The thorny issue of free speech has been rearing its ugly head again today due to the controversial Facebook page that supports Raoul Moat, the scourge of leafy Rothbury. Condemned by the Prime Minister today the page has, at the time of writing, over 33 thousand sign-ups.
Many of the comments on the page blame the police for his death, and some even say that Moat should have shot more of them. As befits the easy stereotype of such a powder keg, newspapers including (inevitably) the Daily Mail are already labelling it as being systematic of Britain’s underclass, taking great pleasure in printing the inelegant scrawls of txt msg Ingliss to underline just how stupid they think the contributors are.
To a point, I can understand the outrage (though the Daily Mail condemning hatred even though it published that infamous Jan Moir column last year – wow, headline edited yet again since I last saw it – is hypocrisy on an epic scale). I do think that signing up to such a group is questionable at best, considering Moat’s actions. But there is a section of society that doesn’t like the police for whatever reason, and Facebook’s refusal to delete the page is an understandable concession to everyone’s right to free speech, no matter how misguided.
However, refusing to excise a page that in part encourages the further shooting of police officers is an interesting decision when you compare it to the likely action that would take place in the case of religious, racial or sexual hatred. It seems that you can advocate murdering people who hold a certain profession, but not insult those who hold religious beliefs. This seems a bit inconsistent. In essence, there is a pecking order when it comes to discrimination, where public bodies don’t presently enjoy the protection that other groups have enshrined in law. Similarly, it has been acceptable – even encouraged – over the past couple of years to call for the extreme death and nads-crushing of bankers. “They ripped us off, we’ll rip their knackers off.”
From my point of view, saying that any group in society deserves to die, no matter who or what that group may be, is moronic to the level of a late afternoon ITV chatshow. Free speech might think about a bit of consistency when it comes to what is and isn’t acceptable. Either it’s all fair game, or none of it is. Encouraging murder? Personally, I’m not a fan.
The ultimate free speech doesn’t come from what you can post on the internet, of course. It’s all about who you decide you want to mix with, and who you call your friends. I’m sorry, folks, but if you have the right to publicly pronounce that Raoul Moat’s a legend, then I have the right to call you an utter bell-end for doing so. More importantly, everyone out there has the right never to speak to such people ever again. So if any of your Facebook friends have joined that page and posted something ‘controversial’, you might want to think again about being associated with them. After all, who we call our friends says a lot about us.