The Misses Paine and I are off to cruise the Norwegian fjords from tomorrow. Our access to the internet will be patchy. So let me take this - perhaps final - opportunity to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy, free New Year.
If I am quiet for the rest of 2013 it's not because I am reconciled to authoritarian Britain. I remain bemused that I live in a country where the Crown Prosecution Service deliberates solemnly on whether some words are bad enough to merit prosecution. I am baffled by a prosecutor speaking of a
"high threshold for prosecution"in the context of opinions expressed or even threats issued on Twitter; a medium with powerful tools to block unwanted messages.
Not everyone in North Korea was killed last week for disagreeing with Kim Jong-un. Many failed to pass his threshold of murderous fury. I am happy for them, but still feel it is wrong for anyone to have been killed; even a major league scumbag like the Supreme Leader's uncle.
Similarly it already seems like a low "threshold" to me that anyone can be prosecuted for expressing a view, however hateful. Even uttering threats should not be a crime. At worst, if threats are reasonably considered to be both serious and plausible (having regard to the fact than someone intending to rape or kill would be pretty damned stupid to announce it) the police should act to deter their authors from carrying them out.
No society in which using words is only lawful if they are approved by authority - even authority derived from a majority view - will long remain free.
Have a great time over the holidays. See you in 2014.