I am all for freedom of speech. Without it, we would be existing in a subjugated civilisation, bereft of all the other basic rights and freedoms that go with living in a democratic society. Rights and freedoms that we, today, take for granted. Rights and freedoms that our forefathers fought and died for, and our sons and daughters still defend. Defend, because tyranny is never far away. Because always there are those who would seek to stifle our freedoms to suit their own, twisted ends.
Everyone, regardless of race or creed, has the right to hold an opinion. But with rights come responsibilities. We all of us have the responsibility to respect the opinion of the person next to us, no matter if we disagree with it. No-one has the right to stamp on, stifle or supress a differing opinion, for that is the pathway to hatred and destruction. Witness the rise of fascism, and the Nazi party, in 1930’s Germany.
Under Hitler, only one opinion was allowed; that of the state. The party told the people what to think, how to act. Free speech was banned, and dissent led to beatings, prison, or the gas chamber. Part of this manipulation of the masses was huge, public book-burnings. Under state control, certain books were considered ‘Subversive,’ and ‘Un-German.’ Because they didn’t toe the party line, didn’t agree with the Nazi principles. At one of the largest such burnings, no less a person that Joseph Goebbels said,
“The future German man will not just be a man of books, but a man of character. It is to this end that we want to educate you.”
Sadly, for the German man, and woman and child, this education was nothing less than state-controlled censorship. History teaches us that it all ended badly for Germany in general, and the Nazi’s in particular, but not before the World had paid a terrible price.
But if we learn nothing from the mistakes of history, then we are doomed to repeat them. And one such group of internet Nazi’s are once again attempting to determine what the great British public should be allowed to read. I award no prizes for guessing that I am referring to the anti-Madeleines, those people who laughingly refer to themselves as ‘McCann doubters.’
Now, as I said before, I respect other people’s right to hold an opinion, even if I disagree with it myself. What I do have a problem with, however, is those people who go online, and ram their opinions down the throats of anyone unfortunate enough to cross their path, and refuse to listen to any other point of view. I particularly resent these people claiming their opinions as fact, when the truth is that every one of these so-called ‘Reasons to doubt the McCanns version of events’ has been soundly rebutted and shown to be totally baseless, or in many cases, out-and-out lies.
Worst of all, though, is that anyone who does offer dissent from the McCann-doubter party line is bombarded with ridicule, abuse and even threats. All shades of 1930’s Germany, don’t you think? Within the Nazi party, the fastest risers were usually the most ignorant and violent.
As it happens, a matter of a few weeks ago, a particular book, ‘Looking for Madeleine,’ was published. Dealing with the abduction of Madeleine McCann, the books authors are two highly respected and successful investigative journalists, Anthony Summers and Robbyn Swan. Pulitzer prize finalists, no less, these two have spent several years pouring over the original Portuguese police files, comparing witness statements and studying all of the available forensic reports. As a result, they reached the conclusion that there is no evidence that the McCanns, Kate and Gerry, had any involvement in Madeleine’s disappearance. They are innocent, in other words. It should have come as no real surprise, as Scotland Yard, the current Portuguese investigative team, even Portugal’s own Attorney General have all reached the same conclusion.
Naturally, this did not go down well within the anti-Madeleine Reichstag. This conclusion amounted to subversion, dissent, bucking of the party line. It had to be stamped out, and fast. So, over in their cess-pit websites, the faithful members of the internet Nazi party gathered together and drew up their insidious plans. Their answer was a public book-burning. Not literally of course, not even the anti-Madeleine fascists could get away with that these days, but a virtual one, on-line and on Amazon. So together they donned their shiny black jackboots and are even now goose-stepping all over the Amazon book-site, leaving dozens of fake, negative, one-star reviews for this book. Why? To dissuade the public from buying this excellent book. Book-burning, in other words, on a virtual scale. The parents are guilty, THAT is the only opinion the party will allow, no others will be tolerated. Joseph Goebbels would be so proud.
Ah, but what of the parents, I hear the anti-Madeleines cry. Are they not guilty of the very same tactics? Are they not also attempting to stifle any opinion other that their own, that they are innocent?
No, my little Adolph’s, no they are not. Remember what I said, about how rights come with responsibilities? Everyone has the right to have their good name respected. No-one has the right to traduce another person’s good name, or to besmirch their reputation, without evidence. The McCanns have only ever taken action against those who have committed libel against them, and only the worst examples at that. Those who have hurt their family, leafleted their neighbours, and called them murderers or worse. People such as the original lead investigator into the case, goncalo amaral. His book, wherein he accuses the McCanns of faking the abduction, contains not a shred of evidence, and bears little resemblance to the original files. It is, therefore, libellous. He has the right to freedom of speech, as does anyone, but he has no right, under any law, to commit an act of libel.
And NO-one has the right to attempt to censor what the rest of us can read, by the burning of books, real or virtual. Remember, the pathway to state-controlled censorship leads only to bitterness, hatred and ultimate destruction.
Where one burns books, one will, in the end, burn people.
Heinrich Heine, German-Jewish poet. (1797-1856)