Free speech and freedom of thought are the very foundation of our civilisation. Stopping people from speaking who pose no threat of violence sets a dangerous precedent. The state has no role in protecting people from words.
Last weekend we saw three conservative political activists banned from entry into the U.K., with anti-terror laws used as justification. None of these activist represent a legitimate threat to the country and the using of anti- terror law to keep these people out is an abomination.
If we ever needed evidence that the state cannot be trusted when we give it extra powers, even in the name of combating terror, it is here. When one thinks terrorist, one thinks of someone who wishes to kill and harm us – in general create “terror”- call me crazy but I believe the word terrorist gives it away. One does not envisage the image of a pretty blonde Canadian libertarian blogger. Indeed thanks to the quick thinking of the father of blogger Lauren Southern we have a recording, in which the border police who detained her admit that they did not think she was of any threat. It cannot be right then that a piece of legislation designed to protect us, can be used to silence people whose views we may not like.
This is in a broader climate of no platforming and silencing of conservative voices. In my last few posts I have referenced John Stuart Mill’s On Liberty. I find myself again coming back to him and his words on freedom of speech. It is clear that this essay must now enter the national curriculum in order that the next generation grow up with an understanding of what it means to believe in liberty. To stop others from speaking and more importantly to stop others from listening to people speak is an infringement on the liberties of our fellow man. By doing this we are asking for tyrannical power. My opinion can be heard but yours must be silenced.
This arrogance and narcissism from those whose intellectual ability goes only as far as being able to bully and intimidate their opponents, is now a threat to the very fabric of our way of life. This is the type of thing you see in totalitarian states like the Islamist states of the middle east, or of Putin’s Russia.
Freedom of speech is in the end, the best defence we have against totalitarianism and tyranny. Without this freedom the only form of resistance open to dissidents is violence. This is not what we want. We must recognise this. And in recognising this we must therefore protect the rights of everyone to have their views heard. It is true that this will mean the protection of the most controversial opinions. Indeed it is only controversial opinion that ultimately require protection. No one would try to silence views which are commonly held.
It is also no doubt true that freedom of speech is the best way to defeat views which are abhorrent. Sunlight is the best disinfectant. By hearing the views of your opponents you can logical dismantle them using reason. In doing so you strengthen your own position. The truth is, Britain, and for that matter most of the Western World is tolerant, genuine bigots and racists destroy themselves when they put their views out into the public for scrutiny. We only have to look at what happened to the former leader of the BNP Nick Griffin when he appeared on Question Time a few years ago, to see that this is an incontrovertible truth. And if your arguments are so weak that they cannot withstand criticism, than it is not your opponents that are the problem, it is you.
Your feelings do not constitute an argument and are no basis for robbing the liberties of others. Although I personally think deliberately provoking and hurting the feelings of others for no reason other than sadism, I am sorry leftists and Islamists but freedom of speech DOES mean freedom to offend.
It is in incumbent on all of us to protect the rights of those who hold controversial opinions to be heard. If we do not do this we may find one day that it is us that are the minority and it is us whose freedoms are under attack.