More than half a million people have now signed a petition and today, MPs will debate whether Donald Trump should be banned from the UK. That would be the wrong thing to do.
Have any of the signatories seen the irony of wanting to ban Donald Trump for his beliefs, in response to him calling for a ban of people with Muslim beliefs? I suspect not.
We all know Trump’s views are abhorrent, so what exactly would banning him from entering the UK achieve? All it does is lower us to his level of intolerance. The best antidote to Trump is good old-fashioned political debate. Let’s challenge him on his views and expose them for how ridiculous and bigoted they are, rather than taking the easy, and profoundly illiberal, step of seeking to silence him.
It is this sort of attitude which has led to Trump’s support in the first place. Mainstream politics has been rendered anaemic both sides of the Atlantic, and politicians are so bound by political correctness that to hear someone speak uninhibited is refreshing to many. There was only so long the ruling elite could brush the issue of mass immigration under the carpet before a populist figure such as Trump emerged out of the silence. The same thing is happening in France with the rise of the Front National. Perhaps if our politicians actually discussed these issues people would be less inclined to turn to someone as detestable as Trump, but as long as ordinary people’s concerns are ignored by the political class, figures such as Trump are will continually emerge. Why aren’t these same signatories more concerned about blocking the hundreds of Jihadis than have already returned to Britain after fighting in Syria and Iraq? I think it is fair to say they pose a far greater threat to our national security than Trump.
Watching a series of politicians, ranging from Boris Johnson to Nicola Sturgeon, come out and join in the criticism of Trump has possibly been the most visible case of political posturing in recent memory. Trump has said equally reprehensible things in the past, calling Mexican immigrants rapists and mocking a reporters’ disability, but it is only because of the large media furore over his latest comments that a wave of politicians have come out to publicly condemn him.
This hasn’t been the only case of illiberal petitioning of late; a similar petition calling for newly crowned boxing heavyweight champion of the world Tyson Fury to be removed from the BBC Sports Personality of the Year shortlist amassed over 100,000 signatories. “The Thought Police” were outraged after Fury, a traveller and devout Christian, made some tasteless comments regarding homosexuality and women.
A vigilant member of the “Thought Police,” athlete Greg Rutherford threatened to pull out of Sports Personality of the Year over Fury’s comments, claiming to be so offended that he didn’t want to share a stage with “somebody that had views that are so strongly against my own.” Mr Rutherford cannot simply accept a difference of opinion, but instead insisted that Fury be prevented from voicing his opinion and removed from the public arena. This is symptomatic of the “Thought Police” mentality; independent opinions are not to be debated, but instead silenced. One is coerced to conform, not encouraged to think freely and independently.
Let’s also not forget that the most famous and admired heavyweight champion in history – and also BBC’s “Sports Personality of the Century” – Muhammed Ali, was profoundly racist and intolerant. Yet he is hailed as a hero and role model, and even in his old age public figures love to be seen posing with him. Would Mr Rutherford also object to sharing a stage with him?
I wonder how many of the signatories of both these petitions also hash-tagged “Je suis Charlie” last year in promotion of free speech? Orwell himself once said that free speech was the right to tell people what they do not want to hear. After all, it doesn’t take any tolerance to allow views you agree with to be expressed. But the “Thought Police” are not tolerant. They love to advocate free speech as long as everyone speaking is conforming to their world view. The second someone goes off script, they pounce on them like a pack of ruthless hyenas to hound them out of public life.
The idea of political correctness began with the best of intentions, but it has now become a suffocating influence on society, crushing free thought and expression. As a nation, we need to get out of this habit of seeking to ban any speech or expression that we don’t like. It is not who we are. We are a free nation, where one is entitled to hold and voice any opinion one likes. It is what made our civilisation one of the greatest on earth. We may not like what Trump has to say, but if we are truly liberal and open people, we should allow him to express himself on these shores.