UK police are looking into an online parody video posted by UKIP MEP candidate Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad, after they received a report of malicious communications about some of the comments Benjamin made in the video. The specific comments police are investigating relate to a joke Benjamin made about Labour MP Jess Phillips.
The video, which was clearly labeled as a roast – a type of comedy that’s not intended to be taken seriously, featured a number of jokes that the person filing the police report found offensive. The joke that’s being looked into by police was about the mainstream media’s constant coverage of a three-year-old tweet Benjamin posted before he was a political candidate where he said he “wouldn’t even rape” Phillips.
Benjamin is a strong proponent of free speech and believes that offensive speech and humor should be protected under the rubric of free speech. Benjamin has said that he will personally apologize to Phillips and anyone else who is offended by this three-year-old tweet if they ask him to. However, he refuses to issue a public apology to people who are vicariously offended on her behalf because he believes calls for him to apologize are being used as a power strategy to derail his political campaign.
In a statement to The Mirror, Phillips said she believes people who make offensive jokes like Benjamin’s should be permanently banned from holding elected office: “If you promote rape and sexual violence and the discourse that it is a joke, then of course I think you should have a life time ban.”
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The Mirror added that Phillips wants UK law to be tightened so that misogynistic comments constitute hate crimes.
Despite her strong stance on policing speech, Phillips has also faced controversy for her own speech in the past and has previously told UK Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn: “I won’t knife you in the back, I’ll knife you in the front.”
At the time, Phillips was criticized by many people for the violent nature of these comments. She responded by saying it was a metaphor indicating that she would not plot behind Corbyn’s back. Now that offensive comments are being directed at her, Phillips appears to have changed her stance on how offensive speech should be dealt with in the UK.
The investigation of Benjamin’s offensive online comments is the latest in a series of similar investigations that have been conducted by UK police this year. In March, journalist Caroline Farrow was investigated by UK police for “misgendering” on Twitter. A British man was also visited by UK police at his home and told to be “mindful” about his online comments.