‘I don’t agree with what you said but I’d always defend your right to say it.’ In the last few years, unless you live in Russia, China or practically anywhere in the middle east, you would have probably come across this phrase, which sadly has become a lazy cliché employed by apologists for clowns like Katy Hopkins.
Freedom of speech is important, it’s precious, and something we all take for granted. It’s what gives us the right to openly disagree with our politicians, and our political leaders without having to worry about a knock on the door in the early hours after which our loved ones never see or hear from us again.
‘Nobody has the right NOT to be offended.’ You’ve probably heard that one as well? Up to a point I agree with it. But here’s the thing. Disagreement and critical debate are not only essential, they’re healthy. But do we really want to live in a society when such disagreements and political and social criticism is preceded by malicious and sometimes personal insults deliberately calculated to cause offence?
When Katy Hopkins referred to immigrants as ‘cockroaches’ and her calculated and deliberate reference to the ‘final solution’ with its obvious inference to Muslims, she did nothing to advance any meaningful discussion but whipped up the predicted social media frenzy to illicit nothing more than cheap publicity while inciting hatred. Unfortunately, right wing comics like the Daily Mail are happy to employ her and pay her legal bills because they’re well aware that there are enough ill-informed, uneducated, racist, and prejudiced people among us who listen to this bile which plays upon the right wing narrative of how immigrants are destroying our country and our way of life. Nothwithstanding these people, there’s the white middle-classes of course who throw their hands up at the state of the place as they order their skinny latte’s from their non-British waitress who’s on a zero hours contract working like a dog for a weekly wage that wouldn’t keep them in avocado toast!
And let me just say that LBC and a few others are hardly ones for self-imposed ordinance when it comes to allowing other presenters to stir up a bit of xenophobia. Nigel Farage! Anyone? But even the radio station’s top bosses eventually realised that Hopkins was basically spewing out nothing but spiteful nonsense in her efforts to get a reaction. Freedom of speech? Absolutely. But freedom of speech without any responsibility? Not for me.
Of course you may disagree and please do feel free to do so. But would you really feel the need to predicate your disagreement on the fact that I’m a white, middle-aged, cockney bastard from London? Is that the sort of freedom of speech we all want?
28th May 2017.