Thursday 6 March 2014

Haters Gotta Hate

About three years ago, I attended an event in London which included some top notch grub and resulted in my being seated at a large table with people I mostly didn't know.

As you can imagine in such a situation, much of the chit-chat over dinner involved introductions and small talk about occupations and hobbies as we all got to know each other. One of these people was a softly-spoken heavily-pregnant lady to my left, at the time a Conservative Councillor. I remember explaining to her that I ran a transport business and - expecting a negative response - that in my spare time I write a blog about lifestyle restrictions ... especially on tobacco. I do like to drop that bombshell into situations occasionally because I find reactions to it very interesting. This lady wasn't fazed in the slightest, in fact she agreed that tobacco control had gone too far and that the smoking ban was badly-drafted.

I spoke to her at length during the evening as she was a genuinely likeable person and one who didn't seem to have a bad bone in her body. This was borne out at the end of the meal when I made a dreadful faux pas.

The dessert was an arty affair consisting of a coffee-mug shaped piece of chocolate which contained what I thought in the low lighting was jelly or ganache. Perhaps trying my best to show manners, it didn't cross my mind to pick the cup up with my fingers, so I cut it with the fork and spoon, resulting in it snapping sideways and sending the contents - thick cherry brandy liqueur - flying through the air and coating the lady's dress from chest to knee! I wanted the ground to open up and swallow me but while I profusely apologised, she just warmly laughed it off as an understandable accident. A kinder, more friendly and tolerant person it would be difficult to find.

But, apparently, she is now being made out to be a nasty, intolerant and hateful bigot.
A UKIP councillor has said businesses should be able to refuse services to women and gay people, in comments posted on an internet forum. 
The Argus reported the remarks made by Lewes councillor Donna Edmunds.
Yes, she is now a UKIP candidate for the EU elections, so Tory HQ is getting stuck in too.

Worried much, CCHQ?

When you read the original article, though, the story turns out to be different from the slavering over-reaction which has surrounded it.
“I believe that all business owners, Christian, Muslim, gay, straight, should be allowed to withhold their services from whomever that (sic) choose whenever they choose. 
“It’s their business. Why should they be forced to serve or sell to anyone?” 
When asked by The Argus to clarify her statement the EU election hopeful said it would be ok for a shop owner to refuse to serve her based on no other fact than she was a woman, or if service was refused to a gay person. 
She said: “I'm a libertarian so I don’t think the state should have a role on who business owners serve."
Aye, just like it's wrong for the state to decide that you cannot serve someone.
“I wouldn't refuse to serve gay people. I'm not saying their position is a correct one. I'm saying they should be free to make that choice themselves.”
This is hardly controversial, or shouldn't be, because a central plank of free markets is that both vendors and consumers should have equal rights, as the Freedom Association astutely explained today.
The media have seemingly read this as “businesses should be allowed to refuse service to gay people and women”. However, the point isn't about discrimination towards any “group” but that it should be the property owner’s right to sell his or her own asset in a way that they wish to. If a business owns a particular product, which they've bought from their suppliers or produced themselves, then why not allow them not to sell that product to whomever they want to? 
It should also be the consumer’s right not to buy from a business, if they choose not to. This can be done for a whole range of reasons and is up to the individual whether they agree with the business practices of the firm in question. 
We should live in a free society in which people can choose which shops they visit and, if for any reason they disagree with a company's policy on a particular issue (whether it be the selling of certain products or an ethical stance), they can go elsewhere. This is the biggest driver for change in business attitudes: if customers leave one business because of their policy/products, then the business has a choice: change or die.
Quite. This is a pillar of free society which has been widely accepted until political correctness jumped in and declared itself the new God.

Those who piled into the outrage bus about this seem to think that laws against discrimination have somehow eradicated discrimination, and that Edmunds is trying to resurrect it.

This is nonsense, of course. Despite the laws we have, I expect businesses discriminate every day, it's only the ones who declare their honest reasons who will be found out. What has changed is that - whereas businesses can refuse to serve you because they don't like the shape of your nose if they feel like it, if they are subsequently accused of discrimination on the basis of sex, race or sexual orientation, the law says that they must now prove a negative or face punishment.

What I find most interesting about this, though, is how a law designed to reduce 'hate' has panned out for Donna Edmunds.

For expressing a valid theoretical debating point, she is now being attacked and labelled as a hateful bigot. For employing free speech she is now being told to shut up. Despite not being intolerant or bigoted, she is now being forced to prove a negative herself.

