By Robert Henderson
[AC: Many thanks to Robert for this account of last week’s Trial Part 1. Robert is no stranger to the negative effects of the UK’s speech laws. For more information, check out his blogs in the links below.]
The trial of Alison Chabloz day 1 – 10 1 2018
Presiding: District Judge John Zani sitting without a jury
Karen Robinson – Prosecuting counsel
Adrian Davies – Defence counsel
Witnesses for the Prosecution
Gideon Falter, chairman of the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA)
Stephen Silverman Director of Investigations and Enforcement CAA
The background to the prosecution
Ms Chabloz denies three charges of sending obscene material by public communication networks and two alternative charges of causing obscene material to be sent. The case involves three songs which the Campaign Against Antisemitism (CAA) claim are anti-Semitic: Survivors, Nemo’s Anti-Semitic Universe and I Like The Story As It Is.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) refused to prosecute the case originally but after the CAA started a private prosecution and threatened a judicial review of the CPS’ refusal to prosecute, the CPS agreed to reverse their original decision and take over the private prosecution.
The events of the day
Alison Chabloz arrived with a healthy band of supporters (around 2 dozen) who filled the public gallery. There was a significant media presence outside the court and a sprinkling of reporters in the courtroom . Miss Chabloz’s song Survivors was played early in the proceedings and drew a round of applause which filled the courtroom. Judge Zani warned those in the public gallery that a repeat of such behaviour would result in those responsible being removed from the court.
Karen Robinson began the day by outlining the prosecution’s case. Importantly she made it clear in her opening remarks that the case was not about whether the holocaust existed or how many Jews died. Rather, it was the level of insult generated by Miss Chabloz ‘s songs which was the issue. Robinson allowed that material resulting in insult was within the law but gross insult was not. She offered no explanation of how an objective distinction between insult and gross insult was to be determined . Instead she merely baldly asserted that ‘ by the standards of an open and multi-racial society, they are grossly offensive’. This opened up a can of worms.
To begin with it is objectively impossible to distinguish between lesser and greater degrees of insult. Then there is the function of criticism in a democracy. The idea that there can be limits to insult in a democracy is chilling. Moreover, there is a long tradition in England of the most devastating political insults most notably in the cartoons of the likes of Gilray and Rowlandson. Take away the freedom to be as insulting as you like and British politics would become a constricted fearful business. Indeed, this is already happening for political correctness generally is being imposed through a mixture of the criminalising of opinions which oppose the dictates of political correctness and the non-legal penalties such as being driven out of a job.
It is also a fact that laws relating to “hate crimes” is rarely if ever applied to the politically correct. Indeed, the claim by the prosecution that ‘ by the standards of an open and multi-racial society, they [the songs] are grossly offensive’” is an unequivocal statement of politically correctness . It assumes that the standards of political correctness on the subject of race are shared by the vast majority of the UK population for unless they are shared by the vast majority they cannot be the standards by which UK society operates.
There is strong objective evidence that the standards of an open and multi-racial society are not the standards which the large majority of the UK population shares. Polls on immigration consistently show a solid majority of those polled concerned about immigration and its effects. This concern played a strong role in achieving the Brexit vote. Research by the think tank British Future published in 2014 found a strong majority for ending mass immigration and 25% of those questioned wanted the removal of all immigrants already in the UK.
The question of veracity
Truths are often “grossly insulting”. The implication of the Prosecution’s case is that truths could be illegal.
The accusations in Miss Chabloz’s songs of falsehood and misrepresentation by the likes of Holocaust survivor Irene Zysblat, the Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel, and the teenage diarist Anne have substance as Adrian Davies showed during his efficient cross examination.
The prosecution witnesses
I found both the CAA’s witnesses unconvincing . Falter was simply feeble. Not only was he unfamiliar with texts which one would have thought he would have known, he gave signs of working from a prepared script, always a fatal thing for someone under cross examination because all the cross examiner has got to do it keep pressing buttons until the inevitable happens and the prepared script fails to provide meaningful answers.
Silverman was more assured and collected but his performance when being questioned by prosecuting counsel was giving evidence by numbers. He gave explanations for various words and phrases but they were for the most part obvious to any non-Jew. He didn’t add much to the evidence available simply by reading or listening to the song lyrics. His explanation of the word “goy” (plural goyim)was of interest because he falsely said it was a non-offensive word for non-Jews.
The difference between words in a song and words in a speech.
Miss Chabloz performances of her songs is accomplished . These are not easy songs to deliver not least because of the complexity and sophistication of her lyrics. Her enunciation is first class. That she executes the songs well and they are very lively and engaging musically may help her case. It is one thing to express sentiments in a speech, quite another in a song. When it is done in song and the song and performance are engaging, the emotional response of the listener will be first and foremost a response to an artistic act not a political one.
The case will recommence on 7 March (This is not a misprint, the next hearing is in March).
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