Trigger Warning

Trigger WarningI never intended Shooting Parrots to be deliberately provocative or offensive, although I am well aware how easily innocent words and opinions can spark the most furious response these days.

I have my own take on many issues and I don’t expect everyone to necessarily agree with me and there is a comment form there on the page for anyone to say so. It is called ‘free speech’, that fundamental human right that we hold so dear, at least in the west. But do we?

We have seen an erosion of free speech in recent years, the argument being that you can say whatever you want as long as it doesn’t offend anyone or hurt their feelings. Or worse still, if your opinions run contrary to the accepted world view then you shouldn’t be allowed to say it. Free speech as we have known it for centuries is under threat and no-one seems willing to challenge it.

Except perhaps Mick Hume, the libertarian Marxist, who has written many articles on the subject, ironically in some of the UK’s more right-wing, pro-authoritarian newspapers, including the Daily Mail and The Sun. And now in his 300-page polemic – Trigger Warning: Is the fear of being offensive killing free speech?

It was written in the aftermath of the Charlie Ebdo massacre and warns that freedom of expression is being suppressed by the ‘buts’, the caveats that more and more qualifies our support for free speech. As in ‘I believe in the satirists’ freedom to lampoon religion, but…’. Isn’t it on a par with ‘I’m not racist, but…’ ?

Hate the Daily MailWords are not deeds and there is a world of what someone says and what they might do and this is where we are getting in a mess. Policing prosecuting people for what they say online, or anywhere else, is tantamount to thought-crime, and that way totalitarianism lies. The reality is, people do hate and yet it seems that some hates are more acceptable than others – take a look at the photo on the left that followed this story.

My own worry is that you might be able to drive people underground because you find their views unacceptable, but it doesn’t stop them thinking the thought. And if you can’t read the words or hear the voice, you can’t challenge them either.

Hume is passionate on his subject and Trigger Warning is a timely starting point for anyone who fears for our freedom to speak our minds, no matter how wrong or foul our thinking.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Roger Green 2nd February 2016

    The argument goes further. One can say whatever stupid thing one wants, but someone criticizing the stupid thing is restricting the first person’s right to free speech. addressed succinctly here:

    • Mr Parrot 2nd February 2016

      I don’t quite see how criticising someone restricts that persons right to free speech in any way. If you also choose to ignore stupid comments or opinions or even exclude them from a platform you own, you are simply exercising your editorial rights. In the same way that a news outlet doesn’t have to ideas that are simply bonkers. (Not that this stops them doing just that)

  • Roger Green 2nd February 2016

    Question: when Donald Trump says that his supporters should knock the crap out of protesters, is that free speech or incitement to violence?

    • Mr Parrot 2nd February 2016

      I should have clarified this point: incitement to violence or to break the law is not covered by free speech and the author does make that distinction. The problem is defining what is or what isn’t either incitement or intention to carry out a criminal act, and what is just someone shooting their mouth off. It can make the law look silly as in this case.

      I would have said that DT is guilty of incitement since he appears to be addressing the security and giving them permission to knock the crap out of protestors, but that would need testing in court.


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