Freedom of Speech?
This may come as a surprise and disappointment to some of my respected friends, but I support 100% the Oxford Union’s recent decision to invite the controversial figures of David Irving and Nick Griffin to a debate on ‘Freedom of Speech’. No doubt, many of my friends would have been involved with the demonstration against their participation at the debate, but I have to say I think they are wrong. Very wrong.
I have long felt that fascism should be debated out of existence, and not oppressed out of existence. I have seen it argued that as fascists would not extend freedom of speech to people like us, why should people like us extend freedom of speech to fascists? The answer to that is very simple – because we are not fascists. It would seem that many on the Left have forgotten the famous words attributed to Voltaire, which state,
“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
To my mind, this attitude of tolerance is what differentiates me from authoritarian fascists of many hues. This is the attitude I expect from those who claim to abhor fascism. Not demands for the censorship of their views, however repugnant they may be. After all, what is freedom of speech if it does not apply universally? It becomes nothing but the freedom to agree with established views. If we refuse fascists the right to free speech today, who shall be refused tomorrow? Anarchists? Communists? Socialists? As much as it is disagreeable, a fascists freedom to speak is also OUR freedom to speak.
The ideology of fascism can be defeated with a calculator and an etch-a-sketch. The Irvings and Griffins of this world are no doubt delighted by the ‘no platform’ policy of those who could demolish their arguments in open debate. For them, ‘war,war’ is better than ‘jaw, jaw’. For the rest of us, ‘jaw, jaw’ MUST be the preference. It would be a grave mistake to make free-speech-martyrs of the ridiculous British National Party. As peace loving libertarians, we must sharpen our arguments, not our hatchets.