It’s a little thundery outside, and I’m writing this. I’ll probably wish later I’d cloaked it in more protective, distant, ironic language, or indeed tried to write in proper sentences, but I don’t care. Because that is precisely the point I need to make.
Sometimes life insists on pressing itself into your eyeballs until you can’t not see what’s going on. Now, in any free speech argument I’m always on the side of let it all hang out. But it’s as much out of personal operating principles as political conviction. Frankly, that’s what I do, because it’s easy. I will turn a page or refresh my feed, I will laugh and change the subject. And you know what? I look back at how I haven’t been listening to the news so much over the last few years, because it got horrible, and I thought it was just me getting old and bored of politics and only secondarily politics being a bit depressing, and now instead I find it’s that our entire political establishment has let in this sleeper creed, abuse on a societal scale, bit by bit, red flag by red flag, until they’re fucking debating each other on Question Time, and nobody in all the apparatus has had the balls to stop it, and honestly there must have come a point where I subconsciously decided I just didn’t want to listen to this shit any more. But what’s happened today is too much.
Free speech comes with obligations. If you allow hatred, and fear, and cynicism to flourish because your principles forbid you to do otherwise, if your media basically sanctions hate-filled, frothing, ignorant, unstable views as legitimate political comment, and you by implication sanction the media you consume to do that, it’s not enough to say you are doing your bit for free speech. If you know your MPs (the female ones in particular) get frequent death threats from nasty inadequate little extremists who are sheltered by a wider so-called “political view” also shared by people who consider themselves sane and probably wouldn’t gun down MPs, what do you think is going to happen? You can expect the sort of thing that happened today, and you can expect it to get worse too. Isolated mentally ill person? Whatever. Nigel Farage fucking threatened us with this. And immediately I can feel all sorts of disclaimers coursing down my typing fingers – of course this isn’t to say he is in any way responsible, he has condemned the murder absolutely etc etc. And as far as it goes that is true. But it’s also trite. He fucking told us that it was “legitimate to say” that violence on the streets might be the next step. Legitimate. Read what he said. That’s what he said. That’s what’s happened.
Basically, we have all allowed this to go on far too long – Britain First, the BNP marches, Brexit, the awful Farage and his horrific poster teeming with small, terrified children on the run from murderous extremists to whom he doesn’t want to give succour or relief, even the softer rightists who in their worse moments might give a nod and a wink to some of the less obviously grim of all those people. Make no mistake, these people either are hate-filled destructive weirdos, or they harbour and legitimise them. And what do we do (me too)? We laugh at Farage because he looks like Alan Partridge on a boat. He must be laughing himself sick at us.
What is with our inexplicable collective shyness about getting this whole cavalcade of nasty, disordered shitbags to just fuck off to the far side of fuck and once they’ve got there, fuck off some more? An elected representative is dead, is that not enough? The whole blanket of irony that coats our political and our personal lives, the protective armour we use against the naked primitive aggression of nasty little people who are prepared to go far, far further to shame and silence moderate people than we ever would go to silence them – it has to stop. It has to stop. These are the consequences of irony and passivity. These are the consequences of that mildly cynical entertainment of the mildly uncomfortable evil staring you in the face. One-sided free speech where the silent reasonable majority don’t speak up – in fact don’t react with hair-tearing horror – to all this is not free speech; it is a harangue, it is a tirade, it is a series of orders. It is a rally.