Civil Liberties

Clampdown on Twitter Trolls who 'vigorously' express an opinion


Trolling used to have a clear definition. In the OED, it still does, and we’re not talking about the leisure pursuits of cave-dwelling giants or the domestic dawdling of misshapen dwarfs. To ‘troll‘ is to “Make a deliberately offensive or provocative online posting with the aim of upsetting someone or eliciting an angry response from them.” ‘Trolling’ ranges from antagonistic goading to language which is crude and degrading; from gratuitous sarcastic barbs to threats of rape or violence.

Few will dispute the need to clamp down on those sad, cowardly and probably lonely oddballs who, seemingly incapable of reasoned discussion or rational argument, log on to Twitter or Facebook or other social media purposely to poison the discourse and pollute the Blogosphere with their fruitless online venom, the sole objective of which is to cause hurt and distress. And, certainly, a Twitter threat of (say) rape or other physical harm against a person, their family or property, is rightly and justifiably an offence which carries a custodial sentence – currently a maximum of six months.

In an amendment to the Criminal Justice and Courts Bill currently making its passage through Parliament, Justice Secretary Chris Grayling is proposing to quadruple this to two years. “This is a law to combat cruelty and marks our determination to take a stand against a baying cyber-mob,” he said. “We must send out a clear message – if you troll you risk being behind bars for two years.”

The thing is..

Some people are of the view that a ‘troll’ is someone who ‘vigorously’ disagrees with their proposition. It has nothing to do with threats of violence or degrading and insulting language: ‘trolling’ is the ‘harassment’ caused to an individual by a blog post refuting a theological view and multiple tweets sent out to advertise the article. One such person who takes this view is the Rt Rev’d Dr Alan Wilson, Bishop of Buckingham, who says he has “a long standing interest in new and social Media and their impact on the rest of life”.

When his chaplain, the Rev’d Rosie Harper, made an appeal at the House of Lords in favour of assisted dying (and stated that those who opposed were “neither moral nor Christian”), it wasn’t unreasonable for this to be challenged robustly – more so since her expressed view is in direct contradiction to the official position of the Church of England. And this reasoned response was tweeted out six or seven times, as bloggers with thousands of followers are wont to do, for effective marketing (it is, realistically, the optimum way of ensuring that a post reaches followers’ with staggered coffee-breaks and news-feeds across multiple timezones). There were no threats of violence; indeed, nothing ad hominem at all: the concern was with her warped theological view of suffering, and her (rather astonishing) assertion contra the clear teaching of the Church, that peers who opposed Lord Falconer’s Bill were somehow immoral or un-Christian.

In response, Rosie Harper tweeted that she found these tweets “most unpleasant”. The Bishop of Buckingham rushed to her defence, and hurled allegations of trolling; and not merely trolling, but “outrageous trolling”.

This is how the law relating to malicious communication is developing. The desire to punish the real offenders will be used to censor robust opinion. The law to deal with online aggression will be applied to inhibit if not silence vigorous debate on contentious socio-political issues in order to distinguish between that which is ‘nice’ and that which is ‘nasty’. It will infringe freedom of speech and freedom of expression (and, ultimately, freedom of religion). The Bishop of Buckingham is of the view that marketing a post six or seven times constitutes stalking or harassment, which is an offence. The danger (indeed, likelihood) is that the police will listen to him (he is a bishop, after all), and he will tell them about his distressed and tearful chaplain who was subject to a barrage of critical tweets which she thought deeply unpleasant and hurtful. And the police will zealously pursue the alleged offender, whether or not a crime has been committed (as we have seen in their frequent misapplication of their powers under the Public Order Act to prosecute people for causing harassment, alarm or distress). And so the vigorous expression of a reasoned (not to say orthodox) theological opinion becomes indecent or grossly offensive, and its propagation via Twitter becomes verbal abuse, harassment or an expression of ‘hate’.

Might false allegations of trolling cause such professional harm or personal distress as to constitute trolling?

  • Mrs Proudie of Barchester

    Goodness! Well one only has to look at the bishop’s avatar – a picture paints a thousand words…

  • Uncle Brian

    How many people are needed to constitute a “baying cyber-mob” within the meaning of the Act? Can one solitary poster be a “mob”? I don’t think so. Which means Your Grace is undeniably innocent of the charge. On the other hand, would two be enough? If so, the Bishop of Buckingham and his chaplain clearly qualify.

  • Politically__Incorrect

    This Act, like so much ill-considered and hastily drawn-up legislation, will end up tying itself in knots and will probably be unworkable. If anybody who says something we are not happy with can be accused of “trolling” then the sky is the limit for complainers on both sides. We will only succeed in cluttering our over-stretched criminal justice system with childish “grievances”.
    YG, it seems you are still a bit sore about the episode with dumb and dumber. It’s time to forget about them IMHO.

