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Friday, June 1, 2018

Guest Post Re Tommy Robinson

Editors Note: Those dismissing Robinson's imprisonment based on a superficial analysis of the legal technicalities of the case are context dropping on a colossal scale (a major fallacy on the right which I discussed at length in this post). For a so-called free speech advocate to take this view, he must completely omit particulars about Robinson’s history and the state's persecution of him due to his outspoken views, the anti-speech climate in UK, the larger PC inspired war against Muslim critics, the circumstances of the case, the disproportionate sentence imposed on Robinson given his actions, and the morality of the law itself to name a few. If an outspoken critic of a local police department was suddenly sentenced to 20 years in prison for having a flake of weed on him, would these same people argue, “well, that’s the law?”  Would these same people, asserting property rights out-of-context, claim that the tea was not really the property of the colonists when they dumped it in the harbor? This method of thinking is an example of total disintegration.

With that in mind, I asked the author of the following post if I could re-post here as an excellent example of contextual analysis as it relates to the law.  While others have detailed other contextual factors, like those cited above, Mazlish considers the case by evaluating the law itself.  He doesn't simply accept the current law or Robinson's imprisonment as a metaphysical given, but stresses the importance of addressing these legal issues in a way that recognizes and acknowledges the importance of free speech.    

GUEST POST by Ed Mazlish 
When the government acts to stop a peaceful person from disseminating true and factual information mixed with the speaker's critical opinion about a government policy, that is quintessential censorship.

It does not matter whether the government muzzle is authorized by a statute. It does not matter whether a judge imposed the gag by court order.

If the government is going to silence speech, it needs an extraordinary justification to do so. Maybes don't cut it. The government needs real, credible evidence that some paramount government interest is threatened before it may properly muzzle a speaker - and muzzling the speech needs to be the least restrictive way to protect that paramount government interest. Especially when speech critical of the government is involved.

The British government has muzzled Tommy Robinson for the "crime" of reporting truthful, factual information mixed with Tommy's opinion criticizing the British government's policy of open immigration for Muslims. No real defender of free speech rights should tolerate or abide that absent an overwhelming explanation from the British government. But none has been offered.

Defenders of the British government - or those "agnostics" who want to "evenhandedly" evaluate the law and the British government - hypothesize that the truthful reporting and offering of Tommy Robinson's opinion will, *somehow,* create a mistrial for the other Muslim defendants who have been given a separate trial. This claim is arbitrarily asserted - but even if it were true, how would it bias the future trials? By inflaming the British public through criticism of Britain's open immigration policy for Muslims.

Speech that criticizes contentious government policies is at the highest level of need for protection from censorship. If the above "problem" truly exists, it needs to be dealt with in some other way than by muzzling Tommy Robinson and throwing him in jail while conducting a secret trial not available to the public or press. Muzzling speech critical of the government because it inflames fellow citizens is not acceptable.

The government could, for example, instead conduct the trials simultaneously and sequester the jurors. If there is some legitimate risk of poisoning the jury pool, simultaneous trials with sequestered jurors is far less intrusive on speech rights than censoring Tommy Robinson.

Muzzling Tommy Robinson and conducting secret criminal trials not open to public reporting is not ok. Protecting the British government from criticism is not ok. Protecting Islam from criticism is not ok.

Whatever your view of open immigration, whether generally or for Muslims, what the British government has done to Tommy Robinson should not be ok. Not if you value free speech and not if you value open, public criminal trials.

*Ed Mazlish has been a practicing attorney since 1994. He has litigated constitutional cases and defended businesses and private citizens since 1994.

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