It’s been an interesting few weeks for that most sacred of values: the freedom to speak out loud what you are thinking. We’ve seen people imprisoned, others have threatened to cut the heads off prospective politicians for not being offended by a cartoon, football supporters arrested for daring to call themselves “Yids” in public and a whole host of media non entities and spiteful little vested interest groups demanding apologies after “taking offence” at something they chose to read on the Internet.
I speak from a position of authority. I’ve actually been interviewed by our hard pressed Police force for daring to make a joke on twitter that some sensitive soul decided to claim “alarmed” him. The mighty Criminal Prosecution Service took six months to decide that as I wasn’t going to apologise, back down or go quietly, they’d do well to drop the whole thing – others have not been so fortunate. Those who meekly “show genuine remorse” or are persuaded to plead guilty to saying something nasty online do each of us no favours at all. I grew up in a time when those who actually fought in a world war would proudly and loudly declare “You can say what you like, it’s a free country” – a phrase rarely heard in modern times. Nowadays, parents advise their children to keep their mouths shut and heads down lest a black mark be entered against their name on the Official School Register.
Today is Holocaust Memorial Day. If you have any comprehension of life without free speech, you would do well to remind yourself that it always ends in death camps. Those with the power will always silence those who do not or will not think and act as they do. Whilst Louise Mensch or self declared community leader Mo Ansar et al seek to whip up the twitter lynch mob to silence their critics or those who do not hold their views, our grandfathers fought to the death to liberate the very same masses our new masters seek to silence. We betray them every time we demand an apology or rush to contact their employers and have them sacked.
Naturally, your silence is the first step to your complete obedience. Those demanding the Internet be policed are only interested in control and building a Utopia on their terms. Genuine dissent and criticism are always the first casualties when the authorities decide we cannot be trusted to translate our thoughts into speech. We are currently witnessing a battle for the modern airwaves where we are all in possession of a broadcasting machine in our pockets – and therefore all modern suspects of thoughtcrime. 24 hour newsfeeds bring us tales of censorship and oppression in Saudi and China yet our Police monitor our utterances with equal vigour as any tin pot dictatorship. Unelected “bastions of good taste” demand the silence of their critics with equal brutality as any tyrant in the 3rd World.
Today of all days, I ask you to take the time and effort to offend someone. Speak freely in the knowledge that remaining silent is the greatest victory for the petty little authoritarians who given an inch would gladly take the mile our ancestors fought so hard to win. Free speech is your birthright and to deny it to our children is to hand them the ready mixed ingredients of tyranny. Go forth and insult, offend, belittle and criticise – whilst it is still perfectly legal to do so – it’s what those who liberated Auschwitz would’ve wanted – do it for those who couldn’t. A fitting tribute indeed.