Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Should people making of fun of Thatcher's death be punished by the state?

In the last year or so, a number of individuals in the UK have been punished by the state for making offensive jokes on Twitter or Facebook. The blogger Liberty Scott has an excellent post about this trend. Like Liberty Scott, I believe in free speech. Therefore, I don't think the state should punish anyone for making an offensive joke in a public forum. Such behaviour, I would argue, is best regulated through informal social sanctions. If somebody posts something offensive on her Twitter page, others can then condemn her behaviour as vile or hurtful themselves.

Following Margaret Thatcher's death on Monday, a great many people have been posting offensive jokes about her on Twitter and Facebook. For example, here is one of the least rude Thatcher jokes that I came across. There doesn't seem to be any obvious difference between some (but not all) of these jokes and the ones that have landed people with jail sentences (and other punishments) in the recent past. Which brings me to my main point: if the state was consistent, it would punish all those people who have publicly made (sufficiently) offensive jokes about Thatcher. Presumably, one reason it has not done so is that it would simply not be feasible to punish so many people. Indeed, is it really possible to enforce the germane law in a non-arbitrary way? I would claim that it isn't.

1 comment:

  1. Clearly the state is not consistent. Only those 'jokes' which are offensive to a particular 'pc' world-view currently endorsed by our current left-liberal rulers will incur penalties; otherwise, not. I also believe in the principle of freedom of speech and opinion: you either *have* free speech or you *don't*. In Britain today we don't. So be careful what you say - (but you can say anything you like about anyone 'right-wing'!).