March 22, 2013

QotD: Battening down the (free speech) hatches

I have to confess, as an ignorant inhabitant of North America, that I don’t really understand the current press scandal in the U.K., and I was hoping that perhaps someone could enlighten me.

As I understand it, a number of members of the press committed crimes in the course of gathering material for stories — that is, they committed acts that were already illegal, and which already carried substantial penalties.

It would therefore seem that preventing such acts in the future would require nothing more than diligently enforcing existing law.

I’m therefore curious as to what purpose is articulated for ending freedom of expression in the U.K.

Is it claimed that the laws were not being enforced before on the powerful? Then surely the new restrictions on freedom will be selectively enforced as well, with only the weak being stifled. (That is, of course, universal — the powerful never need permission to do anything. Freedom is a protection for the weak, the strong need no protection.)

Is it claimed that performing criminal acts was somehow insufficiently illegal? Is it claimed that the existing laws against criminal conspiracies are not already broad, vague and all-encompassing?

Perry Metzger, “Doubly-illegal acts”, Samizdata, 2013-03-21

Explaining the title of this post:

Daffy Duck: “Batten down the hatches!”
Bugs: “We did batten ’em down!”
Daffy: “Well, batten ’em down again, we’ll teach those hatches!”

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