Tuesday, 27 November 2007


OK - so this is a profoundly serious post for a change. I've been watching with horror the awful circus that has been surrounding Oxford University Union's decision to invite Nick Griffin and David Irving to speak there last night. For those of you who don't know, Nick Griffin is the head of the neo-fascist British National Party and David Irving is a historian who is also a holocaust denier. He was actually imprisoned for being a holocaust denier. They are a pair of undoubted fuckwits.

But I think this fuss that is being made marks a profound shift away from values which I hold very dear indeed - to paraphrase someone else, it doesn't matter how much I despise what you say to me, I consider it my duty to defend your right to say it.

I saw a girl on the BBC News last night saying that she objected to them being asked to speak at the Union because she is mixed race and she is subjected to racism every single day of her life. I won't argue with that assertion (even though I don't believe it - she looked like a perfectly privileged middle class girl to me - and she's at Oxford University, for fucks sake!) but this still doesn't make her position any more than absolute nonsense. Do we want to drive racism underground? Do we want the issues to foment in secret meetings, not being properly debated by people who have a more rounded view of society? Do we want anger and tension to build up until it explodes into violence and insurrection?

If she is really subjected to racism every single day of her life, then she should be glad that this pair of racist bigots have been invited to speak at the Oxford Union. She should be glad of the opportunity to paint her banner, to voice her disapproval, to have the whole debate aired on the BBC and beyond. It can only help the anti-racism cause.

That's why we all have a duty to defend the rights of people to say what they believe. It means that really evil things can be debated and dismissed right away. And there is no logical reason to tell people that they cannot be racist without also telling them that they cannot be tolerant. They are two sides of the same coin. I fear for a day in the future when we are told that we cannot voice our beliefs at all - whether the majority agree with them or not.

To make it a bit more personal, if someone I knew really hated poofs, I would rather them just say it. I would be glad if they did. It would give me the opportunity to make them look foolish and it would also give other people the opportunity to rally to my defence. I certainly don't like to think of an army of homophobes walking round feeling resentful about the fact that they cannot speak their minds.

So please remember that we must uphold the freedom of people to talk a load of bollocks - because that's the only way that the sensible counter-opinions are going to get heard as well.

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