Monday, October 10, 2005

Glory Glory Knockdown Argument

`I don't know what you mean by "glory",' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. `Of course you don't -- till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

The latest UK Government plans to deglorify terrorism apparently take a POSIWID line - inferring the purpose of a speech from its effect on an audience. Robin Wilton raises two concerns with this (note1).

. Standards
of proof
How can a law officer demonstrate the intent to glorify?
. LiabilityIf glory is defined in terms of the effect on an audience, does this shift responsibility / power away from the speaker and onto the audience?

There is of course an important difference between the effect on an audience (taken as a whole) and the effect on a very small number of audience members. Is it reasonable to infer the purpose of a speech from its effect on a tiny fringe of listeners? (note2)

But we can also reflect the POSIWID line back onto the Government plan. What is the likely effect of Government legislation on the people who are supposed to be vulnerable to incitement? Might it possibly reinforce a sense of alienation and isolation, leading to further glorification instead of deglorification. We have had counterproductive antiterrorism measures before, including the stupid ban on Sinn Fein which resulted in their words being spoken by actors. But this time around, actions that lead to the glorification of terrorism become illegal - and for consistency's sake this should surely include any Government actions that lead to the glorification of terrorism, since the proposed legislation itself defines intent in terms of effect! Ha!

The UK Government also intends to introduce powers to control places of worship that "foment extremism". On past form, any official definition of extremism is likely to be sweeping and all-inclusive, both in wording (note3) and in interpretation (note4). I confidently expect extremism to include beliefs about heaven and hell, good and evil, evolution and reincarnation, and so on. (Well at least we Buddhists will be all right then.)


  1. Robin Wilton's comment (8th Oct 2005) was posted at the following URL, which is no longer available
  2. See earlier posts on DogWhistle Politics (March 2005) and Purpose and Probability (Sept 2005).
  3. See post by Masood Mortazavi on Tony Blair's definition of terrorism, with my comments (Sept 2005).
  4. See discussion of the use of the Terrorism Act against Walter Wolfgang (Sept 2005).

Links updated 5 April 2015

No comments: