Seems an apt time for a football analogy. A player from team X has the ball. A player from Team Y makes a fair challenge and wins the ball. Generally in modern football, the dispossessed player in team X will then do one of the following:
i) Track back and win the ball again, or wait for a teammate to win it for them.
ii) Put his arms aloft and appeal to the referee (‘Come on ref!’). May clutch knee and throw in a few rolls for good measure (see below).
The following is a fictional exchange between someone of centre-right political persuasion (person A) and someone perhaps more socially left of centre (B).
A: Eastern Europeans commit more crimes than indigenous Brits.
B: That’s quite a racist thing to say.
A: I can say what I want, stop trying to stifle free speech.
The last line in that exchange is not dissimilar to option ii) in the football analogy: both involve an individual refusing to compete and claiming to have been wronged instead. In both cases, nothing is preventing the individual from competing and attempting to gain back control in a fair manner, but they choose not to do so.
Below is a common meme used by socially centre-right users on Twitter. I have seen quite a few UKIP supporters use it.
Think about it for a minute. The above implies that uttering a single word renders one’s opponent speechless and unable to think of a comeback. (This SLATUKIP member pictures duct tape and a ball-gag flying out of nowhere to seal someone’s mouth.) The word ‘racist’ is just that – A WORD. Like a lot of words, it can be abused but there is NOTHING to stop person A in the example above from challenging person B’s assertion. A simple ‘Why do you think that’s racist?’ would suffice. The debate would then continue. Yet by falsely claiming that the entire concept of debate has been completely undermined, said debate is unlikely to continue in a fluid, rational manner – if at all.
Of course, political debate is just a small part of human interaction. This blog entry by WomenDefyUKIP is a reminder to us all that free speech is a social responsibility – one that we must bear at all times. It may give us the freedom to express our views, but it is not a ticket to expressing our views UNCHALLENGED. For the reasons given in the previous paragraph, it is not a cloak to hide behind when those views ARE challenged.
So why does this practice of ‘crying foul’ about free speech in a debate exist? A simple answer would be parroting. In particular, UKIP leaders, members and supporters have managed to propagate a fairly small set of phrases which are then parroted by fellow party supporters. Here are some of them:
– Running scared
– PC brigade
– People’s Army
– Get our country back
– Political earthquake
This parrotting lowers the tone of political debate. It is indeed a sad state of affairs to consider that such reductionist, slogan-dominated politics still exists in this country. There is however no benefit in lamenting it; such in the reality and it is up to the masses to gradually bring a better type of politics to the fore, one that is of substance not spin.
This SLATUKIP member looks forward to such a gradual process happening in the future, though not with bated breath.