I’ve chosen this quote from George Orwell as it seems so relevant today, despite him having written it more than 60 years ago. I suppose it emerged from his famous novel “1984” and his many essays in which he said:
“Almost certainly we are moving into an age of totalitarian dictatorships – an age in which freedom of thought will be at first a deadly sin and later on a meaningless abstraction.”
Orwell may have been writing with communist totalitarian regimes in mind at the time, but who would have thought that it would currently be occurring in Great Britain? I’m referring specifically to the issues of “no platforming” individual politicians and academics in our universities, and also the way that our police now seem to be focusing on Twitter-speak and categorising them as “hate crimes”. Here’s a couple of examples:
A few days ago Oxford University UNWomen Society cancelled the invitation at the last minute to Amber Rudd, the former Home Secretary of the U.K. Government. Ms Rudd is not a fascist, not a communist, not a member of some fringe extremist party or group but was “no platformed” because these students didn’t want to discuss or hear about how her policies as Home Secretary had impacted on women becoming more involved in politics.
Several weeks ago a former policeman, Harry Miller, became concerned about how gender recognition was being politicised and absorbed into law (!) to shut down debate or academic scrutiny. He decided to express his own opinions on the issue on Twitter, not attacking any individual but satirising the issue. For example he wrote “I was assigned mammal at birth, but my orientation is fish. Don’t mis-species me F****rs.” He was investigated for a “non crime hate speech” whatever that is, with police even calling on him and asking “describe your thinking to me here” and if that phrase alone isn’t Orwellian I don’t know what is! He took his case to the highest court in the land …… and won.
Freedom of speech, or the lack of it, has become so bad in this country now that it has been deemed necessary from some people to set up The Free Speech Union. Here’s the opening words from their website:
“Free speech is the bedrock on which all our other freedoms rest, yet it is currently in greater peril than at any time since the Second World War. The Free Speech Union is a non partisan, mass membership organisation that stands up for speech rights of its members. If you think there’s a risk you’ll be penalised for exercising your legal right to free speech, whether it’s in the workplace or in the public square, you need the protection of the Free Speech Union.”
Finally if you want to read further here is a well balanced article written by Tim Farron, the ex leader of the UKs Liberal Democrat party, How Political Correctness Went Mad Not one of my favourite politicians but what he has written is worth a read.