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Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Then they came for freedom of speech

Do gays really need the degree of “protection” being offered by overzealous local authorities in the UK?

I think not. And so does the gay Andrew Pierce, the Daily Telegraph’s royalty correspondent, writing in the paper yesterday (Tuesday).

He cites a 67-year-old woman who wrote to Norwich Council to object to a gay pride march. Then she got a visit from the police.

In her letter, she had said that gays were “sodomites” whose “perverted sexual practices” were responsible for spreading sexually transmitted diseases.

He then goes on to repudiate that, saying that other things are more culpable in that department.

But, and quite rightly, he upholds this bigoted woman’s right to say what she said. We can’t legislate against bigotry. We can educate, yes, and we can ensure equality for all – or try to. But there will always be bigots like Mrs Pauline Howe of Norwich.

We’re into the debate over freedom of speech again, and the inevitable consequence of threats to free speech are that free speech will continue to be eroded. Eventually, that erosion of free speech will affect the people who wanted to curb free speech by others in the first place.

But they won’t have seen it coming, because initially it wasn't their freedom of speech that was being trodden on.

“First they came for . . .” wrote Pastor Martin Niemöller (1892–1984). You know the rest of the poem, or the gist of it.

2 comments:

truthspew said...

I am on the fence about this. On the one hand I'm tired of hearing the bigots spout the same tired platitudes over and over again.

I'd like to drive them back into their own closet. But we can at least ridicule them. It's fun and really what's the harm.

Diesel B said...

Unlike Truthspew, I am not on the fence at all on this. Police knocking at your door merely for expressing an opinion, no matter how misguided or bigoted, is an affront to our civilised and democratic values. Where are we living? The former East Germany?
In recent weeks we have heard plenty of misguided and bigoted people spouting poison and rubbish - Nick Griffin of the BNP, Jan Moir of the Daily Mail and now this sad old bag from Norwich.
But all they are doing is expressing traditional views, which until very recently, were the norm, not the exception. Some of these views will have been inculcated at a very early age.
Rather than censor, punish, or intimidate, we should - as Andy quite rightly says - allow a platform for such views, so they can be held up to scrutiny, exposed for what they are, then educated away.
We might not change the mind of the person expressing those views, but in the process, we might educate 10 other people to hold those views in contempt.
The British are a feisty, but largely tolerant and sensible people - they can be trusted to recognise and resist this kind of nastiness and bunk. As Andy has said previously, "sunlight is the best disinfectant" for views such as this.