UK thought police almost running amokI 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.