This freedom of speech issue is starting to become somewhat tedious, whirring round with depressing regularity as soon as anybody finds something they disagree with. And let's face it, Nick Griffin and David Irving are two of the most disagreed with men in this country. But it doesn't mean they're not as entitled to their views as anyone else is. Now by all means, object to their views which are rather, well, objectionable. But if somebody asks them what their views are, they've got a right to say so, even if what comes out if ill-educated, nasty bilge. Harry's Place asks if fascists should be given free speech when, given half the chance, they'd deny others. The Devil neatly replies:
"Because we are not fascists.
It doesn't stop the usual idiocy being trotted out. I've no problem with MP Dr. Julian Lewis resigning his membership of Oxford's debating union over the matter, but this quote verges on the daft.
"I think there are people who are confusing this with an issue of free speech. It's not an issue of free speech to offer someone a privileged platform from a prestige organisation."
Er, no. This is precisely an issue of free speech, and they're being invited to speak at a debate on free speech. This couldn't be more about freedom of speech if it chartered a hundred helicopters, hovered them above the venue, and waved 60ft high banners with the words: "This is about free speech."
It honestly feels that, from people of all political persuasions, freedom of speech is actually read as: You're free to say what you what providing I don't disagree with it or find it offensive. Then you're just being irresponsible and it stops being an issue of free speech, and starts being an issue of why you shouldn't be allowed to say these things.
Honestly. Grow up.
Antonia Bance is another who seems to have gotten the highly confusing idea of free speech and not free speech mixed up.
"But I would just point out that having the right to freedom of speech doesn’t mean having the right to be invited to speak at a private members’ club."
And Tim, as usual on topic such as this, is spot on:
"Indeed it doesn’t, even I would insist that it doesn’t.
I would insist however that freedom of speech absolutely includes the right of a private members’ club to invite whoever they should wish to come and speak to them. Which would appear to be what Ms. Bance is off to demonstrate against this evening.
"It took a Cambridge Professor of Modern History weeks on the stand to rebut Irving’s assertions to the standard required in a court of law. Hardly the same, is it?
Personally I’d love to see the cream of the UK’s students rubbishing BNP plans to spend a fortune to encourage every last non-white person to leave the country."
And I'll leave the final word to Max Hasting's surprisingly good column in today's Guardian.
"Student debating societies have always been foolish, self-indulgent and irresponsible. We should cherish their right to remain so. Tonight's Oxford audience has things to learn from listening to Griffin and Irving. We should possess sufficient faith in its intelligence to believe that they will be the right ones."
UPDATE: Oh, ok then. Not quite the last word. Matthew, in his own indomitable style, has possibly the best take you could ever have on tonight's storm in an industrial sized teacup. Somebody make that man Prime Minister.
And who actually who gives a toss really? Who but the protesters going to argue against precisely the thing they're arguing for? Tonight I'm going to punch myself in the face and film it for youtube, but does that mean the moral decay of Great Britain is stopping you from drinking Calpol and watching Eastenders? No it does not. And if you don't like it, don't look at it.
And though as it goes I think they're both tremendously wrong, they'd possibly afford me the chance to say so. And they'd think I was wrong, and I wouldn't care because I've nearly finished Guitar Hero 3, and we'd all fetch a taxi home. I'd put an Arnie film on, they might do the crosswords, we'd all go to bed and the first thing we'd think on waking wouldn't be, 'Oh, my word, I can't believe that guy, what an unendingly disgusting man he was.'
It'd be, 'What's for breakfast?'