…for your right to say it

Friday, March 20, 2009 7:30 | Filed in Politics

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.Evelyn Beatrice Hall (Wikiquote)

I was invited to join a Facebook group called “muslim protesters fuck off out of britain if your not proud of OUR SOLDIERS”. I declined.

I presume that the rationale behind this group is that the people didn’t think it was right when muslim protesters shouted abuse at soldiers returning from Iraq. I think that’s a fair comment: calling soldiers things like “butchers” and “cowards” is just as wrong as assuming that all soldiers are automatically heroes. The recent poll suggesting that for the first time since 2003, violence is no longer the biggest concern for most Iraqis would also seem to indicate that it’s maybe the wrong time for this sort of protest (although to be fair, that poll also suggests 42% of Iraqis think the British presence is generally negative).

If you want to complain about the fact that soldiers are there in the first place, I’ve got a lot of sympathy for that stance, but that isn’t the fault of the individual soldiers. It isn’t even the fault of the generals. It is the fault of our elected representatives, and if you don’t like that, then you campaign to make damn sure that they get unelected the next time around.

However, I am wary about the ‘fuck off out of britain’ part. It seems to imply that if you don’t agree with a particular value set, that you’re not welcome — it seemingly being irrelevant whether you have British nationality or not. One of my objections to this is exactly who decides what value set is appropriate: as the Manic Street Preachers would put it “If You Tolerate This, Then Your Children Will Be Next”.

Secondly, I respect the right of people to protest in Britain. I think that it’s great that I live in a country where non-violent protests are allowed to proceed, even if they are things which I personally am very opposed to. For me, that is one of the things that Makes Britain Great™. That we are prepared to listen to peoplle who disagree with us, and allow them to have their say. That lifts us above those dictatorships which control the media and ruthlessly crush all opposition.

Thirdly, there are comments on the wall for that group which I find offensive: while I have sympathy for people who want to support our soldiers, there’s some comments on there which I consider racist and offensive, and I don’t want to be associated with that. It would of course be unfair to assume that is the case for all of the members of the group, just as it’s unfair to assume that those muslim protesters are representative of all muslims.

Finally, because I believe that the best way to show those soldiers that people did support them was the way in which it actually happened — those there to support them were able to easily drown out the sound of those protesting against them.

I may not agree with that group of muslim protesters, but their right to protest is something that I am strongly in favour of, even when they are protesting about something I disagree with (assuming of course that they are not breaking the law, inciting violence or what-have-you).

But all that applies equally to the other side of the argument. As someone who is usually described as a ‘leftie’ (although I have been told that my support of ‘equality of opportunity’ means that I am a conservative), you’d probably assume that I’m not a fan of the BNP.

And you’d be right, I’m not. I disagree with their stance on an awful number of issues. But I support their right to have a political ideology which is different to my own.

When you hear that:

A British National Party (BNP) member was attacked with a hammer when protesters arrived at a campaign event in Greater Manchester.

Officers arrived at the pub to discover the BNP’s trailer had been overturned, said a police spokesman.[...] One witness told BBC News: “They had hammers and they smacked the vehicle to pieces, smashed all the windows and tore off the bumper, completely decimated it. BBC News: BNP Member Attacked With A Hammer

Now that’s fascism.

Fascist governments permanently forbid and suppress all criticism and opposition to the government and the fascist movementWikipedia: Fascism

Attacking someone with a hammer, destroying their property; disrupting their political rallies; terrifying members and passers-by alike simply because you disagree with what they are saying. It sounds like something you’d associate with Mugabe’s Zanu-PF thugs, rather than something you’d see happen in this country.

I don’t want the BNP to win council seats, or parliamentary seats, or European seats, because I disagree with what they stand for. But this is exactly the same sort of ideological control I complained about before: if you don’t agree with what we think, you’d better run, if you know what’s good for you. And while I might hope nobody would attend, and nobody would vote for them, as long as the BNP are not breaking the law, and not inciting violence, then I would support their right to say something that I disagree with.

And I hope those responsible for the violence are caught, and prosecuted accordingly. It’s always got to be about persuading people; winning hearts and minds. Bricks, batons and bombs have no place in the political process. People have to be allowed to make up their own minds. Whilst I may disagree with the BNP quite a great deal, I disagree with those who believe that it is okay to attack BNP members with a hammer even more.

People should be allowed to have different opinions, and shouldn’t be censored or censured simply when I disagree with ‘em. Hell, despite the Dunblane thing, I still don’t think buying the Express should be made a criminal offence…

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4 Comments to …for your right to say it

  1. chartroose says:

    March 20th, 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Bravo! It’s like the old, “America, love it or leave it” bullshit that our right-wingers have been repeating over and over for years.

    With the Iraq war, Dubya & Company said that those who protested the war didn’t “support our troops,” which was just total crap. I felt sorry for the soldiers, and I still feel sorry for them. It was the useless war I was against.

    We’ll never learn, will we? It’s all just meaningless rhetoric, anyway. Idiots!

  2. mark says:

    March 20th, 2009 at 11:10 pm

    but then again, surely people offended by these protests are allowed to voice their opinions as well?

  3. JackP says:

    March 21st, 2009 at 1:44 am

    Oh, absolutely. I wasn’t saying the particular facebook group shouldn’t exist, merely that those were my reasons for disagreeing with it…

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