Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center.
You’ve probably heard the old joke. In Heaven the cooks are French, the mechanics are German, the bankers are Swiss, the lovers are Italian, and the police are English. In Hell, by contrast, the cooks are English, the mechanics are French, the bankers are Italian, the lovers are Swiss, and the police are German. Once upon a time, the joke didn’t have to be explained – at least not the part about English police. Even people who’d never been to England had seen enough old movies to get it. English cops didn’t carry guns. They were decent, civilized professionals, trained to be public servants in accordance with the high principles of policing set down in the 1820s by Sir Robert Peel, in honor of whom they were known as “Bobbies.”
In recent years, alas, the rosy image of English cops has been severely tarnished. It’s now known that for decades, constabularies in many English cities were so scared of being called racists that they ignored the systematic rape of thousands of children by Muslim “grooming gangs.” They’ve also harassed Tommy Robinson, who’s done more than anyone to expose those gangs. And they’ve arrested thousands of ordinary people for expressing politically incorrect opinions online. No fewer than 150,000 law-abiding British citizens now have rap sheets because of their involvement in “non-crime hate incidents.”
One of those citizens is a retired cop named Harry Miller, who between November 2018 and January 2019 composed or shared 31 tweets that were reported to the Humberside Constabulary as “transphobic.” (Example: “Only women have vaginas and only men have penises.”) The post singled out by the cop who visited Miller at work consisted of this re-tweeted bit of verse:
Your breasts are made of silicone,
Your vagina goes nowhere
And we can tell the difference
Even when you’re not there.
Your hormones are synthetic
And let’s just cross this bridge
What you have, you stupid man,
Is male privilege.
Describing the poem as a limerick (“that’s not a limerick,” Miller corrected him), the cop said “I need to check your thinking” and spelled out the Orwellian legal logic by which the anonymous individual who’d reported Miller’s tweet was officially classified as a “victim.” Uncowed, Miller leapt into action, publicizing his predicament on various podcasts and suing the College of Policing, which was responsible for teaching cops that it’s their job to police politically incorrect opinions. A lower court found for the defendants, but in February 2020 Miller won on appeal, with the judge stating: “The effect of the police turning up at the claimant’s place of work because of his political opinions must not be underestimated. To do so would be to undervalue a cardinal democratic freedom. In this country we have never had a Cheka, a Gestapo or a Stasi. We have never lived in an Orwellian society.”
A month or so before Miller’s appellate victory, another new English hero of freedom was hatched. When actor Laurence Fox, star of the long-running crime series Lewis, dared to deny on the BBC’s Question Time that Meghan Markle is a victim of racism, an angry audience member called him a “white privileged male,” in response to which he pointed out that the habit of throwing around accusations of racism had allowed grooming gangs to flourish. The backlash from that TV appearance was extraordinary. Equity, the actors’ union, condemned him. In response, Fox – a member of one of Britain’s most prominent acting dynasties (his father, James, was Anthony Hopkins’s aristocratic boss in The Remains of the Day; his uncle Edward had the title role in the original Day of the Jackal) walked away from showbiz, became a full-time anti-woke activist, and founded the Reclaim Party, whose goal, he has proclaimed, is nothing less than to wrest culture back from the progressive left.
Fast forward to June 27 of this year. On that date Fox posted on Twitter a clever meme featuring the “progress pride” flag – the newfangled version of the rainbow flag on which the familiar horizontal stripes are supplemented with a striped chevron on the left symbolizing transgender individuals and “people of color,” among others. Fox juxtaposed four of these flags in such a way as to form a swastika – an obvious commentary on the fact that trans ideology has become a lockstep orthodoxy that brooks no criticism. Asked in a TV interview to explain the meme, Fox said that the gay-rights movement, which had been “laudable and wonderful” when it sought “equality for gay men and women,” is now “a Trojan horse”: it’s “hostile to gay people, it doesn’t even acknowledge the existence of women, it encourages and promotes the mutilation of children…it hates free speech…and it will remove you from your job if you don’t bow down and worship it.” Bingo.
Fox’s meme won him a temporary Twitter ban; the ranking Green Party member of the London Assembly called for a police investigation. But it also went viral online. Among those who shared it was Darren Brady, a 51-year-old retired soldier who, soon enough, was visited by two Hampshire cops who told him he’d committed a crime by purportedly causing some unnamed person to experience “anxiety.” Brady was informed that he could escape prosecution if he agreed to take a £60 “community resolution course.” Instead he contacted Fox and Miller, who’d recently founded the Bad Law Project – a non-profit group that stands up to politicized law enforcement. As shown in a newly posted 26-minute video entitled “Bad Law: The Rise of the British Gestapo,” Fox and Miller arrived at Brady’s home on July 28 just in time to witness the arrival on the scene of another pair of Hampshire cops who proceeded to throw their weight around in a manner that would most assuredly not have made Sir Robert Peel proud.
But they hadn’t reckoned on Miller. A grab-bag of legal smarts, he explained to the cops at length that it was they, in fact, who were in breach of the law. It didn’t penetrate. They sent for reinforcements. When they prepared to take Brady into custody, Miller said: “You arrest him, you’ve got to come through me.” So they arrested them both. Fox, who streamed all this live on Facebook, wondered aloud why he, too, wasn’t being arrested. Of course he wasn’t: just as the police in class-conscious England target the working stiff Tommy Robinson but not the Oxford-educated Douglas Murray (whose position on Islam is pretty much the same as Tommy’s), they’ll put an ex-cop like Harry Miller behind bars, but not acting royalty like Laurence Fox.
Two arrests, then, for wrongthink. For the cops, it was just another day on the job. But this time they’d picked on the wrong guys. Fox’s arrest videos went viral. He discussed them with Tucker Carlson, who pointed out that the arrests only proved the point of Fox’s meme: transgender ideology is tyranny. There was so much public outrage that Donna Jones, Hampshire police and crime commissioner, felt compelled to criticize her own subordinates: “When incidents on social media receive…two visits from police officers but burglaries and non-domestic break-ins don’t always get a police response, something is wrong.” A few days later, the Hampstead Constabulary actually closed down the ridiculous hate-crime course that the cops had tried to bulldoze Brady into taking. While the charges against Brady were dropped, Miller remains “under investigation.”
The Anglosphere used to be Ground Zero for individual liberty. Now it’s the wellspring of woke ideology. In Canada, Justin Trudeau treated protesting truckers (and their supporters) like terrorists. In New Zealand, prime minister Jacinda Ardern bragged about imposing the “widest ranging and toughest border restrictions of any country in the world” during the pandemic. In Australia, the world’s top-ranked tennis star, Novak Djokovic, who’d flown there to compete in the Australian Open, was placed under house arrest for being unvaccinated, even though he’d received a medical exemption. And the U.S.? The Russia hoax, the two Trump impeachments, the House’s “insurrection” show trial, the arrests of Roger Stone, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, et al., and (most recently) the shocking FBI raid on Mar-a-Lago make it obvious that the Democrats, despite their endless professions of reverence for American freedom and the Constitution, will recognize no impediments in their ruthless determination to use police, intelligence services, the IRS, and all other institutions at their command to crush their opponents.
Laurence Fox certainly sees the parallels. Posting a Twitter link on August 9 to a Reuters report about the Mar-a-Lago raid, he commented: “Security services around the world are now the armed wing of the ‘progressive’ movement. It’s a coup.” Yes, it is. And there’s nothing to do about it but to fight back. That Fox and Harry Miller have already had such a significant impact on the behavior of the Hampshire Police – and, we may hope, on other constabularies in England – is a promising indication of just how much of a difference a couple of gutsy freedom fighters can make.