I am currently lusting after a book called ‘You can’t read this book’ by the left leaning journalist, Nick Cohen. I haven’t actually read it yet myself and so I can’t vouch for how brilliant or otherwise, it might be. But I have read some reviews which were promising.
Cohen’s thesis is that liberal voices, not just in the UK, but all over the world are being silenced by people who are threatening and scary and who, in many cases, have government support behind them. We’re talking about big business, celebrities of all stripes and religious groups. Criticise this lot or even express your personal opinion about anything that may only marginally impinge on their world and you’ll find yourself in trouble.
In the case of big business your ‘punishment’ will generally be fiscal, ditto in the wonderful world of celebrity. Criticise these people and you will be threatened with financial ruin, branded a liar (you will later be proved right but by that time you’ll be in a homeless shelter and so no-one will give a shit) and maybe even sent to prison. But then it was ever thus with big business and celebrities, so no surprises there. The same applies, as far as I’m concerned, to religion and in recent years that seems to have made quite a bit of a comeback in the getting offended and going nuts stakes. In the wonderful world of religion it isn’t just your money that can be at stake. It can be your life.
What I can never really understand, and maybe someone out there can help me with this, is why religious folk get so exercised about people saying negative things about God and/or adhering to alternative views they do not hold. God being all powerful and all seeing can probably take care of any abusers Himself. Personally, and speaking as an avowed wishy washy agnostic here, I think that God is very tolerant. A clue to this can be found in the lack of celestial thunderbolts landing on Richard Dawkins head. As for alternative views, why, religious people, are you so threatened by them? If you are right and I am wrong then surely you should sit about being smug and leave me to my fiery, hellish fate? It is after all me and not you who is going to get a red hot trident up my bum – so why don’t you leave me alone to just get on with that? Why do you feel the need to torture and then kill me for my views? Have we learned nothing from the abomination that was the Holy Inquisition?
However what is even weirder and probably more disturbing than all that is the strange case of Dr Simon Singh. Dr Singh is a UK academic and journalist who, a few years ago, gave it as his opinion that certain alternative medical practices were not proven according to scientific principles. Dr Singh is a scientist himself and so he works to certain standards he did not see reflected in these therapies. He had the audacity, in other words, to tell it like he saw it.
The next thing Dr Singh found was that he was being sued by the British Chiropractic Association. He had apparently defamed them by expressing his personal opinion and he went on to face two years of litigation. Thankfully the Chiropractic Association eventually dropped the case and settled out of court (www.guardian.co.uk/…/simon-singh-libel-case-dropped). By his own admission Dr Singh is well off and so the money he poured into his own defence was not an issue, but two years of his life were. And what if someone with very little money had brought the case? What then?
Then they would have lost because they would have to have folded and the British Chiropractic Association would have effectively gagged any nascent opinion expressers for ever more. One should expect more from an organisation which promotes itself as socially useful, kindly and caring. But then I blame the heavyweights for this. Why not, if big business, celebrities and religion can apply gags to people, can’t alternative medicine do it too? Clearly there is no reason, but that doesn’t make it right. If we can’t say what we think because we’re afraid that someone might ruin or even kill us, what kind of freedom do we have?
A bit of a shabby ghost of one, in my opinion.