Our Free Society Must Eradicate These Stupid Opinions
The Ruminator magazine
7 January 2016
One year on from the terrible massacres in Paris, all of us should take a moment to look back and reflect upon the shock and anger that we all felt when we first heard that somebody, somewhere, had said something stupid about them.
Even now, I can still remember my dismay and fury, when news began to filter through that some guy had written the words "These cartoons look a bit racist to me" in the comments section of an article on the Telegraph website.
Perhaps that gentleman is reading this column, and remembers his disgusting statement. Perhaps he recalls attempting to sugar-coat his poisonous message by also adding: "Nobody should get killed over it though ;)", as if that weak sentiment could undo his original offence.
Make no mistake - these murders were such a foul assault upon free speech that it is not enough, to simply revile the killers and all those who share their totalitarian mindset. It is not enough to express our sympathy with the victims and their families. It is not enough to declare that no human being should fear personal harm for merely stating an opinion, writing a book or drawing a cartoon.
Above all, we should remember that our free society must utterly eradicate these stupid opinions. Everyone must agree that my precise views on these atrocities are the only ones that may legitimately be held, and join with me in issuing endless sulphurous denunciations of absolutely everyone who doesn't.
I remember wondering at the time whether that Telegraph commenter might have been misguided. Perhaps he had misunderstood jokes that were, after all, written in a foreign language. Maybe he had been hoaxed by a different cartoon, one that had never featured in the magazine - there were quite a few floating about, at the time. Possibly, he was just a bit thick.
I reject these excuses out of hand. It is quite inconceivable to me that any person could misinterpret a foreign satirical publication, or that a person could be misguided or stupid.
This person's motivation can only have been malice.
In the days that followed, some newspapers published opinion columns in which some extremely stupid opinions were expressed. I remember being shocked to my very core to discover that opinion columnists write stupid articles expressing stupid opinions about terrible events.
What did it say about the value that our society places upon free speech, that stupid viewpoints could be aired?
I would tell you exactly what these stupid opinions were but I frankly cannot remember, on account of my boiling rage. That sweet, volcanic rage, seething and roiling behind my eyes, making each of my teeth sing clean and true in its own individual socket.
The men who committed these murders wished to place limits upon what we may say and do and think. They did not understand that the freedom to say whatever we choose, however idiotic it may be, is non-negotiable.
That is unless somebody says something stupid about the murders themselves, in which case we must all exist indefinitely in a state of spitting purple fury until that person agrees to adopt exactly my view of the matter. And even then, it will be held against him in perpetuity.
We cannot accept that in a free and open society, some people will inevitably say stupid things, for none of us is truly free while people continue to say things that I find fatuous, ignorant or daft.
Now is the time to decide. Either people stop saying stupid things, or free speech itself will become nothing more than a meaningless platitude.