Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Football fans convicted for homophobic jibes in landmark case

Two football supporters have become the first fans to be convicted of chanting homophobic abuse.

James Monkhouse and Michael Church, followers of Norwich City, were found guilty by Norwich Magistrates’ Court of disorderly behaviour after reportedly shouting anti-gay chants aimed at Brighton football club fans earlier this year.

The defendants were filmed chanting the word “queer” from the stands, the court was told, and were later escorted out of the stadium by football intelligence officer PC Chris Watts, to the applause of Brighton fans.


Both men denied the charges and insisted thy are not homophobic, Monkhouse, 28, told the court, “I didn't think the word queer was derogatory. Most football banter is having a bit of fun and a bit of a laugh. It was meant to be a comic reply to what was said to us.

Ok, Mr. Monkhouse, bullshit that you didn't know the word queer was derogatory.

I've got no problem with you and your buddy being escorted out, and if they had banned you from the stadium, that would be ok by me too. What I do have a problem with is the legal proceeding. I realize that the UK, and other democracies don't have the same ideas about freedom of speech protections that the US has, but I think they should. Hate speech is bad stuff, but making it criminal isn't going to stop it. Criminalizing speech should only be done in extreme cicumstances (incitement to riot, direct incitement to violence).

Obviously, making hateful speech unacceptable is the ulitmate goal, and one I wholeheartedly support. Tacit acceptance of this kind of stuff just perpetuates it , and contributes to an atmosphere where violence against gay people, women, all sorts of minority groups is tolerated, if not encouraged. But I think there's a great danger in making it illegal to say certain things, and I don't believe that it really furthers the goal. The slippery-slope argument is overused, so I'll just say it sets a bad precedent.

We've got a guy here in Jacksonville, FL who has a public access type radio show where he says things like this (excerpt from his blog) -
This whole scenerio permeats [sic] throughout the educational system in Florida. American-Africans fail to even meet the minimum standards in school, and will bring down the quality of overall standards in schools they transfer to.

They are not capable of learning on the same levels as Whites or Orientals are. The more Blacks in the school, no matter at what level, the lower the tests scores will be for that school.

This is clearly ridiculous and obviously promotes racism, but does it qualify as hate speech? Should we be able to censor his speech because of the lies and the tone?

Ultimately, I think the best antidote to hateful speech is more speech. Ceding more power over the individual to the government, even in a good cause, isn't the answer.

Hat tip to Shakes (though she does disagree with me)

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Shakespeare's Sister said...

I think there's some confusion here about the charges. They weren't charged with hate speech, but with "disruptive behavior," which was based on their having violated rules set up by the Football Association. In other words, their persistence on using speech that's prohibited by the FA resulted in their having to be removed from the stadium, and that's what the charges were about.

The same guys wouldn't have been arrested if they'd said the same things in a pub.

Banning from the stadium, btw, would be a much more serious punishment, and more costly, if they were season ticket-holders, which many football fans are.

Chris Howard said...

Yeah, I was wondering about the actual charges, which were only vaguely mentioned in the article, but I figured my point could stand alone.

And even though a banning would be more severe, I wouldn't have a problem with it, as owning season tickets is a privelege, not a right.

Storm said...

I think we agree here but perhaps for different reasons.

The point is it is their stadium and therefore they make the rules. There is no freedom of speech violation and there should be no hate speech violation (I say should because I disagree with the hate speech concept).

Storm said...

The only way this may be confusing is when public tax dollars are used to create the stadium. Does that change it from a private facility to a public facility?