Guest post by Frank Fisher (@Frank_Fisher)
There is a unanimity in the media today, a striking consistency across the papers and airwaves. Everywhere there is talk of supporting free speech, and everywhere there is its surrender. Our Fourth Estate is in full flight from reality, as it was during the original MoToons crisis of 2005. Like then, all the talk is of backing those who provoke and question, using cartoons and satire, but just as then, this is lip service only. Where are the deeds that back free speech? Where are the Charlie Hebdo cartoons on front pages? Nowhere.
Across continental Europe bold newspapers feature mocking portraits of Mohammed, spiked illustrations defiling the psychotics of ISIS – here in the UK the Axis of Weasel holds full sway; the covers are all deeply, deeply significant for what they do not show. Absence is today’s theme.
Yet everywhere pontificating columnists are pompously telling each other, and us, that they are defending free speech, that it is essential to democracy. Politicans too, who every day find a new victim to denounce for speechcrimes against the people, are today telling us we must cherish the free speech that they long ago stole from us.
I find myself recoiling not just in anger at these clowns, but in instinctive disgust too. Ours is the press of the madhouse, this consistency of delusion is a mass hysteria, denial on a national scale. Fear – physical fear, and fear of offending against political correctness - has led our *entire* media to a blanket self-censorship, while their ridiculous arrogance and delusion has woven a shield of denial that allows them to stitch their mouths firmly shut while mumbling that they are free.
A few show flickers of sanity through the miasma of madness; Dan Hodges, always the first to demand obeisance before the twin gods of “tolerance” and “diversity” is here first to indicate what those cruel gods inflict on their followers, when admitting his own personal cowardice in refusing to tweet a MoToon in solidarity. David Aaronovitch, Blairite of old, demands an end to timidity in defending free expression, from the pitifully timid pages of the Times. Once the Thunderer, now the Whisperer.
This matters. Twelve people are dead in Paris in part because of the failure of Western media to rigidly and universally defend free speech in 2005 and onwards. The obvious reluctance to back our principles in deed showed thuggish Islamic censors that the West would mutter about free speech, but would bottle it in a fight. This was most wretchedly displayed here in the UK, where our press eagerly gagged itself at the behest of the Blair government, demanding “responsible” and “restrained” free speech, urged on by the odious advocate of self-censorship Shami Chakrabarti, and former satirists Private Eye. Mass desertion in the face of enemy fire left those few brave souls of Charlie Hebdo and Jyllands-Posten to march towards the guns alone – with the consequence we have seen today.
It is, however, worse than that. Terrorism is a rare beast. It doesn’t frighten me much. It’s unlikely to touch me, or mine. The abandonment of free speech in the UK does frighten me. Not only because the example of angry Muslims winning their censorship battle has given carte blanche to every furious group, from feminists to scousers, to demand silence. But because it says “we will not fight to defend our way of life”. That, as every student of history knows, is an open invitation to war. Appeasement shows a bold enemy that you have no stomach for a fight, that you present an easy target, a fast and effortless victory. I’m not frightened of terrorism, but I am of civil war. Our media/ political class’s abandonment of solid liberal values that we once thought inviolate is putting our country at risk. Here, they have surrendered without a shot being fired.