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.