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Comment Re:Screw their opinions! (Score 2, Informative) 463

You're right about Britain not having a First Amendment. The question "Could Britain, rather than the US, be the main front of the battle against censorship in 2007?" suggests that the author has a very American centric worldview. In Europe in general free speech is much more limited. Yes they are more open in some areas; a couple of notable examples being tolerance of drugs and public portrayal of sex such as in advertising and on TV. However, in many other areas, note ably in political speech, they are much more extreme then the states and the root of it is related to the lack of a fundamental Free Speech right in their laws. A lot of people in the states dislike NPR or Fox TV, Rush or Air America but the fact is we have multiple loudly and publicly divergent views. In much of Europe the official view is presented by government tied organizations, or, as in France the people who run the government, major enterprises, and the media come over whelming from one school, give each other jobs as they move in and out of government and squelch opposing views. As much as I dislike the ultra naturalist Le Pen the deriding of all his supports as racists is a perfect example. His success was driven by the lack of an mainstream outlet in France for issues that concern a large portion of the population but rather then take them seriously the two, supposedly opposing major parties, joined together to ensure he would be kept from achieving any political win. Neither party moved to adopt, or co-opt any of his bases of support; instead they used their control of the government and media to push the issues under the rug. In the US by contrast Perot's Reform party had a few minor wins but has since been co-opted by both the parties, the Democrats taking the protectionist stance and the Republicans adopting the immigration concerns.

A much scarier trend is what is happening in Britain related to slander laws. In Britain there is no protection given to journalist and authors when they write about public figures. This means subjects of authors and journalists can, and do, successfully sue as a means of suppressing criticism. In the States it is very difficult for a public figure to win a slander suit against an author because you need to prove what was written was wrong, the author new it was wrong, the author had intentional malice in what they wrote and that harm was done. In Britain the prosecution need only show that what was published was wrong and that harm was done; there is no need for the author to have been aware of the mistake or to have had malice in their actions.

As a result of these laws publications in Britain are much more reluctant to write hard-hitting articles about individuals. Even more disturbing, a number of US authors have been sued, with some success, because there books were sold in Britain and now US publishers have said they will hesitate in publishing books that could be target of these suits, even in the US, because of the cost of limiting the publications distribution to North America.

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