These are dangerous times, and I’m not talking about the pandemic. When the howlers arrived at the door of J.K. Rowling, darling of the publishing world, and issued their fatwa, it was a wake up call for anyone still unaware that the death of freedom of speech is imminent. This is what happens when you stop teaching children history. The names of a few countries where, within living memory, speaking your mind could cost you your life or at the very least your freedom? Anyone? You at the back, busy messaging your mates about no-platforming Shakespeare.
With JK it happens to be the trans lobby but the howlers are a broad church. They’ve come for David Walliams, another erstwhile national treasure. They’ve come for the Dixie Chicks. (Cultural appropriation). They’ve even come for a UK maths teacher who Liked a Tweet that said, ‘All Lives Matter.’ Meanwhile, college administrators, TV executives and publishers are rushing to take the knee. They are a craven bunch and I find myself quietly pleased to be free of them.
What’s to be done? I’m not optimistic. I fear we may have to endure a prolonged period of ConformSpeak, where men are people who don’t menstruate and most of the population are too scared to say otherwise. Novels will start to reflect this, of course. All characters will comply with industry standards of wokeness, so there will be no surprises, no unfashionable viewpoints, red-neck opinions or Old Testament mores. I feel my eyelids grow heavy at the very thought.
Actually, there is something you can do. I commend to you the Free Speech Union, if you’re in the UK, and if you’re elsewhere, its equivalent, for it surely exists. The FSU is already underwriting legal support for those whose livelihood has been threatened by the howlers. Not the big earners, but the ordinary people who’ve been publicly admonished, bullied or sacked for expressing an opinion. Support them. Bung them a few quid. Live free or die.