    • B flat

      I agree with your first paragraph entirely as far as it goes. However, the proposed legislation will tie itself in knots only when operating, and will strangle a lot of people unjustly in the process. It should be killed at this stage, not allowed to develop and do harm. Prevention is better than cure, they say, and certainly far less consuming of time and effort.
      The second paragraph is an opinion which you are perfectly entitled to hold; however, it is a judgment of person and his feelings. Consider: are you entitled to do that, at such a distant acquaintance? I would consider it impertinent if it were made of me – and often people do voice such judgments, of me, to my distress.
      The only way to win a fight for freedom from the currently growing oppression of self-protecting stupidity, is to identify the errors, remember them, and resist and undo them whenever this becomes possible.
      I think His Grace’s post timely and quite correct in pointing out the implications of the Justice Minister’s proposal.

  • alternative_perspective

    Visited one of those horrendous pentecostal churches on Sunday, as I am won’t to do two or three times a month, which precipitated something of a crisis of faith.

    Heaven forbid, they were baptising adults who were displaying God’s transformative work and the fruits of the spirit. Addictions were (had been) healed, families re-united, and the homeless re-integrated to society. No squirming “god” parents making vows they had no intention of keeping or secular parents commiting their child to a god they don’t really believe in. It was frankly non-conformist.

    And as I finished bellowing out the last syllables of yet another vacuous and theological impoverished hymn, of the ilk I love to sing, I was left somewhat conflicted.

    Do I return to the venerable church of england, to my theological home populated by great minds and distinguished persons such as the Rt Re’d Dr. Alan Wilson and that lovely Rosie Harpie? Or do I throw my lot in with those ministering to the lost, the poor and the broken hearted? I know my station in polite, liberal society may diminish and I will never gain the establishment influence of Rev’d Rosie and get to wag my finger at the middle and political classes for not being permissive enough. But you know what I sense God’s call to let the dead bury the dead.

    • Politically__Incorrect

      It’s a while since I went to a Pentecostal service, but I have some positive recollections. I remember some very good teaching, unfettered by secular orthodoxy. The worship did feel overdone, as did the speaking in tongues bit. Not sure how I would react now, or whether they have resisted the pressure to preach all kinds of diversity.

      Still, if I step inside a church again, it is more likely to non-conformist than CofE.

    • dannybhoy

      Excellent stuff!
      My wife and I visited a Vineyard church with old friends who worship there.
      Oy! the (mindless) music seemed so loud!
      Aaaaargh! It was like being in a cinema.
      But, they had young people “saved” young people from addicted lives and broken homes. They were turning away children because they just didn’t have enough sunday school rooms, they had white folk, black folk, oriental folk; smiling folk who were giving and sharing and who believed in the New Testament church model..

    • Helenahandcart

      Join the Catholic Church.

      • alternative_perspective

        I go to Catholic mass once a month, sometimes more. What a moribund affair that is. The Polish church is even worse. I’m quite surprised anyone turns up.

        Few seem to genuinely revere the Host. The Gospel is proclaimed.. without passion and the teaching is usually even worse than the Anglican church.

        The Peace is shared, as though your neighbour has ebola and once the service has fizzled to an end people dash off as soon as humanly possible lest spending more time in church might ruin their week.

        I truly feel sorry for the Youth in that church. Though praise the Lord there are, despite the rest of the institution, a number of vibrant Catholic youth movements.

        I’m sorry to say it but I can’t imagine anyone unchurched walking into such services, encountering God and finding salvation. It saddens me as I watch one Catholic friend after another fall away from the church and privatise their faith.

        • Martin


          If a church doesn’t have a sermon of at least 40 minutes you’re wasting your time.

          • CliveM

            LO VERY L

          • Martin


            Doyou have a problem with a 40 minute sermon? When I used to record sermons at a church in St Albans we were on tenterhooks as to whether a C90 would be long enough not to miss any.

  • avi barzel

    The definition of “trolling” seems to be a trade secret. It’s kind of like loshen hara (Google it folks, I took my first sip coffee just now); nobody is sure what it means, everyone agrees that it’s bad, and it comes in real handy when we want to shut someone up.

    O, what joy. Just glanced at the roll of comment snippets below and there is my ominously shades-bespectacled visage right beside the line “ISIS is a legitimate liberation movement fighting against foreign Christian colonial powers…” Do I trust our bumbling Canadian security types to know how to click and read on or…and this is a stretcher…to contextualize? “Make another pot, Dear, we’re about to have guests shortly. And keep clear of the door!…..Never mind why….”

    • dannybhoy

      Er, yes.
      Er, ummmm.
      Er okay…….

      HOW many coffees?!
      I never did understand what a troll was, I do understand though that people with evil or malicious thoughts express them through an evil tongue.
      (It’s lashon not loshen; you put that on your skin..)
      It’s Tuesday tomorrow.

      • Hi Danny,

        LOL on the pun, but Avi is using an alternative spelling& it’s still correct. We often have that in Hebrew transliteration e.g. Sabbath, Shabbat or Shabbos (but spoken as shab-is) or with my bros name , David, I think Avi would write Dovid, we write Da’vid [which has a silent h, so I’d say the pronunciation sounds like dah-veed]. With my name people often spell it Channah or Hanna as they do with other spelling such as Chanukkah, Charedi, etc. Isn’t Hebrew fun!!! (:

        • dannybhoy

          The kibbutz ulpan I attended taught modern Evrit, my bro in law knows some yiddish from his parents, and I was taught a bit of “classical” hebrew to read (but not necessarily comprehend!) the Tenach.
          It gets confusing, as of course originally there were no nekudot or vowels to guide pronunciation and meaning. I have forgotten quite a bit but I still managed to read a passage for my sister’s wedding on kibbutz.
          I would have loved to study more grammar, but I learn best with people and there just aren’t any people programmes around here.

          • Hi Danny,

            Ah well, you’ve just demonstrated the point well just now- Tenach or Tanakh… (:

            What’s even more interesting is when you don’t have an English received pronunciation accent, there seems to be a filtering through of some regional accents and idioms. Then it gets interesting. I know someone close to me who is broad Geordie and her Yiddish , let alone her Hebrew is something quite different! (:

          • dannybhoy

            I can speak Evrit with a Scottish accent.
            Dunno why.

          • Scottish Hebrew! Well cool(:

            Interesting fact: David Lloyd George was convinced that the French were tapping his conversations with London during the treaty of Versailles (which was true). Apparently he got round this by speaking in Welsh on the phone, which the French thought was a special code!

          • dannybhoy

            ” which the French thought was a special code!”
            The English still do.

          • It is.

          • LOL!

            You see my sister in law is Welsh (:

          • Martin


            You mean it isn’t?

          • Dude one of our bros made alyiah a few years back…. Hebrew like the Jewish faith does change, albeit at the pace of the Icelandic glaciers, but at half the speed. But this is still consistent with the continuity established at ha Sinai, when our teacher Moses received the Torah.

      • avi barzel

        There you have it, Dannyboy, Miss Hannah beat me to correcting your chutzbadech attempt at correcting my transliteration. I’ll be checking off demerit points if you continue to persecute me thus. I prefer Sephardi or Mizrachi transliterated pronunciations, but my community is Ashkenasi and so now I diphthong everything in sight.
        Done with the second cup, waiting for the French plunger-thingie pot to brew, so usually three or four before lunch and that’s it, unless I have to stay up late working. Perfectly kosher…the Babylonian Sages exempted coffee from the prohibition of food and drink until after morning prayers, wisely deeming it more important to be conscious during services. The effect in our synagogue, with everyone sneaking out to gulp down some java on an empty stomach, is that by Kiddush/noonday meal-time, all of us guys are sharp and wired and the run on the scotch and herring table resembles a gory Darwinian battle.
        I understand that much later, when coffee wound its way to Europe…thanks (or no-thanks-to) to Jewish traders…the pioneering Cistersian monks also allowed it for the various night-time and early morning services. Someone needs to write a book on the influence of coffee and the clock on devotionals.

        • dannybhoy

          You’re a funny guy Avi..
          Here’s a humorous (at least I think so) story I was told by a little British jewish lady now sadly deceased.
          (Nothing to do with me I hasten to add)
          A young Transylvanian girl is hurrying home to her village through the forest.
          A storm breaks, the rain begins to fall, thunder and lightning crackle and boom and the light begins to fade.
          As she makes her way she sees the outline of an old barn and decides to take shelter.
          Inside is pitch black but at least it is dry. She moves further inwards, away from the driving rain.
          A sound! A strange shuffling noise and in a dark corner a tall shape moves.
          “Who’s there!” she cries, “Show yourself”
          Bravely she ventures closer to the shape..
          A flash of lightning reveals a man, a vampire.
          The girl screams and tries to run but somehow the vampire moved so that he was between her and the entrance.
          A deep, sinister laugh as the vampire looms closer.
          The girl remembers the silver crucifix around her neck and thrusts it towards the vampire’s face.
          “By the power of this crucifix be gone, foul fiend!” she cries.
          The vampire laughed long and loud.
          “My dear” he said, “Aren’t you the unlucky one…”

          • avi barzel

            OK, I’m being thick; I read it 3 times I still don’t get it. You know, our rabbi asked for Jewish joke submissions to weave into his sermons, but I need a zinger…most of the guys haven’t watched vampire movies or read Bram Stoker. Give me a good, short and simple one and the rebbe will credit it as a contribution from a Dannyboy from the UK.

          • Hi Danny/ Avi/ happy Jack

            An ecumenical joke is in order:

            About a century or two ago, the Pope decided that all the Jews had to leave Rome. Naturally there was a big uproar from the Jewish community.

            So the Pope made a deal. He would have a religious debate with a member of the Jewish community. If the Jew won, the Jews could stay. If the Pope won, the Jews would leave.

            The Jews realized that they had no choice. They looked around for a champion who could defend their faith, but no one wanted to volunteer.

            It was too risky. So they finally picked as their representative an old man named Moishe who spent his life sweeping up after people. Being old and poor, he had less to lose, so he agreed. He asked only for one addition to the debate.

            Not being used to saying very much as he cleaned up around the settlement, he asked that neither side be allowed to talk. The Pope agreed.

            The day of the great debate came. Moishe and the Pope sat opposite each other for a full minute before the Pope raised his hand and showed three fingers. Moishe looked back at him and raised one finger.

            The Pope waved his fingers in a circle around his head. Moishe pointed to the ground where he sat.

            The Pope pulled out a wafer and a glass of wine. Moishe pulled out an apple.

            The Pope stood up and said, “I give up. This man is too good. The Jews can stay.”

            An hour later, the cardinals were all around the Pope asking him what happened. The Pope said: “First I held up three fingers to represent the Trinity. He responded by holding up one finger to remind me that there was still one God common to both our religions.

            “Then I waved my finger around me to show him that God was all around us. He responded by pointing to the ground, showing that God was also right here with us.

            “I pulled out the wine and the wafer to show that God absolves us from our sins. He pulled out an apple to remind me of original sin. He had an answer for everything. What could I do?”

            Meanwhile, the Jewish community had crowded around Moishe, amazed that this old, almost feeble-minded man had done what all their scholars had insisted was impossible! “What happened?” they asked.

            “Well,” said Moishe, “First he said to me that the Jews had three days to get out of here. I told him that not one of us was leaving.

            “Then he told me that this whole city would be cleared of Jews. I let him know that we were staying right here.”

            “And then?” asked a woman. “I don’t know,” said Moishe. “He took out his lunch and I took out mine.”

          • Thomas Keningley

            This is based on the dialogue of Greeks and Romans in the medieval “Libro de Buen Amor”. In that one, the Greeks have a skilled philosopher and the Romans some brute of the street, and similar hilarity ensues.

          • dannybhoy

            Hannah, super story!
            I first heard that in Israel told me by a Swiss volunteer on kibbutz whose father was a diplomat representing Swiss interests in Tel Aviv.
            Back in ’72..
            I haven’t heard anyone tell it since.

          • dannybhoy

            Well now,
            here’s a conundrum.
            I have to apologise Avi.
            I forgot that your colonial background and closeness to another ex colony might render you ignorant of certain English Jewish dialects.
            So apologies Canuck. I thought for sure Hannah would get it, even cool dude Shmu’el… but obviously not.
            Must be a London thing. Lilian bless her, was a Londoner.
            Okay, here’s a clue to help with the accent the vampire uses..

            You MUST watch the whole clip because at about 1:45 minutes in, you’ll see a Canadian bit part actor showing off his acting skills..
            After your predictable gasps of admiration over a fellow Canadian’s talent, at 3:15 in you will hear the relevant accent.

            You should be able to then work out the key to that joke I so lovingly and painstakingly recorded for your delight and delectation..
            ps I don’t want any cries of outrage or indignation from any of my Jewish acquaintances about the film clip or the character; or the fact that it’s a cute little blond haired, blue eyed English goy being led into a life of crime….
            (My brother in law has blue eyes, and his hair -when he had it- was blonde…

            So just try and enjoy Lilian’s joke.

          • dannybhoy

            Golly, did no one get this joke?!

            Okay, I’ll ruin it by spelling it out for you.
            The girl is a Christian girl who thinks the crucifix will save her from the vampire, but the vampire is a Jewish vampire, hence…
            “My dear” he said, “Aren’t you the unlucky one…”

        • CliveM


          My heads in a spin. I’m beginning to think this is an elaborate piss take that you and Hannah have devised at the expense of us Gentiles!

          • Dude, I’m with you on this! 🙂

          • Well to translate: orthodox Jewish services on Saturday go on from about 8.30am to 1pm (Hasidic services a bit longer). So we are allowed to drink coffee (lighting a fire isn’t permitted during Shabbat). Kiddush in the way avi means is the buffet that’s served after the service. This includes food, wine and scotch as standard: schmaltz herring is an Ashkenazi delicacy. It’s okay as we’re not allowed to drive during Shabbat, because rabbis deemed the internal combustion engine is the same as lighting a fire. I think it’s the same in Christianity, but you’re kiddush is a cup of tea and a biscuit…..

          • CliveM

            “You’re kiddush is a cup if tea and a biscuit”

            Doesn’t really compete does it!

          • Nope! But I do get you guys indulge in the mince pies and mulled wines at Christmas?

            Okay.Well I knows some of you chaps ,i think it’s Methodist & salvation army who don’t drink for reasons I can accept, but not recall right now?

          • CliveM

            Yes I like a few mugs of mulled wine!

            I would have thought with the Salvation Army, because they deal with a lot of homeless etc with alcohol problems, it would be seen as inappropriate.

          • Helenahandcart

            They say that their expression of Christianity is to help those who have fallen into addiction. As a way of setting a good example, they renounce alcohol. They are sound denominations, doing very good work.

          • Helena,

            Thank you for that information, I don’t doubt these “ecclesiastical communities ” help people. I was merely noting in ecumenical and interfaith fraternity that not all Christians drink alcohol. That is all.

          • Helenahandcart

            Yes, I realised that too. If I gave a different impression, I do apologise. This social media, despite its ease of communication can actually be a barrier to communication.

            I guess we are all agreed that those who cry “troll” really want to stifle free speech and opinions that challenge their own. #CatholicVoicesAboveTheMagisterium.

            The CV project is a prime example – set up by the Bishops of England and Wales to deliberately cause even more confusion. #LoveYourEnemiesAndThoseWhoPersecuteYou

          • avi barzel

            Greetings, Helen. Here in Canada we have JACS…Jewish Addiction Community Services. It was a battle to start up because while Jews have marginally lower alcohol, drug abuse, poverty and homelessness issues, there is a culture of shame and a common belief that those problems are almost totally absent among us. Living up to a positive stereotype of sobriety, industriousness and wealth has its benefits, but it’s got it’s downside too, the refusal to acknowledge and address a growing problem in the community.

    • Avi, tell Jack, does lashon ha-ra apply to a Jew’s intercourse with us goyim? If so, it could prove a very useful counter to some of your more robust ripostes.

      • avi barzel

        Ah, here you are again Jack. Bells and whistles go off when I post? Depends how you define “intercourse” of course…in certain cases you’d be better looking up Castiglione’s Book of the Courtier, I’d say….or De Sade if that’s your taste. With your previously stated competence in the Gemara, you should know the answer to that one and if you want a debate, delve into the commentaries of the Chofetz Chaim and let me know what it says; I prefer the Rambam and the Rishonim.

        I’m sure you know the answer, but for the benefit of those who lack your talmudic erudition, the rules against gossip and improper speach apply to all, Jew and non-Jew, more stringently concerning non-Jews…Goyim, if you so prefer… because the prohibition of hilul ha-shem/desecration of God (and lousy inter-religious relations) applies. But what’s up you arse today? (That question and the language are merely meant to illustrate one type of loshen hara 😉

        • Avi, a somewhat terse response to a genuine question?

          Now, as you’ll know, disparaging speech kills three: the person who speaks it, the person who hears it, and the person about whom it is told. (Talmud Arachin 15b)

          Who can understand Gemara? Jack’s knowledge is restricted to one area that he has a personal interest in and it may be out of date.

          Jack understands one who disparages a Jew before gentiles commits lashen ha-ra but is not clear if this applies to bad mouthing gentiles. After some research, it seems it only applies to other Jews. Technically, the answer seems to be ‘No’. However, one should exercise care because, as you say, it might cause issues of chillul Hashem.
          Jack says he has nothing up his arse today ….

          It does apply not to heretics, of course, where, according to one tradition, it is a positive duty to disparage and shame them to their face and behind their back.

          • Oy va goy! Stand aside David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef! We’ve found ourselves a new chief Rabbi. And he’d be Catholic. God moves in mysterious ways…..

          • All true Jews are Catholic, Shm’el.

          • Dude, you can call me Sam. A rare privilege I only allow for a select few.

          • “All true Jews are Catholic, ”


          • Eh??? This new format is confusing. Jack thought you’d up-voted that comment.
            Just Jack’s little ecumenical joke.

          • Dude, of course I [have] DID!!

          • Martin


            You mean they don’t follow their Messiah?

          • The Jews as a people have not yet accepted Jesus Christ as their Messiah. It was meant to be that way too, so Jesus became the Messiah of all peoples.

            What Jack means, and its no secret, is that Christianity is the fulfilment of the Abraham’s covenant and the ending of the Mosaic Covenant.

          • Martin


            Some Jews chose to reject their Messiah, the Messiah who fulfilled all the covenants and saved both Abraham & Moses from their sin.

          • avi barzel

            No not a terse response; a pissy one. You know better than to use the term “goyim” out of context, in the vernacular, which is either used by uncouth characters, by camp survivors to refer to Polish peasants who confiscated their homes, or by multilingual yeshiva bochers pouring over the Talmud Bavli and referring to the Nations. You and I are neither.

            In any case, Arachin 16b refers to rebuking. The “gold standard” is the Chofetz Chaim, the book, and it’s far more complicated and inclusive, apart from it being an innovation by its author…but that’s another contentious topic. As far as I know, loshen hara applies to all humans for the simplest reason that if it leads to shaming it is equated with the shedding of blood, i.e., murder, which of course protects all people and is also prohibited by one of the seven Noahide Laws. This means that it arguably (the definition being rabbanus/rabbinic) is a prohibition which applies to Gentiles as well.

            Now, if you were to ask me to pasken whether His Grace committed the aveirah of loshen hara, my non-expert opinion would be no. Reason being 1) that both HG and Bishop Allen are public persons duking it out in a public forum with expectations of candor on both sides, 2) HG was simply disagreeing with Bishop Allen’s position and 3) Bishop Allen is a נודניק (Yiddish: “nudnik,” etym., from the proto-Slavic root word “nuda” (a bore), but in this case meaning “pest” or “jerk” due to the empirically established fact that he can’t take an honest and collegial critique like a man person.

          • Avi, surely we know each other well enough by now for you to understand Jack’s use of the word goyim.
            Anyways, at least you didn’t give Jack the bird.

          • avi barzel

            NO, NOT THE BIRD! But seriously, you and I are on a public forum and I don’t want some passerby thinking that’s how I refer to the folks of the Christian persuasion. And some of my best friends are Goyim.

      • Hi Happy Jack,

        Uhh I’d say not. But I’m no Posek!

        An example :
        1). I have a disagreement with someone about a decision that needs to be made and as a result they loose an argument.
        2). That someone notices I’ve posted a blog on one of the Jewish holidays.
        3). Rather than speaking in private about this or to offer a rebuke, this other person tells a group of people what I’ve done , rebukes me and says we can’t listen to Hannah because of it.

        The evil tongue comes in, not because of the accusation is untrue, but because it clearly wasn’t designed to improve or educate me as a Jew or for me to repent, but for this person to get their own back at me and to belittle me in public.

        • avi barzel

          Ah, read your Chofets Chaim, I see. The one I like is where you aren’t even allowed to speak well of someone because it might come out as patronizing. I broadly agree with the rules, as stated in the Talmud and the Shulchan Aruch, but I side with some (e.g., the Chazon Ish) think Rav Kagan went too far, as it stifles genuine criticism and protects the powerful.
          Anytime now and His Grace will descend to squash this OT pilpul, so no more please!

          • Hi Avi,

            I agree that the theology shouldn’t be used as a smokescreen or a way of hiding gross misconduct or Illegal activities or proper debate . And neither should this prevent the community from going to the authorities when crimes are suspected, such as in the case of last week’s news of the(I have to say “alleged”) mikevah crimes and subsequent further allegations.

            Also, on the issue of communication, my bro Sam has a heart of gold, but can swear like anything, he’s half OTD and sceptical . Thankfully he’s got a good Jewish girl to make him good.

          • Sis, I’m NOT sceptical in respect of God. I just have issues with the haredi rabbinical teachings. But other than that I agree with you and Avi. And yeah you helped me first finding my bashert: a hot fiery Hasid, who knows her mind. Gulp! I’ve finally met my match!!

          • Hi Sam (:

          • avi barzel

            May be it was a client service procedure, as in: “This mikvah session will be video-recorded so that we can serve our valued customers better…”?

          • Hi Avi,

            There’s no way a perv, whoever they may be, is going to secretly (allegedly) film me or any of my sisters, in the buff !

          • CliveM

            What the………………!

            Ahhhhh, I’m at a loss here.

            Their is obviously a lot more to Judaism then I ever knew.

            Or frankly need to know by the looks of it.

            I need a drink. Please don’t explain!!

          • Hi Clive,

            A mikvah is a Jewish ceremonial bath, which we use to spiritually cleanse ourselves, by full immersion in the water.. there is apparently a mediaeval one in Bristol…. It is used as part of conversion of either sex and by men at least on holy occasions (weddings, eve of Yom Kippur and other holidays) , plus whenever one wishes to be spiritually cleanse oneself. But mostly it is used by married Jewish women, under the niddah laws, which in this instance is to do with cleansing oneself after a women’s “time of the month”. There’s been a recent scandal/criminal investigation in the US last week concerning a very senior rabbi who among other things (allegedly) had been filming women, via secret cameras , in the mikvah and showers(when women or men “dunk” themselves in the mikvah we have to be naked).

          • Good job no red heifers were involved …..

          • That’s not funny and entirely innapprptioate given what I’ve written above.

          • Apologies. Jack thought it was funny. No offence meant. It’s the Essex influence.

          • Hi Happy Jack,

            Apologies accepted.

          • Phew …. thought it was going to be a re-run of ‘Lizard-Gate’. God rest your uncle who understood Jack’s motives as sound.

          • Hi Happy Jack,

            Great thing about the new comment system is that I can like a comment, without waffling on (:

          • avi barzel

            Not Judaism, for sure. An ugly tale. A well-known Rabbi, one who lectures on sexual morality, of all things, got busted for allegedly* installing a hidden video camera in a women’s mikvah / ritual immersion bath he ran from his home. Well, there goes about a half a million dollars-worth of an investment (complicated, expensive things to build); not to mention the annoyance of a few criminal charges with a career down-scaling no matter how this goes. Orthodox ladies don’t take such things as a joke so I hope he’s in protective custody or on bail at a friend’s cabin somewhere in Alaska. And the ultra-Orthodox are chortling with schadenfreude, because he is Modern Orthodox. Badness all the way around.

            * “Allegedly,” perhaps because everyone once in a while absentmindedly wanders up to the ceiling tiles and accidentally screws in a camera or two.

            Edit: Didn’t see Hannah’s note below.

          • CliveM

            Out if curiosity is it common for these baths to be built onto a house, as a public utility in this way? By public obviously I mean Jewish public.

          • avi barzel

            Nowadays they are attached to synagogues. Not all have them, though. Our Shul has a women’s mikva and men go to another Shul, miles away. Most will have a section for toivelling (a ritual innersion for new metal, glass and ceramic vessels and cooking implements and cutlery. Ive never heard of a private mikva in a residence, as they are expensive to build and maintain. Nor can I imagine how it can serve as a sole revenue source, as one typically drops in a donation of a couple of dollars…the price of coffee. Perhaps these are attached to prayer rooms in the house, a stiebel, and the rabbi is maintained by private donations or memberships. I’m making plausible guesses on that one. I’m sure there people who imagine they need quieter places for “spirituality”, but who really want to avoid crass hoi polloi like me, and to have a better chance at grabbing a few shots of scotch and a few slices of herring before I muscle my way in.

          • avi barzel

            Umm, Clive, that’s a lot of questions; you’re not thinking of converting, I hope. I strongly discourage conversions, as I see every new convert as yet another potentially dangerous predator sniffing around the limited resources at my scotch and fish table.

          • CliveM

            No Avi I’m not thinking of converting. The, ahem, requirements for a male covert are not worth the herring and scotch!

            Amongst other reasons!!!

          • CliveM

            You said this one was attached to his home so I was interested if this was normal practice or perhaps in retrospect a bit suspicious in itself.

            I have done a bit of looking up, I see he is pleading not guilty. It will be interesting what his defence is!

  • SidneyDeane

    I agree with 2 years if you make a violent threat

    • Mungo (and Midge)

      I was under the impression that there were already robust penalties against those who threaten violence.

      As so often one wonders what the new law will achieve which can’t be done under existing laws.

      • SidneyDeane

        The article says 6 months max.

        • Mungo (and Midge)

          I’m sure a case can be made for saying it should be longer. But why that should particularly be for “internet trolling” I can’t for the life of me understand – especially given that the term “trolling” is almost entirely undefined. Internet communication of threats shouldn’t be treated any differently from threatening by other media, or face-to-face.

          • SidneyDeane

            im not just saying for internet trolling. All violent threats whatever medium should be punished with a criminal conviction.
            But I do think there is an argument that they should be treated differently, on account of the relative stress/immediate fear placed on the victim when you compare online abuse to a face to face

          • Helenahandcart

            I don’t think Jadis would like 6 months in jail. She wouldn’t be able to spend her entire retirement chained to a laptop for a start.

    • Owl

      And how do you decide if the “threat” is just in the heat of the moment or if there is any intention of carrying it out?
      Just more PC rubbish which will, inevitably, strike the wrong people.

      • SidneyDeane

        Thats for a judge to decide when sentencing.
        Any death threat or threat of violence should carry a criminal conviction.

        • Owl

          Oh dear, how PC.

          • CliveM

            Why PC?

          • SidneyDeane

            Not at all. Im a very staunch defender of free speech.

            Certainly anything ‘offensive’ wont wash with me. That includes the use of the ‘n’ word or any other racial slur. Youre a disgrace if you use them but doing so is your right.

            There is a line though and that line is inciting/threatening violence.

  • Considering the history of the number and rates of convictions under s.127 and the consequent disposals {see today`s blog post} there is no need for this dramatic increase in the maximum penalty apart perhaps for today`s headlines and half a line in the Tory manifesto.

  • Mark

    This is why TellMAMA are rubbing their hands with glee……

  • Hi your Grace,

    The thing is that there are people who say nasty things out there, but I’m one who thinks that threatening something and acting on it are 2 different things(however disgusting some of the things are said), I guess I’m from a tradition of robust and often polemical debate.

    I’m broadly in favour of free speech and think we should go like the US and have a robust act of parliament to defend that: I’d include criticism of religion there, on the view that religious people should be free to punch back (metaphorically of course).

    I’ve noticed that Americans genuinely pride themselves on this right and I salute them for that & we should remember that in Britain we fought countless wars against dictators who tried to strip us of liberty: the Spanish Amarda, the civil wars, the wars against absolutist France and Napoleon, then world war I and world war II, the cold war and now the war on terrorism..

    Failing that, I think we’re going to have to revert to telling political or religious themes in stories(like George Orwell) or to be like Shakespearean fools.

    • IanCad

      Great post Hannah.
      We need a First Amendment over here.
      I am astonished at how thin-skinned we Brits have become.
      Not much more than a good chewing out and they will run to the law.
      There is no right not to be offended. That is, in a society which values the joys of liberty – so hard fought for and now in peril because of some pansy cry-babies who, really, deserve the prison we are building for ourselves.

      • Hi Ian,

        That’s true. We have the right to be offended. And to offend or differ in such things as theological and political discourse.

  • Martin


    Didn’t you know, Atheists like Alan Wilson regard anything that doesn’t agree with them as trolling.

    • Atheist …. ? Has he denied the existence of God?

      • avi barzel

        Come on, you should know better; it’s covered by the new “don’t ask, don’t tell” protocol of the C of E Union of Clergypersons :p

        • When Jack communed with him on his blog he assured me he was a follower of Augustine and St Paul. He also accused of Jack of being a Muslim. Most distressing. Now, this did make me wonder. Do you think he was ‘trolling’ Happy Jack?

          • Uncle Brian

            But would he think of it as an “accusation”? Perhaps his intention was to flatter you.

      • Martin


        I see from your comments, below, that he claims to be a follower of men rather than God.

        He certainly doesn’t use the Bible in the way I’d expect a Christina to do.

        But then maybe I was trolling.

        • “He certainly doesn’t use the Bible in the way I’d expect a Christina to do.”

          Then perhaps you should visit his blog and discuss these matters directly with him. Isn’t that the biblical thing to do?

          And why bring Christina in to this? What’s she done?

          • Martin


            I’ve tweeted to him & he doesn’t want to discuss.

            I think my eyes may be going crossed, must go to bed.

      • Helenahandcart

        I think you mean “Imaginary Friend” or “Faeries at the bottom of the garden” or “Spaghetti Monster”, ooh and not forgetting “Sky Fairy”.

        There, I think that’s covered the Atheist definition of God.

    • Helenahandcart

      It doesn’t surprise me. These people think they are the only ones with the right to public opinion. Challenge them and challenge them hard.

      • Martin


        I’m told I am too aggressive. Tho’ I think when it concerns a souls eternal destiny I think it is a very serious matter.

        • Helenahandcart

          Quite right. You keep on. Whoever has told you that you are aggressive is fibbing. Atheists ? Lazy-ists.

