DON’T we all have our pet hates? I may have several items jockeying for pole position in my list (ISIS, Gillette, and the berk who spilt beer all over the bar last night currently spring to mind) at any one time. I consider hate to be the sovereign territory of the individual, which should never be yielded to outside interference. I would also never wish to deprive someone of the pleasure of hating me, having spent 40 years building up a cast-iron case for doing so.
The notion that the State is making an ill-advised incursion into our private emotions therefore can’t help filling me with, well, hate. It’s hateful. I also seriously doubt whether the police are dispassionate enough to handle such a task, overly fond as they are of makeovers in the name of inclusion. What’s their fashion statement this week? Male officers sporting the latest colours from Maybelline? Constables in high heels? LGBT patrol cars? Or just prancing around, and getting molested at carnivals? Burglary, shoplifting and assault are out, hate’s in. Protecting the law-abiding public by ensuring their tweets don’t get out of control has the benefit of producing easy prosecutions, and no chance of a broken nail in the scuffle.
As ridiculous as the notion of hate crime is, at least it has ‘crime’ in the title. Here is the CPS definition:
The term ‘hate crime’ can be used to describe a range of criminal behaviour where the perpetrator is motivated by hostility or demonstrates hostility towards the victim’s disability, race, religion, sexual orientation or transgender identity.
I thought nothing could top that, until the most asinine of asininities showed up – the ‘hate incident’, which is thus defined:
Any incident which may or may not constitute a criminal offence that is perceived by the victim, or any other person, as being motivated by prejudice or hate.
You’ve got that, right? The police want you to report things which aren’t crimes, that someone, somewhere might think is a bit mean. Could I report this morning’s taxi driver for saying ‘hello’ without asking permission, my daughter for hatefully refusing her cereal, and my mum for maliciously beating me at Monopoly at Christmas 1985?
The latest victim of this war on common sense is Harry Miller, a man of such unspeakable wickedness that he dared to like and retweet an offensive limerick. For this heinous crime, Mr Miller was subjected to a 34-minute interrogation by Humberside Police, who wanted to ‘check his thinking’. Even more sinisterly, an officer apparently threatened that he could lose his job if he did not ‘watch his words more carefully’. This was Humberside Police’s original tweet on the matter:
We received reports of a number of transphobic comments being posted on social media. We take all reports of hate related incidents seriously. We will always investigate to determine if a hate crime or incident has been committed & will take proportionate action.
— Humberside Police (@Humberbeat) January 25, 2019
Humberside Police tell man to 'check his thinking' after he likes 'offensive transgender limerick' on Twitter https://t.co/YsEIuZ0OIq
— Hull Live (@hulllive) January 25, 2019
Doubling down in the face of public ridicule (surely a hate incident if ever there was one?), the force posted this three days later:
There's been a lot of feedback about this. Here is our statement as to why and how police forces respond to hate incidents: pic.twitter.com/ch3yggII2k
— Humberside Police (@Humberbeat) January 28, 2019
The promise always to take reports seriously does seem to fly in the face of the constant narrative of police cuts and stretched resources. I cannot help but channel my inner David Lammy here: there’s never a copper around when you need one, but settle down for a nice hateful tweeting session and you can expect an immediate knock on the door.
I’m all for the police doing their job; I just wish they could manage a little triage (a medical term for putting the most urgent or important cases first and in order).
When we’ve exhausted all of that, by all means let’s have a look at the hurt feelings industry, but it’s a bad road to go down. Sticks and stones is a lesson we learned in the playground. We don’t need officials telling us what we may or may not say; we need a thicker skin and a sense of humour. Sadly, it’s clear that comedy is on its way out – they’re still hounding Count Dankula for his ‘Nazi’ pug joke.
You cannot say anything without offending someone, which is why the law must never be placed in the hands of the most offended in society. If the only thing required to convict you is your enemy’s superior victim status, then why don’t we all just start identifying as Owen Jones? In fact I think I’ll storm off right now, to get in first and establish my primacy in the most-offended stakes.