Is it a bit idiotic to ban saying it's a "bit gay"?
Commentator writers are pretty libertarian, and so am I, but moves in the UK to ban kids from saying something is a "bit gay" is the opposite of libertartarian. It's part of the end of the free society
Readers outside the UK may have missed this story. A week or so ago it was all the rage in Britain. Ministers felt compelled to respond -- stroking chins in fake outrage, of course. Pundits cried out in protest. It's all about the use of the word "gay".
Sky News and others were running top items after singer Will Young became the poster boy for a campaign by the gay (is that ok?) rights group Stonewall to ban children from making remarks in schools of the type: "Hey, Johnny, that sweater looks a bit gay."
God, have the kid expelled. Young's line is, as Sky quoted him, as follows:
"Gay was claimed as a negative term in the 80s so I grew up with people saying 'That's so gay, this is so gay' and it's never really been addressed."
Worse still, Sky reported: "The star said only one in 10 teachers is trained in how to communicate to children that it is the wrong language to use." Wow. Where's Stalin when we need him?
Look. Persecution of gay people is profoundly illiberal and profoundly wrong. But there is a difference between the state outlawing something and society rejecting something, however mildly, or even however roughly. If children are to be stopped, disciplined, from expressing slightly held opinions, often in joke form, there really is no end to this.
Kids make jokes about other kids for having big noses or for being overweight or for anything at all, in fact.
And this is not about direct, personalised attacks, it's about generalised comments: that car is a bit gay; your bike is a bit gay; what you said is a bit gay. Get over it. Teachers must protect individuals; but the moment they start regulating speech to this extent we will end up in a situation where what may be said is defined and written down in advance. The children will rote learn what they may say and think.
Sounds very communistic to me.
This is one of so many wedge issues we are confronting in these highly illiberal times. We need to remind people -- gay or otherwise -- that freedom goes all the way through. The rights of homosexuals to equality before the law must be protected and upheld. But so must the rights of people who happen to take a different view; or, indeed, as in this case, just happen to be little kids offering a bit of playground rough and tumble.
Now, I am aware that gay children do face serious unpleasantness, and worse. But so do so many other school children of so many descriptions.
I wonder how difficult it will be to get the message across in these terribly anti-freedom times that you can be totally supportive of the legal rights of everyone, gays included, and also deeply opposed to any form of nastiness against anyone and everyone, while remaining a supporter of a free society in which people do sometimes get offended?
What do you think my chances are?
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