The canard of defending "free speech" (a phrase that has no business existing, but here we are) by speaking exclusively in hate speech has become as American as using depleted uranium in bomb shell casings. But in the same way the US utterly dominates and defines British and European pop culture, the nauseating spectacle of racist and xenophobic "activists" hiding behind transparently null principles in bold public statements seems to be a big hit across the pond these days, too.
Take the case of Tommy Robinson, an anti-Muslim crusader in the UK—the Guardian described him as "a failed far-right attention seeker" who was "transformed into a free speech martyr" yesterday, when he was sentenced to over a year in jail for contempt of court.
Said contempt consisted of posting a Facebook Live video on the steps of a courthouse in Leeds. (Washington Post: "Unable to enter the building, Robinson—real name the decidedly more posh Stephen Christopher Yaxley-Lennon—stood outside for an hour and dispensed 'facts' on the grooming of children for sex.")
In the video's intro, Robinson wrote that he was "outside Leeds Crown Court where verdicts are due in part 2 of the grooming/rape trial involving 29 defendants from Huddersfield - 8 of which are called Mohammed."
His apparent goal was to publicize the defendants and the child sex abuse-related trial—in violation of a court-ordered gag rule preventing the press from revealing any details of it. He was detained, pleaded guilty, claimed "deep regret," and was sentenced to his 13 months. Then the right-wing circus came to town.
It goes without saying ("but why should anything go without saying if speech is free?") that to be detained was part of Robinson's plan all along, the better to enable his supporters to make declarations like these:
The Drudge Report: “UK in shock as judge covers up Soviet-style disappearance of journalist.”
Donald Trump, Jr.: “Reason #1776 for the original #brexit. Don’t let America follow in those footsteps.” en route to retweeting
Kurt Schlichter: "Man arrested and imprisoned in England for reporting on a court case.
Reporting on his case is also illegal.
The US media doesn't care.
Because they support it, because they disapprove of his politics.
They want the same thing here."
Roseanne Barr (shortly before a more notorious and consequential tweet): “Pedos and their agents are now arresting those who oppose them, in ENGLAND”
The newly pro-Trump Glenn Beck: "the people in the UK and the rest of Europe are quite literally backed into a corner. The threat of some of these Islamist groups is very real, and the governments aren't doing a thing to address it. When people feel backed into a corner, they turn violent. They look to people like Tommy Robinson who are actually taking a stand.
I don't agree with everything Robinson stands for, but I do know that by silencing people — like him — who are trying to shine a light on what's going on, governments all over Europe are setting up a dangerous future."
And plenty of others. But if you want the definitive articulation of Robinson (Yaxley-Lennon)'s principles, and indeed the underlying ideological conviction of all members of the far right in the UK and the US who are currently employing the "I'm not touching you" strategy of international discourse, you need look and listen no further than this motherfucker right here, interviewed in the course of a "Free Tommy" protest: