I listened to the replay of Iqbal Sacranie’s interview on PM yesterday, and it was just as silly and irritating as I expected. He so obviously had nothing relevant to say, he so obviously was simply expressing unthinking dislike, he so obviously was just floundering around looking for rationalizations, it was so obvious how empty they were. Er, they’re harmful, uh, stability, um, society, er, stable, you know, ooh, ah, um – they get diseases! That’s it. They get diseases – that’s scientific, that is. So you see what I mean. It’s obvious. But, er, we have to put up with it, because this is a democracy. But I sure don’t want to! And of course you can see why. It’s obvious. Stability. Harmful. Mutter mutter choke.’ Yes, all very elevating and enlightening.

But. I don’t think it’s a police matter. Sacranie is a damn fool with a narrow mind, but that’s not a police matter either. He ought to wake up and learn to think properly, but I hardly think the police are going to teach him to do that. Not their job, is it. No, that’s our job – his fellow citizens of the world.

His (veiled?) threats against Rushdie are another matter. But those are not why the police were called. But he didn’t utter any threats, not even veiled ones (he said the death penalty was too good for Rushdie, that’s what – not all that veiled). No, his potential crime may have been a violation of section 5 of the Public Order Act. I wasn’t really aware of this act before…it’s rather interesting…

Scotland Yard’s community safety unit, which investigates homophobia and hate crime, is considering whether Sir Iqbal has broken telecommunications laws or the 1986 Public Order Act, which forbids the use of “threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour within the hearing or sight of a person likely to be caused harassment, alarm or distress or thereby”.

You guys have an act that forbids the use of insulting words within the hearing of people likely to be caused distress thereby? Holy jumping Jesus! Are you crazy?! Were you all in a coma when that was passed, or what? Didn’t it cross anyone’s mind that those terms might be just ever so slightly broad and sweeping? That they might be just a tiny tiny tiny bit of an impediment to free speech? I mean – don’t you all use words every day, every hour, that are insulting (to something or someone somewhere) enough to cause someone somewhere possible potential distress? And who knows if she’s in earshot or not?! I know I do. I use words of that kind every hour, every moment – they are my life and breath and reason for existing. Imagine my surprise to find that they are illegal.

I must be missing something. There must be some reason this Act isn’t as ridiculous as it looks at first blush. I can’t think of what it is, but there must be. Either that or you were all on an outing to Preston that day, and missed it.

33 Responses to “Distress?”