Thursday, February 12, 2009

UK thought police almost running amok

I always think its preferable that people should say exactly what they are thinking, even if it is prejudiced – indeed, it is far better to just come out with it, than keeping it in, so to speak.

However, it appears, we in Britain, are living in very thin-skinned and over-sensitive times. This year alone, a week hasn’t gone by without some high profile celebrity being sacked from their job, or told to apologies for their words, or investigated by the police, or worse still, arrested all because of what they said.

Freedom of speech in Britain is getting hammered like never before. Even the British National Party, who in the not-so-distant past boasted of being the staunchest defenders of free speech on Earth – couldn’t call the police quick enough to have Jo Brands joke about the BNP ‘investigated’.

Don’t get me wrong here, I have no intention whatsoever of endorsing racist language – nevertheless, what we appear to be witnessing is a new imposition of a snobbish etiquette. It is an etiquette that cannot be argued against, and has no interest in free and open debate. Similar to the police who surrounded and imprisoned some 3000 May Day protestors on Oxford Street back in 2001, the new snobby etiquette police are trying to reign in the limits of free speech. Today, it seems there are some words that cannot be used, even in private.

The most disturbing aspect of all this was pretty much summed up by Jay Hunt, a BBC controller who arrogantly argued on radio that it really didn’t matter that Carol Thatcher had used the word ‘gollywog’ at the BBC green room – even if Thatcher had used the word in her bedroom, Hunt added ‘I don’t think it’s fine that she [Thatcher] says this at home’. Here, the distinction between what is said in public and private has all but disappeared.

It’s at times like these that free speech needs to be defended more than ever. My belief in the right to free speech is unconditional. It means there is no such thing as full free speech for me, but partial free speech for Carol Thatcher, Prince Harry or Jo Brand. You cannot divide free speech – we either have it, or we don’t. Of course, this doesn’t mean we should go softly on the obvious rubbish espoused by Thatcher, Prince Harry, Brand, or even Tottenham supporters. I do not adhere to the notion that we should take their pathetic views seriously. Free speech isn’t about ‘them’, it’s about our ability to judge for ourselves.

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2 Comments:

At 1:01 AM, Anonymous Paul said...

The good thing about free speech is that it allows people like Carol Thatcher to say what they think and therefore allows us to see the kind of people they really are.
Turns out she is the sort of person who calls black people goilliwogs and then can't see how or why it is offensive. Give them enough rope to hang themselves, or in this case enough freedom of speech to hang themselves, is a good idea.

 
At 10:21 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

OK, I am going to come out of the closet. I used to have a 'gollywog' when I was a child. I guess that makes me a racist, but you know, all I recall about that doll was that it was, well a doll.

It was probably my parents sending subliminal messages. Bastards!

CH: "Here, the distinction between what is said in public and private has all but disappeared."

The most distressing thing I heard came from the Liberty spokeswoman Shami Chakrabarti on Question Time a week or so ago, led me to think she actually doesn't understand the root of Liberty nor the ideal of freedom of speech. If anyone should have been defending Carol Thatcher it should have been Shami Chakrabarti. Liberty obviously believes we should have freedom of speech - so long as it is speech that has received prior approval.

Making it societally acceptable to sneak a private discussion is a prerequisite to constructing a police state.

After the Berlin wall came down it turned out that pretty much everyone had files held about them by the German secret police, husbands had sneaked on their wives, children on their parents, parents on their children. That is where we are going.

 

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