steepholm (steepholm) wrote,

Freedom of Speech - Ducking a Canard

Banning or not banning Donald Trump from Britain, like inviting or not inviting someone to give a distinguished address at a university, is not really a freedom of speech issue. At all. Because Donald Trump has freedom of speech by the bucketful. He plays nightly on millions of TV screens, including those in Britain. Yet that's the way it's frequently presented.

Here's my analogy, make of it what you will. It's a very middle-class one, but hey, that's my cultural milieu. You are holding a dinner party and inviting guests. You consider inviting your Uncle Donald or Aunt Germaine, out of politeness - but then you remember that Uncle Donald is a messy eater who is likely to throw profiteroles at your black guests, while Aunt Germaine is an aggressive drunk who (last time she came) ended up calling everyone "Ghastly parodies". On reflection, and considering the feelings of your other guests, you decide to leave them off the list.

The next day the headlines read: "Donald and Germaine left to starve!" Newspaper columnists line up to argue that "Food is a human right" and that by not inviting Donald and Germaine to dinner you have effectively denied them that right. This puzzles you, because the streets are full of supermarkets, restaurants and cafes, and neither Donald nor Germaine is short of a bob or two. Besides, they both get invited to dinner by other people most nights of the week. But many a column inch is devoted by journalists to arguing passionately that unless Donald and Germaine can sit themselves down at any dinner table in the land they are effectively being denied the right to food.

Ridiculous, huh? It would never happen. But when it's speech rather than food, that's exactly the argument we hear on a regular basis. And the headlines, rather than being laughed off, are earnestly debated by public and politicians alike. Why is this? Not because freedom of speech is so much more important than the freedom not to die of starvation, presumably. After all, starving tends to rob you of speech pretty effectively anyway.

In Trump's case, of course, it's more a freedom of movement issue than a freedom of speech one, but considering his own proposals involve denying freedom of movement to 1,600,000,000 people, I'm not surprised that aspect hasn't been stressed.
Tags: current affairs, gender, maunderings
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