Red & Green


The attack on Salman Rushdie should be cause for reflection for us all, especially among the censorious Left; a reminder that people are prepared to risk their lives for the freedoms that they too often casually jettison.

There has been much talk of ‘solidarity’, ‘freedom’ and ‘tolerance’ in the wake of this most appalling attack, but warm words ring somewhat hollow when offered by people who essentially agree with the attacker’s motives but not his methods.

Referencing an old episode of Question Time in which Rushdie’s fatwa was the topic of discussion, the shock jock James O’Brien tweeted:

‘This is remarkable for so many reasons. The grim equivocation from Shirley Williams, the brilliance of both Hitchens brothers, especially Christopher, the early evidence of Johnson’s appalling triviality and buffoonery, the fact that Question Time used to be serious and compelling…’

O’Brien’s observation would carry more weight were it not for the fact that only a few days prior, he was on air making the case for universities to issue their own ‘fatwas’ against books, essentially applying the same justification used by deranged Islamists: that the theocratic right not to be offended should be prioritised over the secular one to free expression. Too many years spent ignoring the lessons of ‘Render unto Caesar’ from the monks at Benedictine Ampleforth now telling, perhaps.

‘Thoughts with Salman Rushdie and his loved ones. Hate and violence cannot be allowed to conquer,’ simpered Otto English (one of O’Brien’s less eloquent imitators – another public schoolboy propagandist seemingly gravitating towards the hammer and sickle rather than slog and Truth). But again, only three months earlier Herr English warned:

‘There is no “absolute” free speech,’ adding rather ominously, ‘which is probably a good thing.’

It takes a certain kind of nerve to support, excuse and defend censorship only to then express mild concern when it is taken to its most grotesque conclusion.

And where were these solemn statements of condemnation when Darren Brady was arrested for offending a similarly intolerant ideology?

His supposed crime? Reposting a meme on Facebook.

Yes, the meme was a cheeky reworking of the progress flag into a swastika.  But its point – that the trans lobby is operating with unchecked authoritarianism – was duly proven when Hampshire police ordered Brady to attend a silly and sinister sounding ‘hate crime awareness course’.

The Brady incident is documented in the Bad Law Project’s video Bad Law: The Rise of the British Gestapo. The video title might sound a tad sensational, but then so were the actions of Hampshire police.

When commenting on the video, one can hardly avoid the now too trite to mention terms ‘Orwellian’ and ‘Kafkaesque’ because the footage is a chilling distillation of the two: thought police, check; talk of re-education camps, check; man arrested without being told his crime, check. Why not add the further cliché of Nineteen Eighty-Four not being an instruction manual? The dystopian clichés are unavoidable when describing people who determinedly conform to them.

I can already hear cancel culture deniers pecking at their crusty keyboards to deliver their favourite fatuous refrain:

‘Freedom of speech doesn’t mean freedom from consequences.’

As I’ve said before, that statement seems almost too obvious to say unless what you’re really saying is that the consequences should be more consequential than mere criticism. That they were for Mr Rushdie should be a deep source of shame for liberals like Jolyon Maugham who responded to the attack by tweeting something that sounds at best like obfuscation and at worst like unwitting support:

‘So frustrating to read, even well intentioned like this, pieces on free speech that don’t engage with relative power. Who actually has a platform to speak – and for what purpose do they use it, to challenge or to embed power?’

The Islamist organization CAGE liked his tweet, which makes rather vivid the point that, on censorship, liberals and Islamists work in tandem. One hand dirties the other. The Red Green Alliance – an incongruous jerk circle of gay rights supporting socialists fraternising with theocrats who toss gays off tall buildings. Mix red and green and you end up with shit brown. Liberty, wrote John Stuart Mill, is the ‘absolute freedom of opinion and sentiment on all subjects, practical or subjective.’ The attack against Rushdie shows how short some of us have fallen of that hardly exacting standard.