Dear holocaust deniers: Actually, it’s not okay

A question for you, readers: if someone waltzed over to you and informed you that your mother was awful and should be put down because of the way that she looks, would you respect that individual&#

A question for you, readers: if someone waltzed over to you and informed you that your mother was awful and should be put down because of the way that she looks, would you respect that individual’s opinion? Or, would you instead ask him to perhaps reconsider, or better still, just shut up and go away?

Of course, the act of blindly accepting the opinion that your mother should perhaps be exterminated without taking any kind of ethical stand would be completely devoid of any sense, or even basic human emotion.

But on January 29th, Kettle published an article by a chap defending the right to absolute free speech, and by extension, the views of those who deny the holocaust ever existed. And I find that completely alarming on a fundamental level. So, for the writer of that post, I have a message for you.

The fact that you could quite comfortably live in a world with absolute free speech is nothing to do with the supposed problem of people getting too offended about matters involving – oh, their own personal rights and safety – but a clear demonstration of your privileged position in society. I am willing to bet absolutely on the fact that you are a white, heterosexual male and as such will never be subject to racism, sexism or homophobia. So why should these concepts bother you? Nobody has ever attacked your right to live as you please because of something you will never be able to control. Let everyone say what they want! I’ll be alright!

Sorry, but most people won’t be alright. For everyone else on the planet who does not fit into this demographic (which, coincidentally, is the vast majority of people), its likely that at some point someone has in some way attacked them simply for existing in the “wrong” way. Opinions lead to actions. If you are willing to defend the man who doesn’t believe that gay marriage is right because homosexuals should burn in hell, you are effectively giving him the go ahead to sock the next gay man in the face if he fancies, because you’ve allowed him to believe that his opinion is valid. 

If you do not wish to live in a world where people die because of their sexual orientation, which unfortunately does still happen, then surely you would support imposing restrictions on absolute freedom of speech, no?

I am also struggling to understand how disallowing bigots from spreading race hate will make us a “rod for our own backs in the future.” We live in a world where only the hard work and dedication of feminists and activists alike has allowed minority groups the same rights as the elite few. At no point in history has giving minority groups the same affordances as the more privileged ever resulted in anything other than more equality for everyone. Don’t worry, hetero white man—unlike pretty much everyone else, you will never look back through history books and find stories of your people’s pain and suffering. You will never know how that feels.

I wonder, if the Suffragettes had taken into account the views of men whilst campaigning for the vote, would women ever have got the chance to vote? “Danger!” reads an anti-suffrage poster from the 18th century. “Women’s suffrage would double the irresponsible vote. It is a MENACE to the home, men’s employment and to all businesses.”

You can defend this bloke’s absolute right to think that, but clearly, holding this viewpoint would inevitably only make life awful for that 50 percent of the population who happen to be women. It was only by educating people who held those viewpoints that societal perceptions changed. If nobody fought against that perception, then logically, surely that perception would still be held today. Women gaining the right to vote did not, unsurprisingly, affect men’s employment, so why support someone’s right to spread lies?

If you would really prefer to live in a world where the right to be a bigot outweighs the right for people to feel safe walking down the streets of their own neighbourhood, then as a gay woman, I wholeheartedly hope I never bump into you. Freedom of speech is one thing, but you’re forgetting the golden rule.

If you don’t have anything nice to say, you shouldn’t say anything at all.

What is your take on the views in this piece? Have your say in the comments section below, on Facebook or on Twitter.