But most depressing of all, the righteous defenders of tolerance - the ones who so despise all forms of hate and want it eradicated via legislation - have responded with intolerance, bigotry and vile ignorant hatred of their own against a genuinely decent person instead of calmly debating an opinion which doesn't agree with theirs. Don't they remember why they demanded the laws in the first place?

Very sad.


DaveAtherton20 said...

As someone who has had the privilege if meeting Donna, I can only concur with her humanity. Some people just don't get it on free speech.

Frank Fisher said...

Great article. I hope that UKIP will shortly reconsider Steve Crowther's rather rash condemnation of Donna - perhaps he spoke in reaction to the media reports rather than reality - and back Donna's totally reasonable stance.

T00th_Fairy said...

and further to this thoughtful article Donna has now tweeted a picture of some hate mail that dropped on her door mat with a printed paper with the words "HATE Mon***ing C***" thereon. Says it all about the Left trying to stifle free speech.

olly said...

An excellent assessment of both the situation and of Donna. As Dave says above, it is a privilege to meet Donna.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

Yes, I was tempted to post the pic for shock value but linked the tweet instead in the last para. Someone didn't get the memo about hate crime, did they?

Dick_Puddlecote said...

That was disappointing, it's true. I suppose being a "grown-up" party involves bowing to childish over-reaction these days. ;)

Frank Fisher said...

Grown-ups are the ones who should face down monsters, and that's what the authoritarian hate-filled Left are. UKIP needs to stand by their candidates, except in absolutely exceptional circumstances.

Kath Gillon said...

And she is of course quite right. It amazes me how the feeding frenzy of outrageists and the politically correct can turn perfectly fair and reasonable comment into a diatribe of spite. The ability to misrepresent the written word becomes daily more ridiculous, and that certain types of people can read almost anything into the most innocuous of comment has almost been raised to an art form by those who love to be offended.

harleyrider1778 said...

Good news…

kentucky Smoking ban bill declared dead by sponsor

They wont have a chance next year either…………..Kentucky the smoking ban issue is dead and now we move forward to repeal them city by city across the state!

harleyrider1778 said...

The media that fight back aren't in power the enemy is.

Gawain Towler said...

As a friend and colleague of Donna it is astonishing to hear and read the gate filled bile rolled out to attack her. Anybody who knows her will be perfectly clear that she is anything but the picture being painted.

Sadly in these days of teeming intellectual vacuosity holding a position, or worse still, expressing the opinion that individual liberty and tolerance cuts both ways is dangerous.

I therefore fully understand that UKIP were dismayed by the comments, not necessarily for the moral content of them, but because of that certain knowledge that they will be taken out of context and used to beat the party when it is working like billy oh to break the political consensus.

So discipline is necessary, and self control. What is reasonable in a seminar room, in as you say theoretical debate, is not for now feasible in public fora. Sad but true.

I am delighted that Simon from TFA has come up with such a trenchant defence, and it hope other lovers of liberty will do the same.

Gawain Towler said...

Gate filled? Eh, hate filled.

Frank Fisher said...

I disagree - UKIP will not win by gagging their candidates and ostracizing anyone with libertarian views. We need to MAKE THE CASE for liberalism, not run in fear from the lying media and the hate mobs.

I understand fully what UKIP's NEC is worried about, but they are wrong to think that silence is an effective campaigning tool. Moreover, they're wrong to think that the media will let up if we say nothing - they'll simply accuse and accuse and accuse - as that clown Halfon is doing today.

UKIP must be bold, brave and principled. We're the good guys and we do not need to be shy about saying so.

Gawain Towler said...

My heart agrees, but my head doubts

Frank Fisher said...

People will not work for the party if they do not believe in it. The other parties will say and do anything to win power - we should not copy them. We have to remain principled in order to keep our best people, and keep our passion.

nisakiman said...

I'm inclined to agree with Frank Fisher's reply to you, not only from the point of view that people should be free to express their opinions, and that UKIP should distance itself from the modus operandi of the big three, but also because I believe that many voters are fed up with the PC orthodoxy.

It matters not that the opposition and the MSM have gone into a feeding frenzy. Most reasonable people believe that we should have a choice in these matters. Remember the general public reaction to the Christian B&B owners who refused the gay couple? Generally sympathetic to the owners.

