Monday, 5 September 2011

Speech isn't free.

A few weeks back I blogged on the vitriol that was being fired towards Historian David Starkey. I put forward the idea that a news interview wasn't the place to try and form elegant thoughts. There isn't enough time to place possibly controversial argument into context.

It was a sort of defence of David Starkey. This caused a little local difficulty. 

I post this blog on a number of sites to maximise its readership and to make sure that lots of people are able to benefit from my great wisdom... sorry got carried away there. On one of these sites I received the following response...

I might speculate that the lack of responses to John's post indicates the extent to which "free speech" has been subdued in the mother of democracies. No-one feels comfortable putting forward a view in case they are instantly branded as racist, sexist, etc.

In the emotionally charged atmosphere of a live TV debate I should imagine it is difficult to always select the most appropriate language. It's not like you have time to sit down and write an essay. People are too quick to comment on style instead of substance and take any debate down a rat-hole. If we go back to 1985 Sir Paul Condon (Met commissioner) said that 85% of all street crime was committed by one section of the community. Has anything changed?

Can someone explain to me why in this land of village greens, cucumber sandwiches and warm beer, that some people feel the need to conceal a 20" machete or hand-gun down their trouser legs to walk our streets?

The real difficulty our country faces is in expecting the same people who allowed/created the problem(s) to implement an effective solution.
The result of this?

A great big face palm.

It was as if my defence of David Starkey had rattled a disturbing cage that failed to see that free speech isn't free.

This is how I responded...

I'm not sure that the blog post goes to those lengths, I was hoping to explore the difficulty of an expert not being given the time to explain a train of thought and for the need to be careful what language is used. I hope that I did that.

I find it odd when people use the phrase 'free speech' because that means free speech for 'them' as much as free speech for 'us'. If you use the phrase you need to accept that those who complain of racism are themselves exercising their 'free speech'. It has to work both ways otherwise it isn't free.

To be honest I don't think that we have ever had free speech, and that's a very good thing.

If we did have this mythical thing called free speech then Oswald Mosley the British fascist leader wouldn't have been imprisoned during the last world war. He would simply have been exercising his free speech in supporting Hitler against his government... What we say publically shouldn't be something that affects another section of law abiding society adversely; which is what casual and even accidental racism does.

Village greens and cucumber sandwiches??? For some maybe, but you go back as far as you can and the court reports are filled with violence and death...

(BBC Radio 4 have a splendid programme looking at The Old Bailey records, the last one I caught was dealing with the 17th and 18th century male brothels or Molly Houses. Homosexuality is really not a recent phenomenon)

...cast your mind back to the 50's and you'll see that the riots and stabbings perpetrated by 'The Teds' make nothing this generation do look new. The only difference is that it's now reported nationally.

The world is a safer place, crime persists in going down, and crime that is perpetrated tends to be in specific areas amongst specific people, but because it's a story if there is a crime it gets reported and people perception of crime is skewed.

I have brought 2 children into this world and I have no intention of leaving this sceptre’ d Isle just as long as people coexist peacefully, think of the sensitivities of every community, deal fairly and honestly with each other and never think that speech is free... because completely free speech has a very high price to pay.
And there is where I left it and I went off on holiday. I am yet to receive a response.

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