87. The well (II)
Updated: Jun 4
Free speech is a chimera; there is always a speech regime, and this post is about ours. The naïve assumption is that hate speech legislation is intended to stop people spewing racialised abuse in ordinary life, in the pub or at a football game. This is not so. Go for a walk all day in London and you will hear every form of verbal abuse it is possible for the human mind to construct, some of it affectionate—some outright malicious. It is true that hate speech legislation can be used to prosecute these ordinary offenders, but they are not the real target. The real target of hate speech legislation is the middle class. These are people who are not—for good or ill—verbally abusive in any way. The concept of hate speech exists to instil a sense of propriety concerning certain political issues in the middle class, a class that lives and dies by being perceived as socially respectable.
It is the intellectuals, the tiny group capable of thinking for themselves, who shape the general direction of society. The middle class and working class construct their worlds in terms handed down from the thinking elite. Unfortunately for the West, the majority of the thinking elite hates the middle class and the working class; so the rhetoric it promotes mostly results in self-harm or suicide, if taken seriously. Nevertheless, there is a stream of dissent in Western intellectual circles; and hate speech legislation also exists to dam this stream.
Recently, in Britain, the aged academic David Starkey—a queen with a characteristic flair for melodrama and mildly reactionary views—was investigated by the police, as was the journalist who interviewed him, because he made a slightly risqué but mild—by the standards of a London street—comment about race and the slave trade. There was no need to prosecute the two men for hate speech. The fact that they were known to be investigated by the police was enough to cause conniptions in any ordinary middle-class person who heard about it. The police. At my door. Everybody in the street could see. They knew it wasn’t because a relative died. It’s on WhatsApp. What if they read about it at work? The ordinary middle-class person immediately shuts up about anything even tangentially connected to the topic, just as the Victorians remained largely silent on the topic of vaginal mucus—the scandal! There is no need to prosecute; it will be recorded, somewhere, that the police investigated you. The very fact of having a police record, even if it’s not a real record—like the guy who smashes a pint glass into someone’s face down the pub after a match—is enough to damn them.
This is a shadow legal system, an occult legal system that exists but does not exist. Technically, you have committed no crime; but the police have investigated and recorded that you were investigated for a crime and a journalist produced an article about it. Simply to hear about this causes the most influential sections of society to self-police their views on issues adjacent to race, such as immigration. The middle class is expert at self-policing and policing others: self-discipline made them rich, self-discipline makes them into their own jail warders. As for more spirited dissident intellectuals, they also get the message that promotion and status depends on not venturing into certain areas. Without a thinking elite to formulate ideas to take society in another direction, dissident middle-class and working-class individuals are shredded to pieces by regime intellectuals and journalists trained in professional rhetoric—and so revolt fails.
This all carries the hallmark of psychological abuse; and it is abuse: it is overtly all about love and equality, but it is covertly about control and manipulation. The first rule of cybernetics: a thing is its behaviour, not what it purports to be; ergo, the concept of hate speech behaves like a parallel legal system that punishes without trial—and so it is.