23 October 2009


Funny word, "but". Not as funny as "butt". Heh, "butt".

It's a handy word to insert just before you completely contradict a view you just espoused. Sandwich it between a popular notion and an unpopular one and you can delude yourself you're softening the blow.

Two cases in point, one famous; one not as famous.

"I'm not a racist, but..."
"I believe in freedom of speech, but..."

It's common knowledge what the first one means. It means "I'm a racist". Maybe not a burning-cross-in-the-garden string-'em-from-a-tree racist, maybe not even the sort who sends everyone in his phonebook "harmless" racist jokes. Just someone who quietly simmers with impotent envy when a they see a nice looking blonde girl with a big black guy, or when they see an asian in a much nicer car than they themselves can afford. The quintessence of the casual racist. It's not a way of life, just something to do in an idle moment when they think nobody's looking. Like panty sniffing.

The second is more insidious. We can all think of things we're "not supposed to say", and without much of a stretch we can probably all think of things we'd rather never hear. The principle seems easy to erode on a case by case basis, because freedom of speech sounds like one of those nice principles you can bend or ignore when it doesn't suit you. "I believe in freedom of speech, but holocaust deniers shouldn't be allowed to air their views" has a strong veneer of properness to it that "I'm not a racist, coons and jews are fine, I just fucking hate pakis!" isn't ever going to be able to match.

It must be understood that "I believe in freedom of speech, but..." is every inch a confession of the exact opposite as the claims of casual racists to be nothing of the kind. It shows a woeful ignorance of the principal of free speech, that that which is spoken openly can be challenged openly. More importantly, those who believe you can pick and choose free-speech are directly to blame for the rise of the open racism which is now common.

Linguistic interventionists have been compromising freedom of speech gradually and consistently for a couple of decades, at least. In doing so they provide weapons to anyone who needs uncomfortable truths in which to swaddle insidious lies.

Criticizing factual crime statistics that show certain ethnic groups are more likely to commit crimes. Calling anyone who objected the the brazen political irresponsibility of unchecked immigration a racist. Branding anyone who objects to the undemocratic, cronyistic upper-echelons of the European Union a "little Englander". Every time legitimate discourse is branded as bigotry people become fearful of speaking their minds.

Only those who are already castigated and ostracised can say these things, because they have nothing left to lose. When Nick Griffin is armed with truths that everybody knows, but mainstream politicians dare not speak, he has the perfect sheep's clothing in which to gain mainstream appeal and credibility.

Those who are most shrill in their protests at the rising success of the BNP are the ones who are to blame, and their attempts to stop Nick Griffin's pathetic bigotry and squirming distaste at being confronted with his past from being exposed to public view this week, shows that they have learned nothing.

In the short term, his appearance on Question Time should sober the opinions of a few on the wisdom of sending their protest votes his way. In the longer term, unless people are given back true freedom of speech, including the freedom to offend openly and therefore be challenged openly; unless those in the mainstream are brave enough to speak uncomfortable truths without resorting to ugly Daily Mail bombast; and conversely, unless the shrill Guardianista class learn the ultimate danger in suppressing mature debate with cheap political opportunism, this is a problem that will only get worse.


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