This week’s comment was found on Toby Young’s blog, which pleads for a “First Amendment” (sic) to protect verbal bullies and the orally incontinent. Free speech in Tobes’s mind is where people say anything they like regardless of how nasty and mean-spirited the words may be. It’s ‘free speech’, right?
Tobes claims that Katie Hopkins is the subject of “visceral hatred” after a successful campaign to sack her from This Morning where she had been appearing as a reactionary rent-a-gob. A tad dramatic. No? Here’s how Tobes opens his article:
There are lots of good arguments for a British equivalent of the First Amendment, not least that it would prevent Parliament passing any law that abridged the freedom of the press, and I hope the next Conservative manifesto includes a commitment to replacing the Human Rights Act with a Bill of Rights.
What Tobes doesn’t realize is that a “First Amendment” or to be more precise, a right to free speech enshrined in law, would not actually apply to a campaign to remove her from our screens. La Hopkins hasn’t been arrested nor has she been charged with any offence. A “First Amendment” has to be part of an existing document and no such document exists, thus the use of the phrase is a little silly.
Nonetheless the Honourable Tobes whines on:
I made a film about JS Mill recently for the Daily Politics and he identifies this form of censorship, which he calls “the tyranny of the prevailing opinion and feeling”, as a far greater threat to freedom of thought and emotion than any laws a tyrannical government might pass. Orwell wrote about the same danger in his essay on ‘The Freedom of the Press’:
In Tobesworld, the right to insult people is more important than making sense and advancing rational arguments. Therefore, challenging crazy ideas or offensive speech is indicative, in his mind at least, of “tyranny”.
Now to the Comment of the Week. This is from “Kentucky Straight”, who doesn’t think the Hon Tobes goes far enough.
This guy is confused: Scousers come from Liverpool, while “Man Utd fans” are fans of guess who? In fact, you don’t need to be a Mancunian to support Man United. Anyone can be one. “Kentucky” moans that an unnamed MP (Labour’s Jack Dromey, in fact) used the word “pikey” to refer to a postal worker. “Pikey” is a derogatory word that is used to refer to Romanis and Irish Travellers and since 2007 it has been an offence to use the word. “Kentucky Fried” then complains that “another councillor” (likely to be UKIP), who is being investigated for “racism” for his remarks about an unnamed council ward in an unnamed city. You see, this isn’t about “free speech” at all: it’s about the right to be nasty and intolerant as well as offensive.
Now “Kentucky Fried” may deny that he’s a racist but he’d have a hard time convincing me. Today’s racists are more likely to use euphemisms in an attempt to avoid confrontation or, indeed, detection. “Kentucky” is quite clearly either a member of a far-right party or he sympathizes with one. How do I know? It’s the way he claims that “We are becoming a Marxist police state”.