This is really annoying

July 8, 2008

This story caught my eye last week, and I was going to comment about it but forgot:

SYDNEY, Australia —  New regulations making it a crime to annoy or inconvenience people gathering in Sydney during Pope Benedict XVI’s visit later this month were criticized Tuesday as a heavy-handed blow to free speech.

The laws will apply in dozens of areas of downtown Sydney — including the city’s landmark opera house, train stations and city parks — that are designated venues for World Youth Day, a Catholic evangelical festival at which the pontiff will conduct mass and lead prayer meetings.

The regulations give police and emergency services workers power to order anyone to stop behavior that “causes annoyance or inconvenience to participants in a World Youth Day event,” according to a New South Wales state government gazette. Anyone who does not comply faces a 5,500 Australian dollar (US$5,300) fine.

It would be easy to make light of this dumheadedness — just think of all the annoying people we’d like to ban. But it’s the kind of approach that’s becoming all too frequent in the law — making something punishable that is very open to subjective interpretation. Who is to say what is annoying except the person who says he is being annoyed? Remember our own country’s approach to “sexual harassment” in the workplace? Too often it has been defined as whatever the accusing person feels harassed by — there are no objective standards. Without such standards, the law becomes a weapon instead of our protector.

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One Response to “This is really annoying”

  1. Harl Delos Says:

    Remember our own country’s approach to “sexual harassment” in the workplace?

    As I’ve heard it explained, if you want to sexually harass someone, you get a free pass the first time, so make the most of it.

    Sexual harassment only happens when your behavior is unwanted, and since you can claim you didn’t realize it was unwanted until she informs you, you can do ANYTHING once….

    My late first wife had a sign in her office saying “We don’t report sexual harassment – we grade it.” She figured she could give as good as she got, and I’d say she was right. But most women can’t say that.


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