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back to article Two jailed for online racism after US turned down asylum bid

Two British men who tried to claim political asylum in the US were jailed today for using the internet to incite racial hatred. Simon Sheppard, 51 of Selby, North Yorkshire got four years and 10 months while Stephen Whittle, 42 of Preston got two years and four months. They were found guilty of 11 charges but the jury could not …

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Bad rubbish...

...good riddance!

Of course, this won't really stop them from being poor unfortunate racists but still, nice to know their stupidity landed them in the clink.

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Free speech

In america what they did would be completely legal. That doesn't mean it wouldn't upset a lot of people. Speech which doesn't offend anyone doesn't need to be protected, but our first amendment protects all speech (though not all contexts for speech, like the classic shouting fire in a crowded theater and so on). However, it certainly doesn't mean we have to protect people who did it in a country where it isn't legal.

Now why it isn't legal in Britain is another story. Not being British I'm going to avoid conjecture.

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Anonymous Coward

Keep you criticisms anonymous

Keep your heads down and your criticisms anonymous in the UK.

I'd like to know what he said that *doesn't* incite race hatred when an officer reads it, or a jury, or a judge, or an American, yet is so poisonous that *I* cannot read it (well unless I was in the jury in which case it would apparently be fine....).

It seems to me the 'incitement' game is to imagine some weak minded person and suggest that *that* person is incapable of making their own mind up, therefore, *you* must shield *them* from *his* speech. i.e. you think you're smarter than others.

So watch your words carefully. I guess he was pissed off at Israel and categorised them as Jewish. You may be pissed off at Israel's actions in Gaza, but then so are many Jews, here's what Alexi Sayle (Jewish) said about Israel:

"What you do is blame the people you have killed - and you hear all the time from Israeli spokespeople that they are angry with the people that they have murdered, for making them murder them....It is the psychology of the murderer, the rapist, the bully. And that's what Israel is in this situation."

Israel does this trick of pretending criticism of it, is antisemitism, and uses that trick to suppress criticism. By phrasing your criticism of Israel as criticism of Jewish people, you really play into Israels hands and make it more difficult for people like Alexi to distance themselves from the killbots.

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Headmaster

Dammit, why does everybody think that?

It is called the first amendment to the Constitution, not a frickin' law (first a law is for prohibiting an action by the people). And in any case it only protects journalists and churches. The rights of the people clause is what gives everyone the freedom of speech, however intentionally destructive speech (hate speech, yelling 'fire' in a crowded place, etc.) is prohibited.

"Yes, I was on the debate team at my university, why do you ask?"

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Sorry, we're booked up

There are too many of those *ssholes in the U.S. already. We don't need to import any more....

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Alert

Crumb

Suspect Crumb was mocking idiots like this. He was a strange character but also a hippy. Looking at some of his stuff could probably get you arrested these days under the new laws. Doesn't surprise me they are too stupid to see that they're being made fun of.

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Big Brother

I may not agree with what you have to say...

...but I will defend to the death your right to say it.

Given that we in the US tend to honor asylum requests for other people living in autocratic police states, I'm somewhat disappointed that we failed in this case. The guys would be treated like the scum they are if they made their views known here - but at least they would be in a country that still recognizes a basic shred of human rights.

I'll continue to chuckle when Brits whinge about how the US is a police state because some jackass student got himself tasered by a rent-a-cop, while allowing their own government to dictate morality to them.

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Can't say I'm surprised

My government pays lip service to freedom and all that good stuff, but when push comes to shove you see that's all it is. Actually I'm more surprised at your government, that's a pretty harsh sentence.

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Freedom?

Ah, freedom of speech - so long as it doesn't offend anyone who wields power.

Twas ever thus.

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FAIL

Oh dear...

Gotta be a bit dumb to believe the USA is still the land of the free and home of the brave...

You'd be better off expressing your free speech opinion in Tiananmen Square.

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Scary

These guys are scum and deserve what's come to them, but I'm concerned that you can now be jailed for expressing your view.

This is a slippery slope and we need to be wary of that. Members of the BNP might be next - still horrid people and most people wont complain, but when the BNP becomes an acceptable target what's next? UKIP? It'll be a slow change, but there will undoubtedly be people who would like to see this precedent go further and eventually slide towards being able to jail anyone who doesn't agree with the most mainstream of views.

This is effectively the situation in Iran now - post something that doesn't agree with the main political party and it's jail time. Let's really hope this isn't the start of the UK down that path, free speech should be protected, anyone who isn't already a racist isn't going to be turned by these people's comments, reading their stuff I found it rather comical that people could be stupid and ignorant enough to suggest the things they were. They certainly didn't convince me of anything other than the fact they were complete and utter idiots not worth listening to, they certainly weren't a threat worth jailing unless the police could provide evidence they were going to go further than just expressing views online, but if that were the case then that's what they should've done them for.

