In my last blog-post, I elaborated on the fact that I consider myself a Libertarian. That is, that I believe that everybody has the right choose to live the way they want to live their lives, without hassle, without busybodies like Public Health and Government constantly dictating what we should and should not be doing/consuming. My Libertarian beliefs also extend to freedom of speech. It is the old saying of 'I may not like what you have to say, but I will defend your right to say it'.
The last few days have seen a furore erupt in Wales over the announcement of the intention to rename the second Severn Crossing as 'The Prince Of Wales' bridge. It spawned a petition and an outcry amongst many Welsh people - even including Leanne Wood, the leader of Plaid Cymru. As it happens, I also think that they could have chosen a much better name for the bridge (if they even have to rename it at all). However, it is just a bridge and I was not that bothered about what they name it - certainly not enough to sign any petitions.
Now I happen to know that quite a few people who will consider themselves Welsh Nationalists happen to read and follow my thoughts on Twitter and indeed probably read this blog from time to time. I am pretty sure that quite a few of them will not agree with what I am about to say, but I am going to say it anyway (that's Freedom Of Speech).
As most of my Twitter followers will know, I am a Welshman through and through. I can speak Welsh fluently, went to a Welsh medium school, and passionately support all things Welsh - including my defence of the Welsh Language. My three grown-up kids are also fluent in Welsh (in fact none of them spoke English at all until they were taught it in school at around 7 years old). Yes, I know my surname is not a Welsh surname (which means somewhere along my family tree somebody 'English' must have appeared), but I have managed to trace my family tree back 200 years so far and have not yet found an English ancestor (though I have found some Scottish ancestry but that will keep for another time). So there ya go. I am Welsh and have lived in Wales my entire life, bringing my kids up as fluent Welsh speakers with very Welsh names.
Over the weekend, the flames were fanned somewhat with an article that Rod Liddle wrote for The Sunday Times. I will not put a link in because it is behind a paywall and if you don't have a subscription then you will not be able to read it anyway. However, even a cursory glance around Twitter will soon find you the content that seems to have caused so much offence. Here's a screenshot of it
Do I agree with what Rod said ? No, absolutely not
Do I like what Rod said ? No, absolutely not
But here is the thing. What he said is not actually unusual. I spend most of my time working in England and what Rod Liddle said is bloody tame to a lot of the stuff I have heard, whether to my face, behind my back or just overheard while out and about. It happens. Deal with it. It's called Freedom Of Speech.
I have a lot of English (and Scottish, Irish) followers and friends on Twitter. A quick check back through my Twitter timeline will find all sorts of exchanges between me and those followers which are close to, or far worse than what Rod Liddle wrote above. It's called banter. They use the usual Welsh stereotypes to try and wind me up and I bite back with comments about their heritage/nationality/stereotypes. As one of my more colourful (Scottish) followers would say, it's all bollocks. I've heard it all before. In work, socially and on Social Media. Such banter is commonly heard all across these Isles. It just needs a sense of humour to cope with it as most of those who say that to me do not actually mean it, it is just banter.
I am not going to defend the content of what Rod said. I do not know the guy. I know OF him because I have read quite a lot of the articles he has written through the years AND I have seen quite a few of the speeches he has given at various functions. What I have observed of him is that he has a very dry sense of humour that some people just do not get or understand. I can say that because I also have a very dry sense of humour that is often misunderstood. Now I have no idea whether he actually meant the things he said in the article, or if he was trying to be humourous. He is well-known for coming out with controversial opinons, views and speeches throughout his career, so this is not exactly new ground. However, true Freedom Of Speech means that he should be allowed to say such things. You may not like what he says, you may not agree with what he says. You may even take offence to what he said (as many have), and that is your right. It is also your right that you do not have to listen to him or read what he says. That is your choice. What he wrote is his choice. THAT is what Freedom Of Speech is all about.
Should The Sunday Times have printed what he wrote ?
Well, The Sunday Times is a privately-owned newspaper so such decisions are entirely at the disgression of the Editor. But any worthwile newspaper will have a belief in Freedom Of Speech otherwise they would not be worth reading or they would be totally under the control of the Government (and we all know where that leads).
Some people have suggested that had that article substituted the words Wales or Welsh with any other racial or religious minority then the The Sunday Times would not have printed it as they knew they would face a storm of controversy. I have my thoughts on that but will let you , the reader, ponder on what you think.
Today I have seen calls for such articles to be legislated against. I have seen other people want to report Rod Liddle for race-hate. Still more want the Police to be knocking on his door.
Really ? In the current climate where violent-crime, including knife and gun crime, is going through the roof, do we really need more Coppers taken off the front line to deal with somebody expressing an opinion in a newspaper that may well have been intended as a (bad) joke ?
We have already seen people locked up for things they have allegedly said on Twitter or Farcebook. The so-called 'progressives' would love to see yet more legislation enacted to stop articles such as what Rod wrote ever seeing the light of day. One more step closer to a Police State in my opinion. If legislation was enacted to stop what Rod Liddle did, then where is it going to end ?
Ever been to a soccer match ? The things the opposing fans call each other in chants and songs would see entire crowds locked up for hate-crime every time a match is played in that case. We are getting ever closer to 'thought-crime'.
1984 was a book of fiction. It is NOT an instruction manual no matter how hard the so-called progressives wish it was.
I have never met Rod Liddle. Maybe I will one day. If that ever happens, I will find out if he actually believes what he wrote in that article or not. Either way, if he used words like that to me, he would find it returned in kind. It is called Banter. If he is offended by it, then I will find he is not the paragon of Libertarianism that I thought he was. However, if he is amused by it, then I will know he can take it as well as give it out.
Until then ...
I did not agree with what you wrote in that article Rod Liddle. But I will defend your right to say it.
Free speech depends on such attitudes to life and society can only learn by hearing opposing views.