Why Government’s controversial bill will only bring harm to YOU
Salman Rushdie is a hero – but he would be locked up under the Online Harms Bill
By Adam Edwards
THE stabbing of Salman Rushdie is a dark day for western civilisation and not for the reasons you might think.
His on-stage stabbing may be linked to the fatwa (or death sentence) placed against him in 1989 for “insulting” the Prophet Mohammed.
But the attack on the 75-year-old author and journalist in New York state is indicative of a greater issue threatening all of us, which has nothing to do with religion or fundamentalist Islam.
Ministers and mainstream journalists may be queueing up to condemn the attack on Rushdie (and, in many cases, subtly scapegoat a billion-plus Muslims over the incident), but those same people would not have spoken out if Rushdie had not been attacked in such a vicious manner and his alleged attacker had been named Smith or Jones.
Indeed, they said nothing when Australian journalist Julian Assange was recently approved for deportation from Britain to the US, where he faces life in prison on “espionage” charges (as investigative journalism is now known).
They also said nothing when Hampshire police held a Reclaim party activist overnight for retweeting an offensive tweet likening the gay rights’ movement to intolerant modern-day fascists.
And they have said next to nothing about Britain’s proposed Online Harms Bill, which would see people like Rushdie jailed for two years for expressing the same sort of “offensive” sentiments as those that earned him his fatwa.
The dystopian Bill, which is the brainchild of Boris Johnson’s culture secretary, Nadine Dorries, and is supported by his would-be successors Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak, will make it illegal to share anything online, or via text or email, that might cause “offence” to others.
Share an offensive tweet; go straight to jail. Offend a fundamentalist by WhatsApping them a quote from Rushdie’s Satanic Verses? Enjoy two years inside.
It does not matter if what you share is perfectly legal. If a judge decides it could cause distress to someone else, you too, might get your collar felt by Hampshire police. Only this time you will not be released without charge.
And it is not just plain speakers, 75-year-old ex-Muslim authors and supporters of minor rightwing political parties that could fall foul of this “censors’ charter”, which WhatsApp have threatened to quit the UK over.
Ministers also cited “anti-vaxxers” as those likely to face imprisonment under the new law.
Again, it will not matter if what you said is perfectly legal in real life or, indeed, factually correct. If the minister in charge decides you are spreading “harm” online, you might be sharing a cell alongside Rushdie or Assange.
The way in which the Government has tagged this controversial bill to its populist crusade against those who refused a non-sterlising vaccine still undergoing long-term trials, is particularly ominous.
Throughout the pandemic, the so called “experts” have been proven wrong on almost every issue, from asymptomatic spread to vaccine adverse events, while “Covidiots”, for the most part, have been comprehensively vindicated.
Worse, ministers have spread known falsehoods about the vaccines, with many in authority continuing to spread the lie that the vaccines “protect you and others” even after it has become publicly accepted that they do no such thing.
The inventor of the mRNA jab technology, Dr Robert Malone, would not have just been booted off Twitter if the Online Harms Bill had been in place last year – he could have been arrested under British law for bad-mouthing his own invention.
If so-called anti-vaxxers are to be jailed, who, you may ask, could be next? How about “climate change deniers” or people who question where the money is really going in Ukraine?
Will I be locked up for spreading “Russian disinformation” for telling people the “Ghost of Kiev/Kyiv” was actually footage from a computer game before the Daily Mail and co officially conceded it had been spreading Ukrainian disinformation?
Democracy, journalism and science all rely on the free exchange of ideas and the ability to speak out against the “orthodoxy” when necessary. This is as true of Islam in 1980s Iran as it is of the Covid vaccine in our propagandised societies today.
Freedom and progress is impossible without freedom of expression, freedom of the press and freedom of religion.
If Salman Rushdie survives his attack, it will not be proof that the pen is more mightier than the sword. Not, that is, if that same metaphorical pen is used to sign away the basic rights that he and millions of others have fought so hard to safeguard, be that on the battlefield, in the court rooms or in the sort of daily defiance Rushdie showed when he refused to be cowed by terror.
We have been terrorised by our governments for two and a half years over Covid. We lost our right to work, our right to assembly, our right to bodily autonomy. Terrorism must never be allowed to prevail, even if the ayatollah’s a Tory.
Adam Edwards is a British writer and editor of NewsAfrica Magazine (www.newsafrica.net).