This story should worry anyone. A blogger has been paid a visit by cops after he wrote something that someone else didn't like. Instead of writing back, or defending himself, troublesome vicar Stephen Sizer complained to the fuzz of 'harassment' and the writer in question deleted his blog.
Here is a genuine attack on the freedom of speech. But of course, it's not an attack on the right of some cretinous idiot to be borderline racist and get handsomely paid for it. So I imagine those who came roaring out of their kennels in defence of Rod Liddle's freedom of speech and right to offend will be strangely less keen about this one. After all, it's not as if this blogger might be their boss in a couple of weeks' time, so the incentive to care is much less weighty.
We don't know exactly what was said, so there must be some caution. If people do stuff that verges on the deeply unpleasant, then of course others are entitled to take whatever action they see fit. But you can't help wondering if, in this case, the law appears to be favouring a particular kind of 'thought crime' that didn't exist previously. Is 'harassment' really what's going on here?
Props, then, to Melanie Phillips for exposing this terrible story in the mainstream - though you have to wonder exactly how much she would be reporting it if it were someone on the other side of that Israel/anti-Israel argument and how much their freedom of speech would matter. And yes, when you read what else she's written in the past couple of days, it does tend to weaken the good work she does do under certain circumstances. But still. Someone in the mainstream has noticed that this has happened.
People do have the right to offend, as bigshot journalists in cosy offices do and as we tiny insignificant bloggers do. Other people have the right to complain, to speak out against them, to tell them they're wrong. That's all fair enough. But going to the police about harassment? This sits very uneasily. Other bloggers I know have been accused of 'harassment' simply for trying to get their facts right, and those wailing about the 'harassment' have known that very well, and refused to co-operate, and behaved entirely shabbily. It's not 'harassment' to write something about someone else. It's not 'harassment' as long as it doesn't verge on the intensely personal, or become malicious or stalkerish. Crying 'victim' when others are simply writing about you is a pretty unpleasant thing to do.