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FAIL

@scary

You've nailed it. These turds deserve all they get, but whatever danger they may have posed by expressing their execrable views online pales into insignificance compared to the danger of jailing people for thoughtcrime.

The US's first amendment is a dangerous beast, but it's a pussycat compared with the alternative.

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That R. Crumb cartoon

That R. Crumb cartoon was obviously satirical. That the journalist cited it as an example of objectionable material on the website betrays some incredible stupidity. Causes me to wonder if the rest of the convicts' website wasn't satirical as well, and fell afoul of a system that has not only lost its way but its sense of humour.

Honestly, I cannot imagine anyone being arrested and jailed for publishing material alleged to be racist. In a civilized world that simply doesn't add up. The liberty to think and express oneself naturally extends to the point of physical harm, or in the case of children emotional harm. Merely expressing ignorant and stupid opinions falls rather short of that.

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Should have run to Russia

If they knew that US is controlled by Jews, why did they run to US? Should have run to Russia, not many Jews left there. On the same note, what is the difference between US and Russian Constitutions? Both guarantee freedom of speech, but US also guarantees freedom after speech.

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FAIL

<p>..

'...anyone who isn't already a racist isn't going to be turned by these people's comments, reading their stuff I found it rather comical that people could be stupid and ignorant enough to suggest the things they were.'

I concur, their views have about as much of a chance of changing my opinion as someone trying to convince me that the sky is in fact half pink and half orange...

But unfortunately we live in a UK, which increasingly appears full of mind-numbingly stupid people and laws.

An example, In Newquay 2 young people have been found dead after being drunk and falling off a cliff.... (one 18 one 16) The general response, 'Fence the cliffs' 'tougher laws on alcohol sale.' blah blah blah.

Cliffs etc have existed for as long as humans, yet a drunk kid falls off one (how is anyones guess, they are afterall easy to miss these 50+ft drops) and suddenly 'we' have to protect everyone from them.

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Anonymous Coward

Yell 'Chocolate' in a Theatre and get arrested

You can yell 'chocolate' in a theatre and you would still be arrested. It's not the word, it's the yelling in a place you shouldn't. That is not a free speech issue at all.

That phrase is a generic used to argue that *some* people shouldn't be free to speak their minds because *you* don't like what they have to say. If all men are created equal then that's very presumptuous of you!

'Hate' speech is term used to align people to cause. If you 'hate' the demon of the day then that's fine, but depart from that and you can be arrested. Thereby ensuring that the only calls of hate are the ones you want to hear. (e.g. Pat Robinson calls for Hugo Chavez to be killed, and Republicans back him, but people were arrested for threatening Bush online).

So no, defining some speech as 'hate' speech and pretending to back free speech while allowing anti-free speech laws is a contradiction.

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WTF?

Only journalists?

By Crazy Operations Guy Posted Friday 10th July 2009 17:21 GMT

Are you sure you've read your constitution correctly? "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

"the press" doesn't mean journalists, it means the printing press. The amendment specifically mentions printing in order to prevent the first amendment being restricted to the spoken word. Why? Because the rebels (as they were then) started their arguments against British tax policies in the colonies through the medium of anonymously printed pamphlets, and the British authorities attempted to prevent this by restricting who could use printing presses.

This protection of the written word extends to any form of "press" including the internet, which is merely a logical extension of the form.

These people should not be in jail. In the UK we live in a country where the government has now given itself the right to jail people merely for the "perception" of offence. That is, if you say something I decide is offensive to me, you go to jail. This is an oppressive police state.

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Wow!

These two really are idiots. What on earth made them think that the US authorities would support their right to incite hatred against Jews?

Oh and Ian11, what are you on? It's nothing to do with disagreeing with the ruling party. Incitement to racial hatred is a crime, plain and simple. People like you do not seem to realise that "freedom of speech" does not give one the right to say anything without fear of reprisals. Freedom of speech gives you the right to say what you want, however it also implies that you must face the consequences of what you say. Why do you think things like the law of slander exist?

BTW I'm not aware of any specific right to free speech under English law.

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No idea what they said... but it was only WORDS!

A millionaire drug dealer in heroin was sentenced yesterday. He got four years, for wrecking hundreds of lives.

These two unfortunates were sentenced to longer than that; for what? For saying Wrong Things. Of course we have no idea what they said; we aren't told. They're demonised by the state, tho... for their opinions.

It's sickening and terrifying at the same time. You have to hate people pretty badly to want to lock them up for words. And we can be pretty certain that these unfortunates will be treated to a special display of institutional bullying and harassment in prison too. No human rights for them, eh?

