Yesterday gave us a taste of what is to come. The Millar case is just the first. I expect more to be brought forward in the non-too distant future. Right now, I suspect there are those with a grievance against women trolling through twitter looking for anything that may be deemed offensive. Never in my wildest dreams did I ever think Scotland would fall this far. Nor did I ever believe our rights and freedoms would be taken so quickly. Now we are playing catch up. Women took to twitter, angry at the decision by Police Scotland to charge Millar. As the case is now live, I will not go into it. However, I will give an overview of where we are as I see it.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall once said: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
It is not what we say, it is how others interpret it, however, if those reading then become offended by it, then we have a problem. When did offending someone become a criminal act?
Salman Rushdie said this: “If you’re offended, it’s your problem.”
The definition of offended is this: to feel annoyed, upset, resentful, hurt, angry. I understand people may feel all these emotions, but it should not give them the right to criminalise others for holding an opinion. If done deliberately then yes but if you are offended by let us say, a ribbon hanging from a tree which may look to some as being a noose and to others a loop, yet it is just a ribbon hanging from a tree.
Scotland is in danger of becoming a place where people are afraid to say anything for fear of their words or indeed social media posts being misinterpreted by those with ill intent towards a group and used to further their own agenda.
I remember a decade ago my first encounter with someone who was transitioning. I remember thinking, good for you, be yourself. However, it soon became apparent this individual’s hurt feelings could end up in someone else being hurt, physically. Whatever had occurred involved a politician whom I gathered had not listened to the grievance which had been allowed to fester into a downright dislike of all politicians. I remember sympathising at the time and wanting to do more to help. That was however, until this individual expressed a wish to go after not only the politician in question but their family, “Guilt by association.” I remember thinking at the time that this was a very hurt man who just wanted help to transition and was going about it all wrong. I never got to find out what happened, if indeed he managed to find himself, or herself. I am happy to report that I have met lovely people who are transitioning into the persons they should have been. I have no problem with transgender. I do believe people can be born into the wrong body. What I do have a problem with, is the belief that everyone must bow down to their way of thinking. Today that is never going to happen. And may do more harm than good. You cannot bully people into thinking as you do. By using the law as a weapon against people may cause resentment and push the causes back years.
There is a fine line between what is acceptable and what is not. Trying to curtail freedom of expression and freedom of speech is not the way to go. I have seen things posted online from both sides, yesterday a student from a university in London posted pictures of guns with threats of violence. Yet it seems the law may favour one side over the other. Laws should be equal to everyone. People should have the right to express themselves and yes others have the right to feel offended but what happens when this is used as a weapon to silence people? What happens when those with a grievance use the law to shut down freedom of speech, or have a particular side second guess themselves while the other side continue their attack.
What happens then?
The Scotland I know, and love has gone, freedom of speech and freedom of expression no longer exists in this country, yesterday for the first time ever, I was ashamed to be Scottish.