The BB phenomenon seems to have reached new depths, with police confiscating a placard from a peacefully demonstrating boy. The placard read, "Scientology is not a religion, it is a dangerous cult". No, the last word was not misspelled, with an n instead of an l. There was nothing obscene, and no single person was defamed, as far as we can make out.
But the lad, said to be a minor, was ordered to dump the sign. "When he refused, he was issued with a form of summons for an alleged breach of public order," says the Daily Telegraph. "Police plan to pass a file to the Crown Prosecution Service to decide whether charges can be brought."
The boy wrote later on the Internet that he had been told that he couldn't use "that word".
This is Britain in the twenty-first century.
Chief Superintendent Rob Bastable (so easy to mispronounce it "BastardBabble", isn't it?) tells the Telegraph, "City of London Police upholds the right to demonstrate lawfully, but we have to balance that with the right of all sections of community not to be alarmed, harassed or distressed as a result of other people's behaviour."
And where, Mr Rob BastardBabble, is the distress? Where is the alarm? Who is being harassed? Why are you being such an almighty Orwellian prat? Is it because it's religion (well, so-called)? Is it because big business is involved? Are you a Tom Cruise fan?
So it's official, is it? We can't call certain religionists crazy nutjobs any more? Is calling an alleged religion a cult now to be proscribed? Have the police overstepped the mark? Or are they just being total arseholes?
Well, I'm not alone in thinking the police are barmpots in this. Shami Chakrabarti, the director of the human-rights group Liberty said, "They will be banning words like 'war' and 'tax' from placards and demonstrations next. This is just barmy."
One reader's comment under the Telegraph story sums it up: "Poor England, to have survived Hitler only to face this long sad spiral into an Orwellian nightmare."
Since that Telegraph story appeared in its online edition yesterday afternoon, writer George Pitcher has pitched in in with a comment in the same paper and reminded us that, if you're name's Ali or Mohammed, it's OK to waltz about with placards saying off with his head. Well, OK, he didn't quite say that, but this is what he did say in that same paper:
By coincidence, it was in 2006 that militant Muslims demonstrated at the Danish Embassy in London over the publication in Denmark of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. Their placards variously read "Slay/Annihilate/Butcher/Massacre/Behead . . . those who insult Islam." I am unaware of any charges that were brought against the bearers of these placards under either the Public Order Act or, more pertinently, the Racial and Religious Hatred Act. That's because the provisions of the legislation are almost meaningless in action.
He reminds us that, although Scientology does not bring the "brutish violence of the Islamists", it does play around with people's brains, and that was why the BBC's John Sweeney memorably "lost it" on air (and subsequently apologised for doing so) while shooting a documentary on these loons (sorry, my word there, not Pitcher's). He adds, "The pity is that they've now warped the minds of the City of London Police."