Peter Hitchins, "On the dangers of the UK government's counter-extremism strategy", DefendFreeSpeech YouTube channel (26 May 2016)
"At the moment you start trying to use the law against opinions then you are moving from a free society into an unfree society. Since the first Queen Elizabeth said, "I do not wish to make windows into men's souls", it's been our principal: You can be punished for what you do, you cannot be punished for what you think, and you can't be punished for what you say unless it is incitement to crime. And as long as you maintain that boundary you are a free country.
"The problem with this Bill—the problem with Mr. Cameron ever since his speech to the United Nations—has been that he doesn't understand this distinction. He doesn't even understand that it's important, and he continually presses away with this nonsense. I am, in the eyes of many people, an 'extremist' simply for holding, by and large, the views that my parents' generation held. Those views have become, in the eyes of many people, 'extreme'. 'Extremism' doesn't mean anything objective; it is simply a term you use to define your opponents as people who need to be restricted, and quite possibly expunged and imprisoned.
"There's a point about legislation that people really have to remember: once it's passed, it's passed. The existing government—the people who are speaking out for this now—may say: "Oh well, it won't be used for this reason; it won't be used for that reason." That's no guarantee. Once you've passed legislation of this kind, some future government may well use it, and once you have the idea of 'extremism' on the statute book, then it is usable against anybody. *
(Mail on Sunday columnist Peter Hitchens addressing a number of the dangers of the government’s counter-extremism strategy, broadcast on BBC One at 10am, 22 May 2016.)
Peter Hitchens on the UK government's counter-extremism legislation proposals
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* Emphases added.
Image: "Mouth wide shut" by Soumyadeep Paul on Flickr (CC BY 2.0); cropped, brightened