The Liberal Principle

There is currently a campaign going on against a ghastly article published yesterday in the Daily Mail which was written by a woman called Jan Moir. Complaints have been made about it to the Press Complaints Commission and it seems to have been the fastest and most complained about article of all time. The PCC website crashed yesterday and they resorted to sending out computer generated e-mails to people saying that as they wouldn’t do anything unless those directly affected (the partner, family and friends of Steven Gately) complained themselves. I think that the PCC dealt with this pretty badly. How can a computer judge who is a third party to a complaint?

Anyway, there are now people saying, “Oh, but what about free speech, can journalists not be free to say what we like?”

Well, yes they are up to a point. But “up to that point” is a place that is up for grabs.

When the online mob gets going, those of a liberal persuasion need to remember that people should be free to do (and say) what they like. However, they also need to remember the fundamental liberal principle which is what might enable people to live in close proximity to one another peacebly – which is that people should be free to do what they like so long as they do not impinge on the freedom of others to do what they like for example, by causing them harm.

Judgements have to be made as to what level of harm impinges on the freedom of others to get on with their lives.

Lots of people decided yesterday that statements of Ms Moir went beyond what is acceptable in public discourse in British society right now. I don’t always agree with the online baying crowd, but on this occasion, I happen to believe that the article in question harmed the ability of certain members of society to live and thrive in peace and freedom.

The Daily Mail comes out of this pretty badly. Although they are undoubtedly being discussed across the nation, it seems likely to harm the paper. Advertisers are known to have pulled their advertising pretty quickly. People don’t like their money to be associated with prejudice.

I think that the opinions of Ms Moir are based on principles not a million miles away from those currently being used by our bishops to determine who is or is not acceptable to be a bishop in God’s church.

Watch the online mob in action. And learn.