On Friday I wrote about the threat to freedom of speech lingering over universities in my country at the ends of airheaded and comfort-obsessed student unions. But I have become aware that freedom in my country is being endangered, if not killed entirely, by a much bigger threat than student intolerance: hatred. Not specifically hate in itself, or even hateful speech, but hateful actions and extreme intolerance in political form. Our government is playing on the hatred and intolerance of mob-minded masses on the Internet and arresting people who, while they may have said hateful things, did not go out and commit crimes and violence based on that. If you say something hateful, everyone on Twitter practically tars and feathers you before you get investigated by the cops. If you say anything in the newspapers about certain groups of people, you’re reported to the police. If you put up an advertisement that makes you feel insecure, you can get people to sign petitions to get it pulled or banned.
1984 has long passed, forget about Big Brother as described by George Orwell. Welcome to the postmodern world of the 2010s, where anything can be censored and banned if enough people whine intolerantly. In this country, if people protest loud enough over any shit you say, they can shut down a writer, get an ad, art exhibition, or a TV pulled, or get the cops to investigate someone for doing nothing more than making offensive statements. Speech is potentially a crime, and so is hash-tagging. Even so much as a cruel joke, which nearly all of us do, can get you investigated or arrested by the
new Gestapo police.
And this is no longer the product of any cold and torrid fascism. In fact, I don’t mean to sound like some right-wing nut, but I think it’s the result of the failure of modern liberalism. More accurately, a direct result of both the hypocrisy of modern liberalism and the hatred and intolerance that modern liberalism has allowed to have its way. Think about it: liberalism is supposedly about tolerance and equality, yet in our supposedly liberal society we are continually appeasing the mob mentality of the masses and the foaming mouths of the intolerant and hateful few who want to silence freedom of speech. This applies to public places, printed media, television, and the internet, especially the last of those four considering the increase in regulation being applied to the Internet in this country.
Online mob mentality is, naturally, not limited to the UK. If it can happen here, it can happen anywhere in this day and age, which means even America could be in danger from the tradition of liberty being violated not by the government, but by its own people, subject to hatred, intolerance, and ignorance of the true meaning of freedom. Indeed, how long before most of the rest of the world becomes coaxed into holding liberty hostage by the masses?
Liberty cannot thrive in a place where people of intolerant and ignorant minds can censor everyone else and coax the state to ban whatever they tell them. Such a land would be no different to a dictatorship run by one person and his or her iron hand. Both environments are unjust because they hold freedom hostage and oppress the individual, and the people as a whole by proxy. And in a land where freedom is not held as sacred, and where ignorance reigns supreme, this is all too easy. And as we’re in an age of democracy, whatever new age of oppression may yet come will be brought about not by government or officials, but the people themselves, for the people will demand censorship and oppression because they mistakenly believe it is the way to protect the insecure and the innocent.