Freedom of speech is an important concept. It means that I am free to write pretty much what I want to on here. But it also means that people can write and speak about ideas that I personally find abhorrent. These two views then enable us, and others to discuss what we have said. This is the principal of debate.
If you live in the UK I assume you have already connected this ramble with a certain event at the Oxford Union recently, where Nick Baker of the BNP and holocaust denier David Irving were invited to speak.
I have never been to the Oxford Union, but I imagine that it is a place where the views of these two men, whose thoughts and agendas I don’t agree with, can be challenged in a rigorous and intellectual way. I have no issue with the open discussion of whatever these people believe.
What is abhorrent to me is the protest against these people being allowed to speak. Would they not protest against religious, sexual, racial or any other form of discrimination in a country where this discrimination is the norm? Just because someone has a different view, however much you personally dislike it, does not mean that they do not have the same right to say it as anyone else.
By letting them speak we can find out what they have to say, and then we can make up our own minds. We may agree, or we may decide they are cretins. Freedom of speech then gives us the freedom to say, if we want to, that we totally disagree and give our reasons.
Let’s not be afraid of these people, let’s give them the rope by which they can hang themselves.