"I disagree with what you say but I will - #CENSORED# @Keith_VazMP Why not just debate them? http://t.co/eAszeRmqXP pic.twitter.com/Zbx2gehckE
— Nick Margerrison (@NickMargerrison) June 27, 2013
Defending freedom of speech involves defending points of view with which you disagree. The British Government has for some time been banning people from coming here because it doesn't like their opinions. It's important clarify, we're not talking about people who advocate or organise violent acts. We are banning people from coming here because we do not allow freedom of speech.
Two prominent US bloggers have been banned from entering the UK, the Home Office has said.
Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer co-founded anti-Muslim group Stop Islamization of America.
They were due to speak at an English Defence League march in Woolwich, where Drummer Lee Rigby was killed.
To my memory the trend started with radical Islamists being banned from entry to the UK and listeners to my old Hallam FM* show may remember I spoke out about it even then. There's something so chilling about a Government who openly advocates punishing people for speaking their minds. Back then the clerics I ended up "defending" were harder to make a case for because they often had criminal records and were occasionally suspected of being involved in asymmetric warfare or paramilitary groups**.
The people who will queue up to advocate banning a radical Islamist play into the hands of the establishment just as "left wing" talking heads have done here with Geller and Spencer. Back in the mists of time there are certain principles this nation agreed upon as being essential to a functioning society. The reason we have speaker's corner in London is thanks to our ancestors who collectively established freedom of speech as being crucial to our society.
The reason for this is that without free speech we can't ever hope to progress because new ideas will be suppressed and we'll never consider the possibility we're wrong. It's crucial in terms of our democracy, we need to have the chance to hear as many options as possible when it comes to choosing a way forward. It's also crucial in terms of scientific development. Killing someone because they dared say the world might not be the centre of the Universe is a classic example but good science often comes by investigating and challenging shared assumptions. It's vital to a good creative cultural landscape as well. Artists can't always be looking over their shoulders and worrying if their work is ideologically sound, that makes all art into propaganda.
The point I'm making here is that free speech is not just some fun thing we let people do for a giggle. It's an essential part of the reason why our nation used to lead the way. A nation without it tends to stagnate and go backwards.
It's why we avoided the trap of fascism, where we think we're perfect and everyone else is wrong. The fascist has an ideal in their mind which they seek to embody and those who don't fit it are not welcome. The reason that ideology fails is because it misunderstands that a good society can and must adapt to new situations. Today is a shameful day for the UK.
*This story stretches back years. It was The New Labour Order who pushed it particularly hard at first. I still remember people telling me it would be different if the Tories got in. My point of view that they're all the same and voting is a waste of time has gained traction over the last decade, I wonder if the tide will turn as regards censorship?
**Free speech is so badly explained in schools these days that often people don't understand that no one suggests it should go as far as direct threats of violence. With the first few cases like this that line was somewhat blurred.