Kevin Rooney looks at the sad state of free speech (or should that be free singing?) in Scotland:
Imagine the scene: a young man is led away in handcuffs to begin a prison sentence as his mother is left crying in the courtroom. He is 19 years old, has a good job, has no previous convictions, and has never been in trouble before. These facts cut no ice with the judge, however, as the crime is judged so heinous that only a custodial sentence is deemed appropriate. The young man in question was found guilty of singing a song that mocked and ridiculed a religious leader and his followers.
So where might this shocking story originate? Was it Iran? Saudi Arabia? Afghanistan? Perhaps it was Russia, a variation of the Pussy Riot saga, without the worldwide publicity? No, the country in question is Scotland and the young man is a Rangers fan. He joined in with hundreds of his fellow football fans in singing ‘offensive songs’ which referred to the pope and the Vatican and called Celtic fans ‘Fenian bastards’.
Such songs are part and parcel of the time-honoured tradition of Rangers supporters. And I have yet to meet a Celtic fan who has been caused any harm or suffering by such colourful lyrics. Yet in sentencing Connor McGhie to three months in a young offenders’ institution, the judge stated that ‘the extent of the hatred [McGhie] showed took my breath away’. He went on: ‘Anybody who participates in this disgusting language must be stopped.’
Several things strike me about this court case. For a start, if Rangers fans singing rude songs about their arch rivals Celtic shocks this judge to the core, I can only assume he does not get out very much or knows little of life in Scotland. Not that his ignorance of football culture is a surprise — the chattering classes have always viewed football-related banter with contempt. But what is new about the current climate is that in Scotland, the middle-class distaste for the behaviour of football fans has become enshrined in law.
“After four years of a crappy economy, bipartisan dissatisfaction with bailout economics, and populous revolts on the right and the left, we are seeing basically the exact same government we had on November 6th,” says Reason magazine Editor in Chief Matt Welch. “The status quo, which has never been less popular, has just been ratified.”
And yet, says Welch, big wins on marijuana legalization and gay marriage give limited government types a lot to be happy about.
Update: Jacob Sullum on the victories for both same-sex marriage and marijuana normalization:
Tonight was a good night for gay marriage as well as marijuana. Voters approved ballot measures legalizing same-sex marriage in three states by similar margins: 53 to 47 in Maine, 52 to 48 in Maryland and Washington. In Minnesota an initiative that would amend the state constitution to ban gay marriage is tied right now, with 75 percent of precincts reporting [was defeated 51-48].
This is the first time gay marriage has been legalized by popular vote. In the six other states where it is legal (Connecticut, Iowa, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, and Vermont), the policy was enacted by the legislature or compelled by a court decision. By contrast, most of the state laws allowing medical use of marijuana — another one of which passed tonight in Massachusetts — have been enacted by voters. (Colorado and Washington both had such laws before broadening the policy to include recreational use.)
L. Neil Smith explains one of the most significant reasons that the most recent US election didn’t seem to offer much in the way of choice between the two major party candidates:
No matter how hard Productive Class folks may work at trying to put good people into office, people who respect the Bill of Rights, as well as our dignity as individuals, every single time, we end up with a non-choice between two sets of rapacious gangsters, government parasites and their corporate lookalikes who, differing only in the excuses they use to justify it, see us only as cattle, to be herded, branded, milked, and slaughtered. On the rare occasion that someone decent pokes his head up — Barry Goldwater, Ron Paul — it’s cut off by the socialist mass media, pack animals who give prostitution a bad name.
Beyond the palest shadow of a doubt, the game is rigged, with people who actually work for a living assigned the role of perpetual losers, expected to bow down to Authority no matter how ludicrous its demands, required to observe the letter and the spirit of the law no matter how often, or how outrageously it’s flouted by the insatiably power-hungry. Those who object — especially if they get together to air their grievances — are labeled rednecks, racists, or terrorists by the socialist mass media, depending on what’s in fashion at the time. The truth has no place in this process, only the virtual reality created by the socialist mass media at the behest of their thuggish clientele.
To make things even worse, members of the Productive Class find themselves in the role of shuttlecock in a game of political badminton that has been going on for two centuries. Fed up with the failures and excesses of, say, the Republicans, voters will replace them with Democrats, only to be reminded, in short order, that Democrats suffer failures and commit excesses of their own. Four years after that, experiencing political amnesia again, they put Republicans back in power, when what they ought to do is dump “both” major parties (which are really only one entity, the party of endless lies and coercion) altogether.