Stop Insulting Powerful People With Cruel ‘Twits’ Gibes, Urges Bar Standards Board Chief

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Yesterday on her blog Bar Standards Board (BSB) chief Baroness Ruth Deech argued that there is no difference between calling the police “plebs”, as Andrew Mitchell was memorably said to have done recently, and last week’s reference by Alex Salmond to the government as “Lord Snootys”.

Deech added: “The internet and the press are awash with insulting phrases used against perceived upper class, e.g. (forgive me) ‘Tory scum’, ‘Eton mafia’, twits and worse. Class warfare is being waged by language. Why is it worse one way than the other?”

C’mon Baroness, Mitchell’s “pleb” gibe was worse than Salmond’s “Lord Snootys” comment because the people it was aimed at are less powerful than him.

This inability (or unwillingness) to acknowledge society’s uneven power dynamics is common at the top of the legal profession – and is surely not unrelated to its problems with social mobility.


Uncle Solicitor @unclesolicitor

The lengths to which people bend over backwards to find instances of free speech offensive are getting longer each passing day. There is nothing new in this at all, as the same kind of ‘taking offense’ existed before WWII. The remarkable thing about our sceptered isle is that the European Treaties that arose from the ashes of that great conflict actually grant us more rights than our own native ‘free’ laws. If the powerful or the meek cannot resist taking offence at jibes from the intellectually challenged, how will they take genuinely thoughtful and erudite criticism? With a world class ability to ignore it and lock everyone up? That is not how to build a great nation.



I don’t think that a perception of who has more power lessens or increases the validity of being impolite to someone.

And to consider that those policemen on the end of the idiot’s ‘pleb’ line were damsels in distress is a mightly big leap. How many poor unprotected members of the public have the power to arrest someone for swearing or insulting them?



Relying on the, “they are in a position of more power than me so I can say whatever I like” argument is ridiculous.

You wouldn’t (I assume) defend antisemitism by saying, “oh well those Jews all control everything anyway” so why is it any different to use that as an excuse to bash people who went to public school?



I would suggest thtat we try and return to a little more of the ‘stiff upper lip’ here and take some insults on the chin. In many cases, they probably say more about the person using them than the person insulted. I for one agree with the thrust of the campaign to reform s5 Public Order Act – There is certainly a line that should not be crossed when it comes to insults, as the campaign says, but lets all grow a slightly thicker skin and hone our own insults to respond in kind but with more style and panache than the original insult.


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