Free speech means the right to offend

Freedom of speech is one of the founding principles of Western civilisation and the cornerstone of the British political tradition. Sadly, that principle is now too often sacrificed in order appease an offended minority.

The sorry tale of world heavyweight champion Tyson Fury is a case in point.

You couldn’t find a better underdog story if you tried. An uneducated son of Irish travellers, Fury – inspired by his Christian faith – trained hard and pulled off a shocking victory against the mighty reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko.

We should be celebrating his achievements. Yet, because of his born-again Christian religious beliefs and his traditionalist views on the role of women, he has now under investigation by Greater Manchester Police for ‘hate crime’.

Explaining his views in a later interview, Fury said he “wouldn’t be a very good Christian” if he hated anybody. “I love all of God’s children, we are all God’s children. No matter what somebody does, it’s not up to me to judge them, it’s not up to you to judge them. God will judge them”.

Fury did not threaten anyone. He did not call for violence. He did not call for government action against those whose behaviour he disapproves of.

Yet he is being investigated for his private religious beliefs. In Britain. In 2015.

The same kind of knee-jerk reaction can be seen in the petition to have controversial twitter troll and presidential candidate Donald Trump banned from the UK. The petition has now gained 450,000 signatures – enough to be seriously debated in Parliament.

Trump’s recent proposal to ban all Muslims from the United States is the pronouncement of a moron. I genuinely fear for the future of America if Trump is elected President but the British government should not be in the business of banning controversial opinions.

The best way to deal with ignorance is to confront it. To ban speech we don’t like and just hope that it will go away is an act of cowardice that achieves nothing.

Almost everybody pretends to support free speech until it’s an opinion they find particularly offensive, Not for racists, homophobes or Twitter trolls. In fact you can be absolutely sure that when any public figure starts talking about free speech, they are about to launch into yet another proposal to restrict it.

Here at Conservatives for Liberty we believe in free speech with no ifs, no buts.

When Goldsmiths ‘Welfare and Diversity officer’ and segregation enthusiast Bahar Mustafa was charged with sending a ‘threatening communication’ for tweeting #KillAllWhiteMen, I supported her right to say stupid things on the internet.

So did many “right wing pricks” who recognised that the principle of free speech was more important than the fact that we really don’t like her very much. Naturally, she was spectacularly ungrateful about it all.

We love you too, Bahar darling.

Freedom of speech is for everyone. No one should be arrested for quoting Churchill at an election hustings, or banned from social media for saying nasty things about other races. No one should be prosecuted for chanting at a football match.

It is the supporters of hate speech legislation who are the real bullies and bigots. There is no right not to be offended. Thought crime has no place in a free society.

Free speech is a Pastor Niemoller thing. After all, once everyone whose opinions are deemed ‘problematic‘ have lost their right to speak, who will be left to speak up for you?

Chris has been a member of the Conservative Party since 2010. He believes strongly in individual freedom, personal responsibility, and the power of free markets to eliminate poverty by encouraging wealth creation. Follow him on Twitter: @cjmanby1989

Follow @con4lib on Twitter

Like Conservatives for Liberty on Facebook

The views expressed in this article are that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Conservatives for Liberty.