A teenager arrested on Remembrance Sunday on suspicion of posting a picture of a burning poppy on Facebook is being questioned by police.
The 19-year-old was held after the image of a poppy being set ablaze by a lighter was reportedly posted online with the caption: “How about that you squadey cunts”.
Police said the man, from Canterbury, Kent, was detained on suspicion of an offence under the Malicious Communications Act after officers were contacted at about 4pm on Sunday.
This is simply dangerous, absurd and Orwellian.
It is just the latest in a succession of police actions against individuals deemed to have caused offence: mocking a collapsed footballer on Twitter; hoping that British service personnel would “die and go to hell”; wearing a T-shirt that celebrated the death of two police officers; making sick jokes on Facebook about a missing child. Each time the police have arrested people for nothing more than expressing an unpopular, outrageous or offensive opinion.
Britain is setting a precedent for trampling all over free speech in the interest of enforcing public morality. Mussolini would be proud.
The point of free speech is not to protect popular speech. It is to protect us from becoming a society where the expression of unpopular, offensive and distasteful ideas is criminalised. That is the surest guard against totalitarian tendencies.
This new incident is particularly bizarre. Children are taught in school that Britain fought the Second World War to defeat fascism. They are taught that the deaths of British soldiers commemorated on Remembrance Sunday were for the cause of freedom, to defeat fascism, to defeat totalitarianism. And now we arrest people merely for making offensive comments and burning symbols?
Are we turning into the thing that we once fought?
What has happened to free speech?
What has happened to Britain?