Still, Ireland has just passed an anti-blasphemy law. All the people who coo in delight at victimising these people are in an outrage at the thought that the same might happen to them (or so I see on the Guardian's comments page). That may lead to some shame among the haters.

We need a law of free speech in the UK now. Either that; or we need locking people up for their opinions to be something both Right and Left do, and not merely a tool of the political Left. Because in the former case, it will quickly cease to be.

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Paris Hilton

It is a freedom, not a right

The freedom of speech in the United States is not a right. Freedoms are protected with the exchange of responsibility. We have the right to the freedom, but not the right to the protected act itself. The responsibility exchange requires that our speech not violate the contract of the civil society which does not allow for hatred nor any other speech which is deliberately intended to degrade, intrude upon, deny, or interfere with the freedoms of others.

For specific examples of how this is interpreted, misinterpreted, and oft abused, please peruse any news outlet.

Paris, simply misinterpreted.

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FAIL

Meanwhile...

There remain thousands of other racist inciting websites on the internet, untouchable by the UK authorities, that will have zero effect on the people they refer to.

And the British taxpayer now has to pickup the tab for housing and feeding these individuals for a total of 6+ years.

Maybe someone can explain how this is not yet another massive fail by people we are paying to catch real criminals, as opposed to name-callers and insult throwers.

FTR, the EU definition of antisemitism is here - it makes eye opening reading:

http://www1.yadvashem.org/about_holocaust/holocaust_antisemitism/Working_Definition_on_Antisemitism.pdf

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Unhappy

Heretical

The "Heretic Press Directory" website is still up so people can take a look for themselves at the sort of stuff they write and form their own opinion. Looking at the list of charges is a cause for concern since it includes "possession" of some offending articles, which means anyone reading those particular articles could also be charged.

I think we should be concerned about why our laws prohibit freedom of speech on certain subjects. It smacks of totalitarianism and implies the "accepted view" on those subjects may be biased for political reasons. Finding the truth should be our goal in a free society, and an open discourse between opposing views based on evidence will home in on the truth. Banning dissent and jailing reactionaries impedes this process. We are fools to think that one 'news' or opinion source tells us the truth 100% of the time while another is entirely wrong.

If British citizens can be tried under British laws for publishing on a US website, then presumably any British citizen who publishes in breach of our laws elsewhere in the world can also be prosecuted? Let's hope the law is so rigorously enforced when it comes to all those who have published the BNP membership list.

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Anonymous Coward

RE: Scary and similar brainfarts

I disagree in the utmost the premise that free speech / thoughtcrime is the issue here.

there is a difference to saying "I disagree with the actions of group X and I urge people to write to their MP / boycott / campaign against said group" or "Group X should be wiped of the face of the earth, God has a special place in Heaven for anyone who kills an X and I urge you all to do so"

As you can see, I have disagreed with your views without calling* for your death / dismemberment / inappropriate touching so it is certainly possible.

Just to clarify the situation fo5r those who think teh US constitution either does count in the UK or should count here:

We do not have freedom of speech** as such in this country. You are able to say whatever you damn well please, but there are some things which said will result in consequences - joke about having a bomb when going through customs, shout "FIRE!" in a cinema, phone the police saying you are being robbed when you are not, lie in court or sell state secrets to the Iranians and there will be criminal consequences. Libel/slander someone and you may well find yourself on the receiving end of civil consequences.

*I do not call for any of those things, just to be absolutely clear - I would be upset should anyone take it upon themselves to do any of them.

**This is a very interesting question though - exactly what would constitute freedom of speech? Obviously some things should be fine (such as non-libellous criticism of a ruler - remember in the UK truth is an absolute defence against libel) and some things not allowed (such as perjury or passing on state secrets) but this is a more serious debate than would be possible here methinks.

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Flame

A Robert Crumb cartoon? WTF?

...so what about those Jack Chick tracts. I mean, seriously...

>>I guess he was pissed off at Israel and categorised them as Jewish.

Not wrong, considering that the current Israeli lawmakers want to imprison people for a year or so if they deny that Israel is a "Jewish State" (whatever that is).

I'm out b4 pro-Israel paid talkbackers come in...

(No bias, gentlemen: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3744516,00.html).

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Big Brother

What concerns me

is that, apparently, the British judicial system believes it has authority over web sites which are hosted abroad.

Presumably, we should start demanding extradition of American racists who also host their sites in the US?

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FAIL

Sticks an' stones?

No?

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b 3
Megaphone

the truth..

watch this 3:30 documentary..

* possible the scariest thing i ever saw *

themoneymasters.com/

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FAIL

@Ian 11

I don't think merely expressing their views was what got them into (so much) trouble. They were prosecuted for inciting racial hatred. It's one thing having your own views (however distasteful they are) but inciting others is much, much more serious.

