Censorship is a concept that we barely consider here in Britain. Although we might occasionally express our knowledge of the fact that ” in China…they can’t even see all the Google Results” ( though in some ways there are a lot of Google results which frankly i’d rather not see) Recently, this concept of what the general public SHOULD know about and what it shouldn’t has come very much under speculation with the proposed changes to newspaper regulation as a result of the infamous Leveson enquiry, leaving us all scratching our heads and wondering whether it really is within our public interest to know that Ed Sheeran is seeing Taylor Swift for example, or that Kelly Brook and Katie Price are having a row [personally I don’t really care…]
In the news today the polar bear politician that is Boris Johnson has been widely criticised for his decision to ban a Christian group’s (The Core Issues Trust) bus advertisement about homosexuality, which was put forward in retaliation to the Stonewall bus posters reading “Some People Are Gay Get Over It!”
The judge Mrs Justice Lang who looked into the issue suggested that Mister Johnson “should not have allowed either” slogan to be advertised on the London buses, but the Mayor of London argued in his defence that his mayoral job is “to stop prejudice”.
So where does that leave us? Arguably in banning the Christian propaganda which suggested homosexuals could be “cured” [ an opinion which goes beyond the bounds of narrow-mindedness and absurdity] the Mayor of London, whatever his reasons was not protecting the right of freedom of speech, he was trying to prevent prejudice and what might have been very serious consequences for both Christians and homosexuals. But which in this case is more important? Ruth Gledhill, religious correspondent for The Times suggests that “Free speech comes with a price and this can mean that strongly held opinions can be offensive” and unfortunately this does seem to be the case, for as much as we might disagree with the views of The Core Issues Trust and the BNP for example, if we do not allow them to express their views: who are we?
And as much as frankly there are outrageous breaches of freedom of speech with videos, stories and pictures I would rather not have to face up to, I agree with Ruth Gledhill when she suggests that “It is precisely the ability to publish the most annoying, offensive and fringe opinion that should be protected… The right to be an irritant is crucial.” If we look, for example at the 25,000 complaints made against Jan Moir for publishing a disgusting article the day before the funeral of Boyzone band member Stephen Gately, where she described the events leading up to his death as “sleazy” and “less than respectable”. Many readers would argue that, that article should never have been published in The Daily Mail. But maybe it should? The article itself discredited Moir and the judgement of the article and the journalist’s integrity were left up to the public to decide. Moir had exercised her freedom of speech through a public media and now she must suffer the consequences of that.
But without this freedom I might not be able to write down here exactly what I think and there would be something very 1984 about reading this blog with black lines covering words such as “polar bear politician”. The worrying thing is that with some of the (although rightfully) proposed regulations to restrict these loose-tongued newpapers, could we be moving further away from a liberal, free society? Couldn’t we just read the disgusting headlines and boycott them instead like in the good old days?
P.S. I would be HUGELY interested to hear the views of anyone who has read this as I feel it is a very complex issue.