The concept of free speech is something of an oxymoron if taken too literally. The only guarantee when anything is taken to an absolute is that freedom will not be the result. The boundaries of what is, should be and can't be free are contentious, and not my point today. My point today is explaining what the most vocal proponents of free speech in the UK and elsewhere are really after. Their goals are in fact hidden behind the cloak of free speech.
About ten minutes in to my stroll from Waterloo to the Stop Trump protest, I came across the inevitable half-cut mob of half a dozen or so fans of Tommy Robinson enjoying a beer or two outside a pub on Whitehall. Tommy Robinson is currently serving a thirteen month prison sentence for contempt of court, and the Tommy Robinson fan club would like to see him released. That fan club includes people like Gert Wilders from Holland, UKIP's new leader, Gerald Batten, and new UKIP members like Paul Joseph Watson - who have signed up expressly to promote 'freedom of speech' in the UK.
If you asked them, they will tell you that Robinson (not his real name, by the way) is a crusader for justice, an intrepid investigative journalist, exposing Muslim gangs who rape and abuse children and has been locked up by the state because...well, here you might get varied conspiracy theories. Most of them will inevitably involve the government and their attempts to appease the Muslims communities in the UK. They will all insist that Tommy Robinson's conviction has deprived him of freedom of speech. They will add little nuggets to the story, including the claim that he was denied access to his solicitor in court and provided with an inadequate public defender.
Here are the facts of the situation - and I will boldly state tham as facts, not opinions. Tommy Robinson was a football hooligan who went on the found the anti-Islam far right English Defence League. He then moved on to creating YouTube videos. He has not exposed a single Muslim paedophile. Not one. What he does instead is loiter outside courts, shouting at Muslim defendants on their way to trial, recording the fracas and uploading it to YouTube. But here's a short video to explain what happened next...
This isn't a case of free speech being impinged. What Robinson, Wilders, Batten and Watson really want - and what they really mean by 'free speech' - is the unfettered right to persecute Muslims. To discriminate and taint those they do not like. To poison society against those of faith systems they see as alien. There is a fine line between openly inciting hatred and using a little nuanced commentary designed to achieve the same objective. These fellows, are pushing at every boundary they encounter along that fine line. And one has to accept, that thanks to the natural sense of prejudice in human nature, they have had a good deal of success.
They are attempting to steer society down a dark path, one that has been trod before with hideous consequences. Yesterday, one of Trump's most senior diplomats attempted to intervene on Tommy Robinson's behalf in order to secure his release. That alone made attending the Stop Trump protest worthwhile. More on that very soon...