Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Flag burning? Why not, it's a free country

The Guardian reported that the British police want to see the burning of flags at demonstrations in the UK outlawed. Indeed, the chairman of the Metropolitan Police Authority, Len Duvall argued that people;

"have the right to [demonstrate] but they must do so peacefully and without causing undue offence."

The Labour MP Shahid Malik also supports the police proposal; he added that these 'appear to be sensible proposals which I believe all sensible people, irrespective of religion or race, will support'.

Well, I'm sorry, but the police and Shahid Malik are talking complete and utter nonsense. For a start, the proposal is a blatant restriction on our right to free speech. I personally don't go around burning flags at demonstrations, but in a free society if other people want to do such things, why can't they?

Whether we like it or not, flag burning is a form of political speech. If the police, or anyone else for that matter finds it offensive, then that's just tough. I certainly wouldn't want to live in a society where the police determine how offensive a demonstration may be.

I militantly agree with Brendan O’Neill’s assessment of this issue, it's bad enough that free speech is under attack, on top of that, the police want to restrict our right to be offensive at demonstrations too - well, as O'Neill rightfully argued, they can just f**k right off.

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At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Andrew said...

I entirely agree; but more than that I think banning flag burning just confirms that we are offended by it; this is exactly what flag burners want.

I really don't think they have thought this through; they just don't want their own flag burned and are reacting on personal feelings.

At 11:02 AM, Blogger Courtney Hamilton said...

Your right Andrew, no one has thought this through - it appears to be a knee-jerk reaction to some of the high spirited demos we've seen lately.

The thing is, now that the police have openly confirmed they are offended by such things, this can only lead to more flag burning in the future - such things are not lost on people who burn the Union Jack.

At 2:29 PM, Anonymous Ellee said...

Courtney, This is more about freedom of expression than speech, nobody is saying your speech is denied. I find it quite a violent action, perhaps fuelled by hatred for a country. There are other ways to get a message across.

At 9:08 PM, Anonymous Ellee said...

Hi Courtney, I don't think banning the burning of flags hinders free spreech, but rather free expression, you are still able to say what you wish. It is something very rarely done in this country, and when we see it happen in other countries, it is usually done with hate. There must be other ways to get the message across.

At 10:24 PM, Anonymous Ellee said...

I didn't mean to post twice, I wondered if the first one didn't reach you.

At 11:24 PM, Anonymous Longrider said...

ellee, by allowing people to express themselves freely, we see what they really think and can judge accordingly. You're right, it is a message of hate, but better out in the open for all to see. That's why this proposal is so ill conceived. After all, a flag is just a piece of cloth. Allowing people to burn it reminds us all of just what it represents.

At 11:46 PM, Anonymous Lucyp said...

I agree with you Courtney, to even be considering a ban is just admitting that it bothers us. Personally i just see it as a very graphic way of getting your point across and i am no more insulted by someone burning the flag of my nation than i am by someone holding a banner calling Blair a terrorist. I see it as a legitimate way of protesting.

At 6:00 AM, Blogger Mark said...

Lemmee give you a different take on this Courtney.

I don't give a rat's ass if someone wants to burn a flag. However, how about the issue of safety when setting fire to a flag in a public place surrounded by a creowd of people? At a recent ANSWERTT rally, some dipshit took it upon himself to burn an Israeli flag. Not content with just setting a match to it, he saw fit to produce a can of gasoline to douse it with. He was arrested, BTW.

I don't know about anyoine else, but the last thing I need ius to be standing next to some douchebag with a lousy temper, a can of gasoline and a match.

No thanks.

Public flag burning should be illegal on the same grounds as any other act of arson. Because it's arson.

At 6:49 AM, Anonymous Ruth said...

I am willing to bet those opposed to flag burning were the first to condemn the reaction of some to the Danish cartoons...

At 11:45 AM, Blogger Courtney Hamilton said...


"I don't think banning the burning of flags hinders free spreech, but rather free expression".

Technically speaking your right, however, in the US, flag desecration is a big issue, but flag burners are protected under the First Amendment. The issue is, as you quite rightly point out, an issue of freedom of expression, but the sub-issue is one of free speech. I think the two issues are inseparable.

The reason why I talk about free speech and flag burning is because the American Civil Liberties Union are adamant that the two issues are linked together.


I think Longrider has hit the nail on the head, the thing about banning flag burning, is that it denys our ability to judge for ourselves - we end up having to take the states word for everything.

What really bothered me was the statement by Len Duvall, about banning demo's that cause 'undue offence'. Most demonstrations I know of, do precisely just that - indeed, anti-war demo's or even animal rights demo's are bound to cause someone 'undue offence', isn't that what demonstrations are for? If we are unable to offend people during a public demo, then what's the point of demonstrating?

Can you imagine saying; 'I won't go on that pro-abortion demo, or that gay right's demo, all because the Catholic church and the police would find it offensive'?

At 1:06 PM, Blogger Cheezy said...

Totally agree with most of the comments here. Flag burning can be a sensible reaction to some things. Excuse my anal sporting memory but I remember in the football World Cup in 1982 when West Germany and Austria had conspired to draw a game that would see them both through to the second round... and also see underdogs Algeria knocked out of the tournament. It was a truly shit thing to do and an honourable West German fan, who had brought his flag along to support his team, was so disgusted by what was happening that he chose to (disregard Mark's health & safety concerns and) set light to it, and made an admirable statement about sportsmanship in the process.

Long live our right to burn stuff, that's what I say!

At 3:19 PM, Blogger Serf said...

I tend to see flag burners as pathetic sad people (though cheezy's example is different). Most of those who choose this activity as a hobby are displaying their personal over sensitivity to their own tribal identity, whatever that is. That is why they see it as such strong symbolism.

However I see no reason why being sad & pathetic in public should be made illegal (though I draw the line at petrol).

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At 1:53 AM, Blogger Platform9 said...

It's only a matter of time before I have to start buring the union flag myself. Fre born Englishman that I am - full circle that I live in. Fuck the UK. Home rule for England.

At 10:48 AM, Anonymous The Remittance Man said...


In a truly free country I would be able to burn a flag in whatever manner I chose. Equally, should the people around me consider my choice of accelerant a risk to their own skins they would be free to take any lawful action to safeguard themselves and others.



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