UKIP needs outspoken representatives. It's something that has been sadly lacking in British politics for too long. Let the lefty luvvies have a hissy fit and cry "bigot". Most people will see through them and dismiss their tantrums.

Sunex Amures said...

What a horrible experience for this woman, my sympathy goes out to her.
I'm no longer sure that equality legislation was brought in with initial benign intentions and am increasingly convinced that it was deliberately devised as a way of social control from the start (designed to iron out differences instead of 'celebrating' them). This notion of 'equality' encourages people to think that society must be a bespoke construct in which the individual has a right to experience life without encountering conflict or that with which one disagrees. As this notion can only ultimately result in 'rights' for one clashing with 'rights' of others, the functioning of society in a tolerant and balanced way becomes more and more untenable. I was particularly struck by comments in a range of newspapers recently about gay marriage. In my innocence I was expecting some kind of nuanced discussion only to be confronted by sheer, raw, hatred between atheists and Christians, between (some) Christians and gay people, between those with a conservative outlook and those with a 'liberal left perspective. As a gay man in a civil partnership, with a slightly right-of-centre viewpoint who is a regular churchgoer, I was genuinely shaken by the nasty views expressed. I find it ironic that a movement to tackle 'hatred and bigotry' has actually triggered such a tidal wave of poisonous intolerance. In addition, as one is now expected to be perceived as belonging to a discrete group (and by doing so to appropriate for oneself a range of 'rights') I have been personally criticised recently for my, as some see it, anomalous lifestyle.
It is clear to me that ideas of 'equality' and 'discrimination' in society need to be considered using robust philosophical scrutiny in which consequences should be considered. Instead, legislation is being passed thoughtlessly on the basis of citizens being told what to do and think like children in a playground.

Donna InSussex said...

Gawain, you don't win a war by retreating at the first sign of fire. Frank is right - if people who believe in freedom see the party abandoning anyone who stands up for freedom, the message they will take from those actions is that the party a) doesn't really believe in freedom, and b) isn't worth working for.

fredbarboo said...

I'm in agreement here but have a question; how does all this sit with age restricted products?

Hadenuff said...

Any party which aspires to seats in the Commons can forget ,integrity,honesty,
free speech and freeom The Lower House has become a coven of fork tongued carpet baggers,con artists and lobby stooges well past it's sell by date. Sadly there are still many who will put their X on a scrap of paper next year enabling the rot to continue and then groan for the following 5 years .
Rubicon South Bank

Chris Sorochin said...

I assume those of you agreeing with the right to refuse service to gays will not be crying foul when someone decides they won't, on principle, accommodate, or hire, smokers.

Dick_Puddlecote said...

It already happens and has done for a long time, so it's great that you support the idea of a law to prohibit discrimination against smokers. That was your point, wasn't it? Equality, and all that.

On principle, no, there would be no objection from smokers to the protection of property and serving rights for all businesses, without exception. You see, it's only the deprivation of property and serving rights which allows the smoking ban to be applied.

You didn't really think that one through, did you?

nisakiman said...

It has nothing to do with the proclivities of those being refused. I gave the example of the B&B couple simply as an example. It could as easily been non-smokers refusing to allow smokers to stay, and I would have upheld their right to do so, even though I'm one of those who would be refused admittance. It's their property, and so it is their right to decide who should stay there. It is not up to the state to compel them to open their business to all and sundry, including those with whom they do not wish to do business.

And this is the fundamental wrong of the smoking ban; that it removes the right of the owner to decide with whom he will do business. And to compound that fundamental wrong, not only are his rights concerning his own property removed, he is further compelled by law to police that abuse of his property rights. It is wrong, wrong, wrong.

John Gray said...

Sorry to say it, Gawain, and as someone who fully intends to vote UKIP at the coming EU election, I have to say I am having doubts about voting UKIP at the general election. This is because of the mixed messages on freedom of speech that are being generated.

Yes, I know that UKIP is in a difficult position, in that, it's trying to make a breakthrough by getting people elected to parliament and at the same time has to contend with today's PC, and intensely hypocritical, media circus. However, the right to speak one's mind, albeit in a responsible manner, must not be stifled otherwise UKIP becomes just like the rest of the "well behaved" political establishment - smooth tongued and worthless. Moreover, what is happening now, as with this lady's story, is that the establishment is forcing UKIP to toe the very political line it is supposed to reject.

I want a party that supports freedom of speech, not a bunch of well whipped and well gagged curs such as we have on offer with all the rest!

My best wishes to you personally.