There is a very strange row going on over on the other side of the Irish Sea. It is one of those rows that makes you scratch your head in something like frustration and despair. Apart from the sheer vanity of it all, we are left asking ourselves not only how could people behave so stupidly but are left wondering what strange demon has turned rational and intelligent people into such irrational imbeciles.
Could the answer be hidden in the animated movie, Zootopia? There the peace and harmony of the allegorical eponymous city is left facing a nightmare where some animals, by means of a magic flower cultivated by the villains of the piece, are turned into ultra vicious predators.
On Sunday night, on a Sky Television news programme, a usually useful and informative segment of the show turned into a bewildering farce. It shouldn’t have been a farce because the discussion was on the Orlando atrocity. But farce it was, and the farce did not end with the show. It has been going on since. The trolls of the Internet have now responded to the hue and cry. God knows where it will end – although one thing is certain: for ordinary rational mortals, if we count ourselves among them, we can only conclude that the best we can do is keep our mouths shut when any one of a number of contentious topics comes up for public discourse.
Julia Hartley-Bewer, one of the protagonists in this row – the others are Guardian columnist, Owen Jones, and Sky anchor, Mark Longhurst – put her side of the story in today’s Daily Telegraph.
But this stupid row isn’t about my feelings or Owen Jones’s feelings or Sky News or even about the Orlando massacre, she sums up in her bewilderment. It’s about what is happening to our fundamental right to freedom of speech in this country.
This whole sorry saga says a lot about the state of public debate in Britain when a grown man feels the need to storm off a TV set simply because other people decline politely to agree with every word he says.
This is peak Generation Snowflake: I don’t like what you say or the way that you say it so I’m going to scream and scream until you give in, say sorry for offending me and shut the heck up.
Owen seems to think that the hate-fest against me and against Mark Longhurst is the proof that he was right. It isn’t.
It’s proof that there are now thousands – if not millions – of people in Britain who regard the taking of offence as not just their hobby but their full time job. They seek out offence and hidden insults wherever they may be, and even where (as in this case) there are none and then they shout long and hard until their designated target gives in and agrees to be shut down.
Well, sorry to disappoint you but no one is shutting me down or silencing my voice. I don’t claim to speak for anyone but myself so I get to choose the words I want to use, not Owen Jones or random people on Twitter or anyone else. That’s how this whole “free speech” thing works.
If you don’t like what I have to say then either don’t listen or debate with me using facts rather than resorting to abuse and lies. And don’t ever presume to tell me what I can and cannot say. This is, last time I looked, a free country where I am as entitled as anyone else to give my opinion.
If Owen Jones wants to live in a world where people can only say what is on the officially approved list of platitudes, then perhaps he has more in common with Islamic State than he thinks.
Well, Julia, I wish you luck in your battle. It’s going to be a tough one – and it’s a world war as well. I attended a lecture in Dublin last week and it told the same story, but with a different dramatis personae. We are at the Mad Hatter’s tea party.
More about this sadness from Spiked.com.