Il n’est pas Charlie

“We stand squarely for free speech and democracy”, said David Cameron last Wednesday at Prime Minister’s Questions, not more than an hour after the attacks on the French magazine Charlie Hebdo. This is a rather strange proposition for the leader of a party who proposed to reinstate the ban on “extremists” from appearing on television and have been trying for the past few years to reintroduce the “snooper’s charter”. Indeed, the Tories have gone rather native in the Home Office, in contrast to five years ago when we were all criticising Labour for restricting our civil liberties.

Several hours later, the House of Commons then debated a somewhat–but not sufficiently–diluted Counter Terrorism and Security Bill, in which Tory and Labour frontbenchers alike praised the bill for being an important tool in the fight against paedophiles and terrorists: the two words that friends of this blog have previously highlighted as resulting in universally awful legislation.

After this brief sojourn into hypocrisy, Cameron took a flight to Paris where he stood side-by-side with the world’s autocrats and despots in the name of free speech. Whilst there, he lent his name to an agreement for more surveillance powers. One would think that Charb and his seven colleagues would not want that in their name. But Cameron went one step further, and proposed the worst idea to regulate a specialist field since Labour tried to ban coffee eighteen months ago: a ban on encryption.

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My speech on digital freedom to the Liberal Democrat Conference

Making your first speech at a political conference is tough, especially when you know that the media are watching you as well as delegates there. That didn’t stop me, as a first-time conference attendee, from making a speech to the Lib Dem Spring Conference in York last Sunday, on the Digital Bill of Rights motion. Having been persuaded to by Julian Huppert and Tim Farron to mention digital freedom at Conference, I decided to make such a speech, which I reproduce below:

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Rhys Morgan, and an attack on free speech

Rhys Morgan hit the headlines a few weeks ago due to his work in publicising Stanislaw Burzynski‘s fradulent alternative medicine practices. I hold him in some high regard as, at his age, I wasn’t too heavily involved in skepticism (although a friend of mine was, and was partially the reason why I later became active in the atheist movement).

Also in the news was a dispute between University College London and their atheist society, after an image from the webcomic Jesus and Mo was used to promote one of their facebook event. Obviously, this caused Muslims on campus to complain about the offensiveness of the image. It’s nothing new; Leeds Atheist Society was forced to cancel a showing and debate of the controversial film Fitna back in 2009 for the same reason. Continue reading “Rhys Morgan, and an attack on free speech”