Banning free speech builds dissent

Banning free speech builds dissent

There has been a growing mood of censorship across the UK, as the level of dissent amongst the mass of people grows.

Home Secretary Suella Braverman recently met with the police over demonstrations taking place about events in Gaza.

She seems to have a limited concept about what free speech is all about, suggesting that carrying the Palestinian flag could be an infringement.

This overly robust attitude has become prevalent over recent years, relating to protest.

But there has also been the increase in what is known as cancel culture.

This too has been evident regarding events in the Middle East, with a talk about a visit to Palestine schools by National Education Union delegates due to take place in an East London library cancelled a week before it was due to happen. The organisers found a new site for the talk.

One of the most blatant examples of censorship has been the cancelling of the film Oh Jeremy Corbyn: the Big Lie.

The film is about the Corbyn years and how he was brought down. There are a series of interviews with key players; narration comes from comedian Alexei Sayle.

The film was released earlier in the year in Liverpool but it was later that the cancellations began — the biggest being Glastonbury.

Other cancellations have followed, across the country, including Carlisle, North Ayrshire and Walthamstow in London.

Complaints often relate to how the film deals with issues of anti-Semitism in the Labour Party.

What the rights or wrongs of the film are is not for discussion here but the act of outright censorship at this time in the 21st century is breathtaking.

The lessons really should be learned from Ireland, where such a heavy-handed approach during the years of the conflict made the voices of dissent ever louder.

Many will remember the broadcasting ban brought in by the Thatcher government. This meant Sinn Féin leaders, like Gerry Adams and Martin McGuiness, having their words delivered by actors. This did nothing to stop what they said, coming over. Indeed, there was the mystique of the banned message, which often sounded better coming from actors.

Then there was the long list of banned films. Ken Loach's Hidden Agenda was often delayed or cancelled, if due for screening at the time of some atrocity. There was no question that people might have been able to tell between fact and fiction.

Film producer, Kenneth Griffith's film Hang Out Your Bright Colours about the war of independence was banned in the 1970s. The public finally got a look, a couple of decades later. Another huge act of over-reaction.

What the deniers of free speech never seem to understand is that banning dissent does not make it go away, rather it just gets displaced elsewhere.

The whole conflict in the north of Ireland is a classic example of this. The legitimate protests of the civil rights activists were not addressed but met with a violent response. This in turn bred more violence, which led to decades of conflict. Censorship contributed nothing beyond limiting hardening the parameters of division.

It is only when the causes of dissent are addressed that problems can be resolved.

The present British government has developed its so called culture wars, largely as a distraction from the appalling mess it is making of the country. It seems to turn people against each other, creating ever more division in society. The effect of this is to handily

distract the focus from those making the chaos.

Fear is constantly used to legitimise censorious type actions. Much of the media help in this enterprise by creating false narratives. This then stokes the fire of those who preach fake news. None of this is healthy for a democracy.

A functioning democracy is one at ease with itself. Such a democracy will have high tolerance levels, little will be banned, and if it is. a high bar should be set, for such a draconian action.

Unfortunately, in Britain today, there is no democracy at ease with itself. Instead, there is an unpopular government elected by a minority of the population, which imposes suffering on many people - at home and abroad. A growing number of people dissent from their mantra, so the response is to shut down the avenues of free expression. It won't work, the truth will out and with it those who seek to deny it.