I'm glad they are where they are, maybe there's a few non-whites around to have some 'in-depth' discussions with them while they languish at her majesty's pleasure.......

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Words do change people

I'm pretty sick of all of the smug "it's just words, they can't make you anything you're not already" type comments. Have those who write these comments even stopped for a minute to think that there are times in history when entire nations have been turned against a particular ethnic group, just by words? Hitler's Germany would tend to pop out as a prime example, there are many others. These people were dangerous racists, this isn't being banged up for thoughtcrime, this is being prosecuted for insightment to racial hatred, actively going out to spread their nasty small minded bigotry to others. I am glad they are in prison.

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Stop

There is already UK law protecting free speech

It's found in the Human Rights Act 1998, which formalised the provisions set out in the European Convention on Human Rights - Article 10 of which enshrined the right to Freedom of Expression.

It may be a mitigated right, but it's still there.

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FAIL

A freedom IS a right!

Alan, you're talking out of your behind. There's a reason they call it the "bill of rights".

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WTF?

@Alan W. Rateliff, II

Either you missed when you tried to click 'joke alert', or you're a dimwit.

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One Sided

Bet you everything I own that Adil Khan wouldn't have problem giving free speech

http://www.truthandgrace.com/Images/muslimhate102.jpg

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Flame

Inciting racial hatred...

... is a bit more than expressing racist views; it's more like encouraging people to burn down synagogues, fly planes into skyscrapers, that sort of thing. Generally it's not tolerated anywhere, including the US

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Flame

On the bright side ...

... they are now qualified to run Formula 1.

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@AC 0751

The jurisdiction is claimed because the web sites, which are hosted in the US are operating for UK citizens. What is the point of having a law againt say, insighting racial hatred, when you allow people covered by the law to sidestep it by publishing their views in a different country? This isn't the UK claiming a right to prosecute anyone except UK citizens and it is right a proper that they be prosecuted.

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Grenade

Who'd athunk so much misconception could surround any issue.

First off, they are British citizens, not US citizens. So the US is under no obligation to protect their rights, regardless of what you as an individual might think the origin of those rights are. We die in enough piss-holes around the world while protecting those rights for some people without committing ourselves to dying in every piss-hole where somebody says something that offends somebody else. Not that I think Britain is a piss-hole, in fact it is one of the few countries I would be interested in visiting some day. But establish 'protecting British citizens from their government' as a US responsibility would, at least if consistently applied, lead to us doing so for all the piss-holes around the world as well. Frankly given the gratitude we've gotten for doing so recently, I've had enough of that.

Next up, they did break the law when they came to the US, so their incarceration was entirely appropriate. They attempted to enter the country under false pretense, which is a crime. My problem with the conduct of my government on this issue is not how they handled these two people, but their failure to apply this solution more even-handedly in protecting the integrity of our borders.

As to the issue of whether or not they ought to be incarcerated in Britain I would say there are several competing interests here. First off, on a moral basis I do quite think they will eventually get what's coming to them, and that some number of years in jail is a mere down payment on their eventual punishment. But I hold that punishment will be delivered in the hereafter, not the now. In the here and now, I prefer a government which does not imprison people after the fact for extended periods of time for exercising free speech. I'm not sure there are actually any of those left in the world. As a practical matter, they have been tried and convicted by a court that I deem to be as reasonably constituted as can be expected these days. Therefore the trial itself is lawful, as is their conviction under it. Now as to the wisdom of that law... It seems to me that per capita, England in particular and Great Britain in general, has more Jew-hating radicals than the US, although it likely has somewhat fewer than Europe. At least some of these people have already been locked up in the same prisons to which these two scumbags are headed. So the odds are fair that two run of the mill racists can be radicalized into more effective terrorists than they already are. Only this time profiling, which is otherwise actually a decent tool for a first approximation on determining who the bad guys are, will be of absolutely no use. Welcome to The New Jihad.

Grenade, because pretty sound carrying guns won't be enough.

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Big Brother

I just had a look at the comic...

...and I thought it was pretty tame. Either they are lying (which is perfectly possible), or it looks like they think they can back up a lot of their assertions. If they believe they have only told the truth they should appeal and then attempt to back up their claims in court. Which assertions exactly broke the law?

Either way though we should not have limits on free speech. All information should be free, and if we really want to fight extremism we should make sure that everyone can see everything.

In fact I think this whole affair is likely to make people go and read their comic, which is probably the exact opposite of what the authorities intended.

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Stop

Mixed feelings here ....

Since I don't know what exactly this guys spread around I find it difficult to be pro- or con the verdict,

being a German though I appreciate from our own, not too distant, history what words (leading to actions) can do. We all know that words can be a weapon in its own fashion, too many dumb'sters out threre with no (mental) ability to differentiate (but just follow)

Spreading hatress is an absolute NO WAY in my book.

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