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Brick Lane mural
The controversial mural by Brick Lane (Danny Birchall)

Most troubling about those delicate petals with offended sensibilities is the inherent tendency for their knees to jerk towards authoritarianism.

They want justice, not in an eloquent rebuttal of what offends them that appeals to reason, logic and rationality, but state-backed policing and persecution of anyone they deem to be, in their own subjective view, offensive.

This pathetic, spineless and scary instinct is most recently exemplified by Peter Golds, the Tower Hamlets councillor calling for the prosecution of a street artist under repressive hate speech legislation, which sidelines free speech in favour of courtroom diktats.

A tasteless mural has appeared in a road off east London's Brick Lane, famed for its curry houses and street art. The picture resembles 1930s anti-Jewish Nazi propaganda cartoons.

It also features other symbolism relating to the New World Order and Illuminati conspiracy theories that stain the internet and keep the crazies at their computer desks rather than wandering the streets bothering everyone with pamphlets.

"I am horrified at this mural," Golds told the East London Advertiser. "It bears a similarity to anti-Semitic propaganda in pre-war Germany.

"As well as the anti-Jewish overtones, there is even the quasi-Masonic and dollar bill aspect to encourage conspiracy theory.

"The fact it has appeared over Yom Kippur and the Jewish New Year gives added menace. This is absolutely appalling."

The mural is crass and crazy. To brand it offensive gives undue weight to the artist's intellect, as well as insufficient credit to the rest of us as not able to laugh off this tragic, juvenile worldview.

Archive of madness

It looks like it has been dreamt up by the kind of warped mind that absorbs information from the forums on David Icke's website, an archive of madness perused by chubby, paranoid, narcissistic losers who think they are the greatest political philosopher-come-investigative journalist to have ever existed.

Does that mean this person should be prosecuted under the law? That their opinions, expression, art, thoughts, be criminal?

John Stuart Mill had it right over 140 years ago in his seminal 1869 work, On Liberty. Mill points out that by denying others their freedom of expression you, as the denier, put yourself up as the arrogant arbiter of certainty.

"To refuse a hearing to an opinion, because they are sure that it is false, is to assume that their certainty is the same thing as absolute certainty. All silencing of discussion is an assumption of infallibility," wrote Mill.

Crucially, as Mill argued, denying or suppressing opinions and viewpoints actually deprives opponents of their right to free expression, as they are no longer gifted the opportunity to discuss, critique and debate what some deem contentious or "offensive".

Golds has every right to disprove of the vulgar mural, just as the owner of the private property on which it was painted should be free to decide if it stays or is washed off, and the street artist should be allowed to express whatever their views are - good, bad or ugly - in a society free from having the state's hand held over its mouth.

Instead, we operate in a country where there are restrictions on speech and expression written into the law of the land, under a large shield covering everything from defamation to hate speech that protects the public which is, in the eyes of the state, too precious or stupid to be exposed to horrible words and images.

The suppression of speech and expression does not defeat or destroy unsavoury opinion. It makes unwelcome martyrs of those who challenge the law.

Swivel-eyed fascist

Nick Griffin, the swivel-eyed fascist, uses things like his 1998 conviction for a public order offence relating to anti-Semitic articles in a magazine he edited as currency for propaganda that allows him to play victim in some imaginary grand establishment conspiracy.

He believes, as do his minions, that the state is trying to undermine the imminent democratic revolution where the British public is awakened to the political and philosophical truths of the British National Party (BNP).

Repressing his freedom to espouse unpalatable views underpins Griffin's delusion and the daze of his supporters, rather than allowing them the freedom to publicly express their easily dismissible opinions and for everybody else to hear the clarity and sense of the case against the BNP.

The fact is that some people in society hold views and values that most people would find objectionable or offensive.

Attempting to forcibly silence the extreme views on the fringes of society ignores the above truth.

The only rational way to combat views that are racist, sexist, homophobic, stupid, baseless and all the rest of it is to use the power of reason and debate, in public, with as loud a voice as possible.

And for that to happen all opinions must be allowed to be heard.

Shane Croucher is a business writer for IBTimes UK

Follow @shanecroucher

This article was updated November 30, -0001 00:00 AM
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