Blair vs Freedom

They've never been strong friends. The British prime minister sees a problem and feels obliged to offer a solution. If liberty is extinguished a little in the process, he sheds few tears. As readers of this blog well know, there were few sights more abhorrent to me lately than that of Islamist protestors in London, raging against legitimate political speech in cartoons, while threatening violence and glorifying terrorism. But the Blair response is excessive. It's already illegal to publicly incite violence - and for an obvious reason. It's incitement to commit a distinct and grave crime. But mere "glorification" of terrorism is an expression of a belief, unrelated to a specific future crime. Blair's own words reveal the problem:

"The law that we passed today will allow us to take far stronger action against people who don't just directly engage in terrorism but indirectly incite it."

How do you indirectly incite anything? By that standard, all sorts of ideas could be deemed an indirect incitement to criminality. Many ideas are indirectly dangerous or may indirectly inspire criminal behavior. Being able freely to air such beliefs is integral to the workings of a free society. We have lost many aspects of that freedom since 9/11, sometimes necessarily so. Which is what makes the unnecessary restrictions, made in the heat of the moment, all the more distressing.