I’m Offended

This is mainly pretty wonderful, and I’m sorry I can’t vote for you in some political context, but people who write and speak like this so rarely go near politics. I have a few reservations, which I probably can’t articulate very well, about the idea of “free speech absolutism”. For instance, I agree that people who deny the Holocaust should be able to say what they like, as long as people with actual evidence can also say what they like. Truth speaks for itself. I don’t agree with all the fuss in the UK at the moment about trying to prevent Trump coming over here — let him come, put him on all the chat shows and news interviews you possibly can; he doesn’t need to be censored, he will surely inevitably condemn himself out of his own mouth, to anyone with ears and a brain and some information. But take something as innocent as a couple of old ladies sitting on a bus. When youngsters near them are effing and blinding, as we euphemistically put it, they are upset and offended; the bad language serves no good purpose (other than “Hey, I should be free to say whatever the hell I like”). It’s just unkind, uncompassionate and uncivilized. That’s not the same as saying it should be an imprisonable offence; I just mean that free speech is the gift of an open civilized society, and like anything else, it should be filtered — yes, voluntarily — through compassion, courtesy and personal standards. But many people who would assert their right to “free speech” really mean pointlessly offensive nastiness, rather than simply the right to alternative viewpoints or freedom of “expression”. A deliberate fart is a freedom of expression, isn’t it, and it doesn’t really contribute to our progress or our society or our human relationships; it’s just about being childish and “naughty”, not about being “free” in any significant sense.

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