GP Taylor: Nothing ‘liberal’ about silencing freedom of speech

Columnist GP Taylor.
Columnist GP Taylor.
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UP until this week, I had never heard of a man with the username Sargon of Akkad. Apparently, he is a political YouTube blogger, (whatever that is) and seems to have an opinion on everything.

From my research, he is disliked by the far right and the far left. He gives his opinions in an honest way and invites debate. Nothing I have seen so far shows he is a hateful person. A lot of what he says I totally disagree with, but he certainly has a right to say it.

I heard of him because he was due to appear last week at Scarborough Spa. The event was cancelled following a risk assessment. The ‘risk’ appears to be a campaign by a local left wing group to stop him appearing, and it worked.

Labour councillor Rob Barnett said: “Scarborough Spa are to be congratulated for refusing to allow their stage to be used. We don’t need division – we need unity to fight for a better society.”

Obviously, the society that Mr Barnett wants is one where censorship rules over freedom of speech. I find it very worrying that a political group should seek to censor those who do not agree with them.

The great thing about this country is that we have always been allowed to share our opinions until recently. Obviously, this is something that this new breed of censorship Nazis want to stop.

Throughout history, the first thing dictators and oppressors do is shut down those who speak out against them.

By cancelling the event, Scarborough Spa has now empowered a political group and reinforced the idea that they can shut up anyone who they want. Just the slightest threat of protestation sends the Spa running for cover. This in itself is hateful and goes against democracy. It has also given Mr Akkad even more publicity.

Open debate is the most important thing in British politics. We in this country are allowed to listen to the arguments of others and make our choices at the ballot box. It is something not every nation enjoys. That is why we have fought world wars to bring down tyranny.

The micro-tyranny of self-appointed parochial despots should be fought with the same vigour. Whatever weird, mixed up or crazy views Mr Akkad may hold, he should have a right to say them publicly. In turn, we have the right to debate peacefully with him and reject his ideas. That is the foundation of democracy.

Free speech is what this country is based on. The campaigner Peter Tatchell recently said that “freedom of speech is one of the most precious human rights. A free society depends on a free exchange of ideas”.

How right he is.

We have always had the right to say what we want. Our newspapers have kept corruption at bay and exposed those who break the law.

Yet even writing this column has forced me from Facebook, Twitter and my mobile phone because I was sick of the veiled threats and abuse I was sent. One man said I should be harassed ‘until my head exploded’, that was the only one I could put in print.

I gave in to trolls because it was easier than having to read vile messages from left-wing liberals so filled with hate that on occasion, I feared that their words would turn into actions against me. It was always the same people, hiding behind usernames, all acting in concert. It is amazing how intolerant these liberal people are of the viewpoint of others.

What happened in Scarborough is not an isolated case. The left-wing appears to use this tactic throughout the country with some very unlikely casualties. Both Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer have both been ‘no platformed’ and not allowed to speak at events.

Now this ‘no platforming’ is spreading to events in theatres and buildings run by local councils. Well-organised groups are easily able to put on the pressure with a few well-aimed emails and tweets, play the race card and stop someone from speaking.

Looking back into history, imagine what would have happened to the likes of Charles Darwin and Karl Marx if they had not been allowed freedom of speech. Both men had ideas that caused outrage at the time. Their beliefs caused widespread offence. Under the rules of the so-called liberal left they too would have been kicked off the stage of the Scarborough Spa.

Freedom to speak has to be defended at all costs and any erosion of this is an erosion of democracy and the British way of life. Those who sought to stop Mr Akkad have proved themselves to be anti-democratic.

It would have been far better for the Spa to allow him to appear and then he could be engaged in vigorous debate.

However, that type of polite politics seems now to be consigned to history, as the bullying tactics of silencing opponents before they speak now prevails.

GP Taylor is a writer and author from North Yorkshire.