Saturday, 12 June 2010

Neo-Nazis and the Anarchist's Cookbook

As a teenager, in the days before the Internet, I fired up my modem, and dialled in to bulletin boards. In this primitive online world, I enjoyed text-based games, and slow-speed file sharing. A wealth of information was available, including the Anarchist Cookbook.

The Cookbook contained instructions on how to make explosives from diesel and fertilizer, but I was more interested in the harmless smoke bombs that could be produced using sugar and potassium nitrate, and the ease with which North American phone lines could be hijacked using an old phone and alligator clips.

If I were to download The Cookbook again today, my curiosity could land me in jail.

Yesterday, The Telegraph reported that
Michael Heaton, 42, and Trevor Hannington, 58, both ''proud'' neo-Nazis, are accused at Liverpool Crown Court of urging people to kill Jews.
The panel was told that Hannington has already pleaded guilty to possessing information which may be useful to terrorists.

On Wednesday he admitted to owning the Anarchist's Cookbook, Kitchen Complete and The Terrorist Encyclopaedia, all of which are considered useful tools to someone preparing or committing an act of terrorism.
Heaton and Hannington sound like thoroughly unpleasant an misguided characters, but the charges that have been brought against them are concerning. They have not actually committed acts of violence, or even attempted them; they have simply nurtured and expressed violent thoughts.

Tom Paine at The Last Ditch wrote a good article last Februrary, asking whether "egging on" should be a crime:
The very concept of "incitement" is a flawed one. And it is a flawed concept which is in course of being rapidly and dangerously extended. Our legal system believes there are people so dumb that they will hate whole races if "incited" to do so. What tosh. They have the choice to hate or not hate. And if they hate, then they have the choice whether or not to harm the objects of their hatred. I hate Gordon Brown, Harriet Harman and David Blunkett with a veritable passion, but until I act upon it there's no crime involved.
Under New Labour, thoughtcrime was vigorously prosecuted, while real crime went unpunished. I sincerely hope that the Coalition reverses this dangerous trend. There is a good chance that they will repeal some of the more egregious anti-terrorism legislation. Will they have the courage to also repeal anti-discrimination legislation?

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