...free to think freely


31st December 2018

A resurgence of Classical Liberalism?

Tonight I listened to a programme on Radio 4 about what was described as a resurgence of Classical Liberalism, by which the presenter meant a backlash against Political Correctness on social media, particularly U-Tube. I wondered whether this might be others embracing what I, and Diverse Diversity stand for. I was rapidly disabused of any such hopes.

The presenter might have described the activists concerned as Classical Liberals, but there was little Liberal about most of them. They were mostly on the far right. It was true they claimed to stand for free speech. Unfortunately, they elevated it to an absolute right which sounded much more like a wrong when examples appeared of how they had used it. One had, for instance, made a video in which he indulged in Nazi slogans and behaviour. Others spoke of “white people” as an oppressed minority, seeing rather more “affirmative action”, robbing those he saw as his kind of opportunities, than I suspect actually happens. They claimed they had a right to offend and to express themselves aggressively whether others liked it or not.

I do not agree. Whilst I accept people have no right to take offence when none is intended as a device to silence those with whom they disagree, I do not accept a right to set out to cause offence or fear, or to be reckless of the likelihood something we say might cause offence or fear. There is all the difference in the world between intended and unintended offence.

These people made the same mistake as pseudo liberals, seeing everything in terms of groups and sides in an increasingly polarised society, instead of seeing arguments in terms of freedom and fairness which respects others. Except, of course, I suspect this was no mistake. Like the pseudo liberals, they sought to stir controversy and use it to their own advantage.

It is an alarming prospect for those of us who believe in freedom and Diverse Diversity, for not only is this counter culture gaining ground in opposition to the pseudo liberals, but it gives the latter the opportunity to discredit those who genuinely believe in freedom for all.

How the world needs the values of free, fair and respectful debate, in which people are treated with respect and no one should feel marginalised or afraid. How the world needs Diverse Diversity. Without it, society could easily break down, with terrifying results for all.

Let’s hope we can avoid that. Let’s hope we can make 2019 a Happy New Year. The world needs one of those.