Big Brother may not be watching you – but the BBC is.

Stephen Lewis of the Sterling Times message board sent this link.

Follow it, please. Now would be a good time.

Mr Lewis has found a report on the Radio Nederlands website stating that the BBC, the BBC, is to monitor message boards for hate speech on behalf of the authorities.

Once upon a time the only official way your home could be searched was by a policeman backed by a warrant issued by the courts. OK, as a libertarian I could raise certain objections even to that, but it was the evolved and generally agreed custom of my country and that counts for a lot. Then the privilege of search spread first to customs officers and then to tax-gatherers, until now practically any parasite of an environmental health officer or social worker can walk in.

Count on it. The same process is happening with restrictions of freedom of speech. Fifty years ago the legal right to impose restrictions was the preserve of the courts. Many of the restrictions were ridiculous: the Lord Chamberlain censored naughty bits out of stage plays until as late as 1968. However, in terms of political speech, freedom fifty years ago was greater than freedom now. Speakers in Hyde Park Corner could and did call for the gutters of Mayfair to run red with the blood of the rich and the copper would just say, “steady on mate, steady on.” Part of the reason for this freedom was that the right to restrict was itself restricted to the justice system.

It’s a sign of a half-way healthy state (half-way being about as good as states get) that it is very clear who is doing the state’s dirty work.

Now, it seems, the job of spying on British citizens has been franchised out to that “much loved” institution, the BBC. As Mr Lewis says, that is not their role. Later on in the post some Radio Nederlands commentary is quoted, saying that it might be better to have “trained journalists” doing the monitoring than others. Not surprising, I suppose, that the trained journalists at Radio Nederlands rate their fellow trained journalists at the BBC as the best people to employ for this task. I must disagree: if I had to choose I’d rather be spied on by professional spies. At least they live in the real world, and in particular have the peril of Islamofascism very much in the forefront of their minds. I’d trust them way above the BBC to be able to tell the difference between clear statements warning against Islamofascism and genuine hate speech 1.

When it comes to judging others – judging us here, for instance – the BBC is very likely to imply that anyone who says out loud that a kind of death-cult has infected to some degree a disturbingly high proportion of the Muslim world is thereby an Islamophobe.

But when it comes to judging themselves, or judging the groups they have a soft spot for, the standard is very different. You can see the double standard in operation by the BBC’s choice of Jew-hating ranter Mahathir as official BBC “expert” on Islam for an upcoming forum. (See this website, here and passim.) Tell you what, Beeb guys, if you want to monitor “hate speech” why don’t you start with him?

  1. I do not make this distinction between real and apparent hate speech in order to say we should forbid one and allow the other. I am a free speech absolutist. That means I must support the political right to make truly hateful hate speech, however vile, while also asserting my right to condemn it. This includes hate speech about Muslims and hate speech by Muslims. But the distinction between real and apparent hate speech is crucial in terms of moral assessment and national security.

(This post also appears on Samizdata and its offshoot dealing with surveillance and privacy issues, White Rose.)

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3 Responses to Big Brother may not be watching you – but the BBC is.

  1. Ed says:

    Though a small one at present, I think this is an alarming development. I have wondered about the Caversham centre, and whether it’s a good thing that the BBC and Britsh Intelligence appear to become entwined there. There seems to be nothing the Beeb like more (journalists generally I suppose) than the inside track through the status of being an insider. They already second guess the Government over many issues- how much more when they have their finger on the Internet pulse too?

    Yet more public money it would seem will be used to pay researchers to make Aunty more ‘indispensible’, even if they get paid by these Dutch people. Nothing obscures the fact that without public money the BBC would not be free to engage in these little adventures. They are irresponsible, and we pay to keep them that way.


  2. Natalie Solent says:

    I generally agree with you, but just on a small factual point: the only way the Dutch radio station came into it was that they reported the story as a news item. They picked up the story from a British media trade magazine which is subscription-only.


  3. Laban Tall says:

    re jew-haters on the BBC – their expert on Marcus Garvey (‘Profile of the Black Nationalist and Rastafarian prophet’ – can’t you just see the BBC evoting a page to a ‘White Nationalist’ ? I can’t either)

    is Black Studies Professor Tony Martin (no relation) of Wellesley, who has been attacked for setting anti-semitic works as set texts for his courses. He responded to this criticism with his book ‘The Jewish Onslaught’ and “explores black/jewish relations” through a website called