of curry at the end of their tenancy’”

…and lost because he’s a racist moron who somehow doesn’t notice all the white people eating curry.

“In addition to banning “coloureds” (Wilson’s actual words)”

That’s the thing that gets me. I don’t think I’ve ever heard anyone in the UK use that term. It’s something I associate with black & white photos of the US during the Jim Crow era, I’ve never heard anyone use it in actual conversation over the side of the pond. Hell, it’s not actually offensive here to refer to people as black anyway (African-American is actually more offensive to most black people I know, because they don’t wish to be referred to as “American”, so they get annoyed when they go on holiday there :)), and when referring to people as “Asian” usually refers to people from the Indian subcontinent as much as anywhere further east why would you need to come up with euphemisms?

If he weren’t in an actual position to mess up peoples’ lives on a whim, I’d say he was just joking about everything based on this terminology alone.

“Wilson also refused to rent housing to single mothers, “zero-hour workers,” and battered wives”

I can kind of understand the first 2. In a purely business-minded sense, these are 2 groups that are higher risk, even if it’s a scummy thing to do to reject them outright without looking at overall circumstances. But, battered wives? That makes zero sense. But, then again I suppose he’s also stated “no plumbers”, which is also rather mystifying.

Wendy Cockcroft (user link) says:

Re: Re:

One presumes he’s got a thing about smell. There’s a plethora of products on the market for masking or eliminating smells, there’s no excuse for his attitude. I’m loving reed diffusers at the moment — so many lovely scents and they don’t all have to be flowers, you could go for Fresh Linen or something like that. There’s the plug-in option too, for instant results. If it really is a smell thing why not demand that tenants use such products?

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

“One presumes he’s got a thing about smell”

…which in and of itself is quite reasonable. The problem comes when he’s basically saying that he’d be happy with a curry-munching family of white people, but will refuse to rent to a family of Indian descent who don’t really care for the stuff.

The guy does clearly have a lot of other issues, but even if he is genuinely just opposed to the smell he’s going about it in completely the wrong way.

Anonymous Coward says:

I love how he words it as “No battered wives”
despite single adults already being excluded, so “no wife beaters” would have worked just as well.. but you know this way it nicely shows out how he thinks the wife is the problem. Also like how he specifically excludes single mums and single fathers despite already having all single adults excluded.. You know just to be a dick

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »