Festival of blather

Tom Slater at spiked utters the familiar mindless platitudes about what he calls “free speech” when he’s actually talking about unchecked bullying and abuse.

For all of our 15 years, spiked has championed freedom of speech – with no ifs or buts. For us, it’s an indivisible liberty, a freedom that crumbles once you caveat or qualify it. More profoundly, it’s the foundation stone of politics, progress and solidarity. It is through having the freedom to speak our minds that we create the space to experiment with new, transformative ideas, and decide, collectively, what is important. That’s why the insidious creep of censorship – from hate-speech laws to Twittermobs – so troubles us. Each and every act of censorship chips away not just at free speech, but democratic life itself.

Blah blah blah blah, stirring music fireworks shots of the flag with fighter jets overhead. But free speech where? Free speech in what sense? There’s no such thing as total – “no ifs or buts” – free speech in all places and contexts. People with jobs aren’t free to verbally attack their co-workers without consequences. Teachers aren’t free to mock and ridicule and taunt their students. Nurses and doctors aren’t free to tell patients what stinking nuisances they are. I could go on this way forever. Most speech is protected from state interference. That’s not the same thing as “Twitter can’t ban people for relentlessly harassing women on Twitter.”

Let’s get one thing straight: Yiannopoulos shouldn’t have been banned. He stands accused of ‘siccing’ his followers on Leslie Jones, a black stand-up and one of stars of the new feminist-lite Ghostbusters reboot. He slated the film – deeming it an affront to masculinity itself – and goaded Jones on Twitter. Then some of his fanboys bombarded Jones with abhorrent racist abuse – many likening her to an ape. This was straightforward, pond-scum racism. Forget all those thin-skinned feminists who call the police when someone calls them an idiot. This was the real deal. But these 140-character c***s still had free will, and there’s no evidence Yiannopoulos engaged or even encouraged their attacks. This was just an opportunity for Twitter execs to shut up someone they, and the entire liberal Twitterati, hate.

Why do they hate him? Is it just random? Is it because of the dyed hair? The sunglasses? The hard to spell surname? No, it’s because of his long history of inspiring campaigns of abuse against individuals on Twitter. Twitter is a social media platform that journalists and people in related fields pretty much have to use in their work. If they don’t, they’re handicapped. People shouldn’t have to choose between being handicapped in their work, and having to put up with thousands of abusive tweets from fans of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Spiked is tiresome.

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