“Freedom of speech, democracy, the rule of law – these are the absolute fundamentals of a free Western society” blazed Nigel Farage last year, attacking regulation of the press. It seems some in his party could do with revisiting their great leaders impassioned outburst.
Over the last few weeks, UKIP appears to be going to ever greater lengths to ensure that freedom of speech and democracy are principles which aren’t extended to those who oppose them, with a little help from our old pal, “the rule of law.”
When Michael Abberton, a blogger and Green Party member, saw an anti-UKIP meme, “10 Great Reasons to vote UKIP”, he resisted the temptation to do what people on the internet are supposed to. Instead of clicking like/share/retweeting and passing on whatever someone happens to put on a picture as fact, he decided to investigate. Having concluded his research, Michael then reuploaded the graphic, including either sources for each claim or the disclaimer that he had been unable to source them.
Like the original image, Michael’s updated picture went viral. Far from attracting plaudits, he instead received a visit from the plod. The Police made clear his dastardly research wasn’t actually a crime or anything but asked him if he could take the image off Twitter anyway, coz like… someone in UKIP asked them to ask him too. He pointed out that he couldn’t really stop his now viral image from continuing to do the rounds, (having had to explain what Twitter was and how it worked to the Polis) he nonetheless agreed to delete his tweets as a gesture of good will.
This isn’t the only time the “libertarian”, “free speech” party, has resorted to call for the boys in blue to be called in to stifle critics. On Tuesday, ahead of his visit to Brighton, a UKIP source said the Police should arrest demonstrators who say nasty things about the party.
Despite the Police having made clear they went a bit OTT in relation to the “sharing a picture“ incident, UKIP lackies online have continued to pursue legalistic threats against people who continue to engage in this still not illegal act. Well known blogger and meme maker Another Angry Voice, who as the name would suggest, posts constant raging and generally spot on visual and written insights/bile, directed at the political establishment, was also subjected to UKIP bullying, being told that by sharing Abberton’s graphic which contained their logo, copyright law was being infringed.
We’re not legal eagles (and don’t really give 2 fucks about whether you’re allowed to tape things off the telly or buy fags down the Barras) but since Mr. Farage is so clear about “the rule of law” – what does “the law” actually say about using other people’s images?
The concept of fair dealing allows for copyright to be infringed for the purposes of research, examination, criticism, news reporting etc. etc. (ok, it says you have to credit the source but it’s pretty much assumed that the source of UKIP’s logo would be UKIP…). The notion that such matters would end up in court is complete fantasy. Quite apart from that (no doubt sparkling) legal analysis, if you’re a party who claim to defend “free speech” (i.e racism, homophobia, misogyny etc.), it’s generally considered bad form when someone criticises you to claim they can’t because you have copyright on yourself. Any time copyright has been used in an attempt to stifle political debate, the results have been the opposite – cast your mind back to the video which Better Together tried to ban for using its logo/publicly available material, “Top 10 Unionist Myths Debunked” – now one of the most watched videos in Scottish political history.
Speaking of Scotland, UKIP’s London Regional Organiser/Scottish Euro election candidate, who definitely stays in Edinburgh until the 23rd May, David Coburn, has his own history of trying to shut down criticism of him or his party. This blog cites various tweets, effectively encouraging others to report the account @womendefyUKIP to the Twitter authorities for publicising some of UKIP’s policies and the effect they would have on women. He also showed his support for freedom of the press by ensuring that when a critical comment was made about him in the Herald, the UKIP member responsible was suspended for a hundred years. There have been a string of sackings, resignations and accusations of bullying during Coburn’s brief time in UKIP Scotland midst, 6 of the other 9 potential Euro candidates stood down during the selection process, many citing unhappiness at the hand-picked Farage loyalist being parachuted in. Those who spoke freely against Coburn have all been removed from UKIP, whose manifesto proudly boasts that its members “don’t toe the party line.”
All the silly cyberkipping and political backstabbing aside, it should be of real concern that a party like UKIP, which makes such good use of a media to spread hatred almost unchallenged, is employing such tactics to crack down on criticism. There isn’t a whole lot we can do about the ubiquitous social media authorities like Facebook and Twitter (who can, officially do what they fuck they want and are under no obligation to allow anyone say anything under their terms of service.) There is however, a far bigger worry that the Police are openly leaning on UKIP’s political opponents, without any clear basis to do so.
If this is how UKIP respond to dissent now and how the authorities react, in a period when, despite all the media fawning and lazy uncritical coverage, they don’t actually have any real power, just imagine what’s in store if we ever allow them a bigger foot in the door. If we’re already been forced to self censor, being banned from social media, having the Police knock on the door and being told if we say nasty things about them, we should all be thrown in jail, what happens if we actually vote for them and put them in charge?
The announcement that “Britain First”, a fascist political group/street army/facebook page/defenders of the faith, assembled by con-artist and former BNP fundraiser, Jim Dowson, were to provide 4 ARMOURED VEHICLES to defend Farage, gives us a wee insight into the kind of freedoms that UKIP has in store for its critics in future. I would note that reports of squaddies mowing down wee lassies shouting at Farage remain unconfirmed although I‘m reliably informed that when he visited Edinburgh last week, 5 or 6 loyalist/SDL types turned up to “defend“ him, saw hundreds of protesters and, to quote a first hand source, “shat themselves” before running away under police escort, the cry of no surrender ringing loudly in their iphones.
It’s becoming clear that in UKIPland, freedom of speech doesn’t extend to the anti-racist campaigners or the LGBT activists who railed against their presence in Edinburgh last week or Brighton last night, democracy means you get lots of money (around £1m for your Parliamentary term) for going to a Parliament you’re dead against which you can then spend on racist advertising, driving gloves and photo-ops of you drinking pints and smoking fags, the “rule of law” means if anyone ever criticises you, you call in the heavies.
So far, those heavies haven’t amounted to much more than some bumbling cops, a few incompetent twitter admins and some useless skinheads but the fact these things are happening at all is proof UKIP are terrified of freedom of speech. They are scared that the freedoms they claim to promote will come back to bite them in the arse once people figure of they’re little more than a vanity scheme to make money for bigots – scared that a more free media (like…the internet) might mean people ask if they really want to vote for a party which wants to further privatise the NHS, abolish maternity pay, blame gay people for rain, intentionally promote pollution and ecological destruction and incite racist hatred for little reason other than to land themselves massive pay cheques from the EU and get themselves on the telly, talking about how shit the EU is.
With an election just a week away, we must make clear that while we may be fearful of what UKIP represents, we are not and will not be scared of them or their constant failed attempts at censorship.
We must continue to expose not just their hateful agenda and array of terrible policies but the total hypocrisy of a party who bleat on about freedom while suggest their critics should be thrown in jail.
We must bombard the media with demands to counter the constant coverage of a party who’ve never kept a deposit north of the border, by broadcasting any of the array of critical voices and publicly available fact (and maybe even a wee UKIP logo, just to piss them off).
And if we can bring ourselves to do it, we need to get to the ballot box on the 22nd and make sure we let them know that they still aren’t welcome in Scotland.
More Kipper related capers: