Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Bahar Mustafa to Face charges on claim about Tweet, “kill all White Men”.

with 10 comments

Bahar Mustafa, welfare and diversity officer at Goldsmiths Students' Union

Bahar Mustafa: to Organise Encounter Group  for all Tweeters? 

London woman charged after alleged #killallwhitemen tweet 

Guardian.

A student diversity officer who came to prominence in a race row after allegedly tweeting the hashtag #killallwhitemen has been charged by police with sending a threatening communication.

Bahar Mustafa, of Goldsmiths, University of London, is set to appear at Bromley magistrates court on 5 November.

The 28-year-old from Edmonton, north-east London, faces two charges. One is sending a communication conveying a threatening message between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015. The second is for sending a grossly offensive message via a public communication network between 10 November 2014 and 31 May 2015.

Mustafa was initially accused of racism for asking white men not to attend a students’ union meeting intended for ethnic minority women and non-binary attendees.

She then became embroiled in a separate row, accused of using the hashtag #killallwhitemen on her Twitter account, which has since been deleted.

A Met police spokesman said in a statement: “A woman interviewed under caution regarding a complaint of racially motivated malicious communication made on a social media network has been summonsed to court.”

Mustafa is neither an employee of Goldsmiths nor a student, but an employee of the independent students’ union, elected by union members.

Mustafa remained in her position as welfare and diversity officer after a petition for a motion of no confidence fell short of the 3% of union members required to trigger a poll.

After the furore, Mustafa denied that her initial request for white men to stay away from a union meeting was racist or sexist, and said she had received rape and death threats.

  • This article was amended on 7 October 2015. It originally referred to “non-binary” women. That should have been non-binary attendees. This has been corrected.

First of all: it is ridiculous that the law is brought in to deal with people’s brain seepage on Twitter.

I am not a lawyer – outside the Barracks – but from the 6 week sentence for Jake Newson for grossly offensive tweets onwards there are serious concerns about these laws.

At the time of that particular prosecution this comment was made. (Guardian)

Thomas Hughes, executive director of free speech organisation Article 19, said the charity is “extremely concerned by the number of arrests and prosecutions for comments made online in the UK. Nobody should go to prison simply for causing offence. This is not only our view but a violation of international legal standards that protect speech that shocks, offends or disturbs.”

There are many other examples of courts cases, and this summary indicates the far too broad scope of the legislation:

Number seven: menacing tweets

A tweet that is grossly offensive, or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, will offend the Communications Act 2003. The Crown Court considered Paul Chambers’ tweet “… I am blowing the airport sky high” to be menacing, however the High Court overturned its decision. The High Court ruled that the Communications Act would not prevent satirical, iconoclastic, or rude comment, expression of the unpopular, unfashionable opinion about serious or trivial matters, humour, comments that are distasteful or even painful to those subjected to them, silly jokes or jokes in bad taste that a person would be likely to brush aside or empty bombastic or ridiculous banter. A tweet that is indecent, obscene or menacing in character could result in a fine or a prison sentence of up to six months.

The test: If a tweet could create fear or apprehension in the minds of anyone who may reasonably be expected to see it the tweet could be considered a menace and an offence under the Communications Act.

Twitter and the law: 10 legal risks in tweeting from or to the UK.

There is no need to be a top Barrister to see that these criteria are wide enough to invite both malicious prosecution and to allow an intolerable degree of snooping into people’s expression of opinion.

More on this:  Freedom Of Speech (Even For Bahar Mustafa).

Secondly, as a white woman and former postgraduate (MA in Gender Media and Culture) of Turkish origin who is now a full-time student union officer at the very bourgeois Goldsmith’s College Mustafa is not exactly on many people’s lists of oppressed minorities in London.

This is not her opinion. She has stated earlier this year (Independent),

“I, an ethnic minority woman, cannot be racist or sexist towards white men because racism and sexism describe structures of privilege based on race and gender and therefore women of colour and minority genders cannot be racist or sexist, since we do not stand to benefit from such a system.”

This Blog is all in favour of nostalgic revivals of 1970s identity politics, apparently where the Goldsmith’s MA course finished.

But this should be on a kind of Sealed Knot basis, between consenting adults.

It may be hard for those of Turkish origin, probably of an orthodox Sunni background,  to claim victimhood in Turkey itself, for reasons that the name Kurd will indicate, not to mention the Alevis. But that is no reason for white middle class and prosperous Londoners of Turkish origin who have paid for expensive courses in Gender Media and Culture not to join in the fray when they can.

Mustafa has been, apparently, a “diversity and welfare officer”.

Our own judgement is that Goldsmith’s should organise a special diversity event for black, ethnic minority, white trash, and white men (one hopes, not those already killed), not to mention every gender there is, and non-binary attendees.

People will be able to call each other every name under the sun.

In the spirit of 1970s revivals I would call it an “Encounter Group”.

Written by Andrew Coates

October 7, 2015 at 12:32 pm

10 Responses

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  1. The right to be stupid is a basic human right, which should be defended but not exercised.

    Francis

    October 8, 2015 at 11:54 am

  2. My own view is that it’s a lot easier for the Police to spend their time looking at the Web than tackling real crime.

    Andrew Coates

    October 8, 2015 at 12:17 pm

  3. Not just the Police. It’s easier for any of us to spend our time looking at the Web than getting on with our jobs. I agree that most tweetery of the offensive kind should be ignored by the police, and people who report it are wasting their time.

    A bit conflicted about Mustafa. One part of me says, shrug this of as idiocy and haven’t the police got something better to do. How many people would be influenced by her to sharpening their knives. OTOH there are laws about incitement to violence. If someone had tweeted #killallMuslims shouldn’t it be investigated?

    I would guess if Mustafa thought at all her white men would be people like David Cameron and George Bush, not young guys in sink estates who are victims of racist violence.

    kb72

    October 9, 2015 at 7:01 am

  4. Tom Owolade makes the salient point about the “identity politics” ideology that Bahar Mustafa represents –

    “the oppressed should be treated with lower moral scrutiny, exempt from the rule of law, and free to enforce censorship. Whereas the oppressors, stained by the original sins of patriarchy and colonialism, can never be victims but only victimisers, and a transgression of their rights should consequently not concern us.”

    If Bahar Mustafa had written #killalljews, #killallmuslims or #killallblackwomen, there would not be any concern “on the Left” about her being arrested*. At one point, Mustafa also called AWL member Tom Harris, “white trash” on her GSU Welfare and Diversity twitter account.

    She later issued this statement, “However, in regards to calling someone ‘white trash’ under my official GSU Welfare and Diversity twitter account, I can accept it was not professional and I apologise for this.”

    Note, she did not apologise for calling Harris “white trash” or for using the term. The apology was for being “unprofessional” and using the “official GSU Welfare and Diversity twitter account”.

    If you say that Mustafa should not be charged for #killallwhitemen then you have to defend the right of others to use the other hashtags quoted above. You would also have to defend the right to call people “white trash” or other hateful epitaphs I sure we can all think of.

    Brendan O’Neill (Spiked) takes this viewpoint. He says fighting for free speech is pointless unless you defend those whose views you are opposed to.

    He quotes the example of Aryeh Neier who

    “was national director of the American Civil Liberties Union in the 1970s, during which time he devoted a massive amount of energy to demanding the right of the National Socialist Party of America to march through a largely Jewish town called Skokie. Neier had fled Nazi Germany when he was a child, and much of his extended family was wiped out in the Holocaust.

    Nazis must be free to speak because Jews must be free to speak and because I must be free to speak’, [Neier] said. ‘Defending my enemy is the only way to protect a free society against the enemies of freedom.’ ”

    As for myself, I feel conflicted about this case but, in the end, either it’s ok to trend #kill… or it’s not and I can’t take the Spiked view about unfettered freedom of speech. Where to draw the line on “hate speech” is difficult though and obviously, motives (imo being provocative in Mustafa’s case) should be taken into account.

    However, it doesn’t mean that the police should not investigate her hashtag. There is a part of me that wants to see it go to court if only to see how far, in law, the expression of hatred for any particular group (white men, jews, muslims, black women etc) should be allowed. The motives of the person/group issuing the “hate” could then be scrutinised.

    One thing I completely agree with Spiked on though is this. It is far too easy and comfortable to defend free speech when it’s people you agree with.

    https://tomowolade.wordpress.com/2015/07/04/thoughts-on-political-correctness-and-sjw/

    http://www.newsshopper.co.uk/news/12948007.UPDATE__New_Cross_Diversity_Officer_could_lose_role_after_tweeting__killallwhitemen_and__white_trash_/

    http://www.spiked-online.com/newsite/article/Why-we-must-fight-for-free-speech-for-people-we-loathe/17517#.VheC6Yvsck4

    *Maybe I should qualify that. I’m not so sure these days that a #killalljews trend might be defended in some quarters as an example of “misguided anti-imperialism” which should, of course, be criticised but, hey, it’s all Israel’s fault!

    John R

    October 9, 2015 at 11:10 am

  5. Yes, it’s a very relevant point: if she had said Kill Jews, Kill Muslims, Kill Women, you wonder how many people would have defended her.

    Andrew Coates

    October 9, 2015 at 12:52 pm

  6. Should somebody who uses a stupid and bigoted hashtag be the object of a police investigation if there is no credible threat to anybody? No – the state should not be policing people’s opinions. Is such a person suitable for a position as an SU diversity officer? That’s for her employers to decide.

    Francis

    October 9, 2015 at 1:42 pm

  7. The problem is that many “stupid and bigoted” hashtags end up being the subject of police investigations. Just where should the line drawn? Should there be a line?

    I honestly don’t know.

    That’s why I said there was a part of me that wanted it to go to court for some clarification.

    If Mustafa has a right to be “stupid and offensive” then so does someone like Katie Hopkins, I’m afraid.

    When the Scottish nurse Pauline Cafferkey, who sadly is now back in hospital, was initially sent there Hopkins tweeted,“Sending us Ebola bombs in the form of sweaty Glaswegians just isn’t cricket”. She was then investigated by the Scottish police.

    It would also mean defending the right of Hopkins to state that gunboats should be sent to deal with the refugee crisis. Stupid and offensive but not a “credible threat” to the refugees. Unfortunately, her views seem to have gotten her a new, highly paid job with the Mail rather than into too much trouble.

    Suzanne Moore wrote in the Guardian (Oct 7),

    “…I completely stand by Bahar Mustafa if she used a hashtag that said #killallwhitemen.”

    Unfortunately, after only 11 comments (and numerous deletions due to being “against community standards”, oh the irony) the plug was pulled on the discussion.

    So, the “free speech” issue is all a bit of a mess. As Spiked say, it is easy to support the free speech of your mates (or people who you understand, like Mustafa, to be “on the left”).

    However, who will defend the right to tweet #killalljews, #killallmuslims or #killallblackwomen or even the right to free expression of Katie Hopkins without police involvement?

    http://www.independent.co.uk/news/people/katie-hopkins-cleared-by-police-following-investigation-into-racist-tweets-10283663.html

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2015/oct/07/a-hashtag-shouldnt-make-men-fear-lives-already-have-safe-space-manchester-university

    John R

    October 9, 2015 at 2:52 pm

  8. “However, who will defend the right to tweet #killalljews, #killallmuslims or #killallblackwomen or even the right to free expression of Katie Hopkins without police involvement?”

    I will. Because no useful purpose whatsoever is served by wasting police time on people being stupid, so long as nobody is genuinely threatened. Free speech ends where serious incitement to violence, persecution, harassment and the like begins. In other words, there has to be at least a potential victim who will suffer real harm. Otherwise, no victim, no crime.

    Francis

    October 9, 2015 at 3:39 pm

  9. That is a reasonable definition, except that general incitement to race hatred would imply that a potential victim is included in a call to kill “all” white men etc.

    Andrew Coates

    October 9, 2015 at 5:52 pm

  10. Hence the use of the word “serious”. Any white man feeling genuinely threatened by this rather ridiculous hashtag needs psychiatric assessment, not police protection.

    Francis

    October 9, 2015 at 8:59 pm


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