    • wyclif

      Alan Wilson needs to look up the definition of internet trolling, he obv doesn’t know what it means.

      • Martin


        His attitude seems similar to the Atheists, hence my comment.

  • I don’t like being called rude names and find that people of different opinions to mine of God and creation often use them, including what I regard as foul insults, misprepresentations and lies. But I would rather endure this that have even further limits on freedom of expression. Matthew 5 :10-12 would seem to apply.

    Basically, I am OK with Giles Fraser calling me a homophobic bigot if I am able to call him a heretic. I would prefer not to call him a fag enabler, but don’t find this any more offensive than some of the language people like him use. Shouldn’t I be free to be as rude to people like him and Dawkins et al as they are about people like me?

    I fear that we are sleepwalking into 1984, where the government controls through buy controlling speech. How I wish we had the Americans’ constitutional freedom of thought and speech.

    • Martin


      From what I hear the US constitution is not shielding the honest.

      • Like everything else standing between The Thing and global domination, the US constitution is under attack.

    • Is you or is you not Steve Appleseed?

      • Guilty as charged Jack. As could have been ascertained from my RSA blogger thingy. Kind regards

        • And you too Appleseed. Good to have you aboard. Jack did have a little nose around your sites.

  • JayBee

    Authority is already attempting to silence the eccentric and heretical right across the board . If one no longer has the right to offend, irritate, contend and provoke, it indicates that freedom of speech is in terminal decline.
    “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what
    they do not want to hear.” (George Orwell)

    When the CPS acts to control what people think and opine, it is evidence
    of mind-bending authoritarianism.
    “Power is in tearing human minds to pieces and putting them together again
    in new shapes of your own choosing.” (George Orwell)

    When a scheming Home Secretary advocates Extremist Banning Orders to
    concurrently suppress socially conservative belief and expression it confirms a trend of intensifying Political Correctness along the way to Totalitarianism. “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres inside your skull. ” (George Orwell)

    So, were a Justice Minister to misuse Anti-Trolling legislation, pandering to the habitually offended to protect their disingenuous propositions from robust on-line debate, another Orwellian prophecy would be fulfilled:
    “In a time of deceit telling the truth is a revolutionary act.”

    First they came for the Street Preachers. Are they now coming for the Twitterati? Will they then come for the Bloggers?

  • Helenahandcart

    False allegations of trolling are very amusing. Recently I was participating in a blog (Spectator) about the forthcoming synod, communion for divorced, etc and I happened to respond to a comment by an Extremely Important And Highly Respected Catholic Blogger. My humble little comment was reasonable, coherent, well argued and fair, The VIB ( Very Important Blogger) told me that I was a “troll” but actually offered no reason for this bizarre riposte. I can only assume that she wasn’t amused that I disagreed with her fawning over Bishop Kieran Conry and Bishop Cormac Murphy O’Connor. Shortly after that, a person called “Jadis” told me that I had insulted a friend of hers called “Mulier Fortis” ( really ?) and that they had sent some killing cats to kill me or something. As you can imagine, I was really scared. #lunaticslivingontheirownplanet. I think we can all work out who the trolls are.

    Guys, don’t get mad, get even. In Citizenship lessons this last fortnight we have had great fun, exposing these Troll-callers. Get their pictures up on the big screen in front of hundreds of 16 yr olds. (One of them won’t fit on your big screen – she’s rather fond of her puddings, to put it politely. The other one is struggling to keep her teeth in beneath that demonic grin.) Put their comments up, along side yours. Put up snippets of their interviews and let the public decide. Your average 16 yr old with half a brain could demolish the half-baked emotional arguments with clarity and facts.

    And if anyone short and stout from Bromley dislikes my comments, then I suggest you challenge my comments rather than threaten me with violence from behind an anonymous handle. You have made yourself look a tad silly, not to mention unChristian. #FalseCatholics.

  • Free speech in the UK is dead. Killed by every government since 1970, by Shami Chakrabati, by the BBC, by Blair’s “hate crime” legislation, by cowardly comedians and yellow journalists, finally finished off by Twitter hate mobs who pounce on one or two worse as evidence of heresy…..

    This country is in a very dangerous place.

    • You’re not wrong there Mr Fisher, I was absolutely aghast that the BBC have
      even taken down various video sketches from The Two Ronnies including
      all copies of their Calypso song with The New Sensations where they
      sing in a Jamaican accent whilst blacked up to blend with the members
      of the steel backing band, under the guise of it breaching some made
      up copywrite or distribution laws when we all know it’s because they
      deem it as racist. Good luck to UKIP Calypso song I say.
      It’s so funny and true which is what calypso is about.

      AS for trolls,disarm with charm works for me.

  • magnolia

    Sadly I think this bill is really mostly aimed at people like the very sick, bankrupted and destitute Portuguese police guy who was just trying to do his job, and such others. Who other than sometimes using bad language, and occasionally overstepping the mark are otherwise just innocents with a passion for truth and justice. They may be right, they may be wrong, but they are the wrong side of a one-sided media and establishment machine which is apparently entirely certain it is correct, with less than none of that old-fashioned thing called evidence behind its opinion, but just assumption and prejudice.