My return to active Blogging means giving birth to some of the darker thoughts that have been incubating in my fetid brain these past few months. Thanks to the untrammelled freedom of speech we enjoy in the blogosphere pretty much anything I dredge up from those dark recesses can be exposed to the light of day at the touch of a keyboard. That's because these days freedom of thought is pretty much the same thing as freedom of expression. The thought is father to the Post.
And that's dangerous. Because ideas are dangerous. They always have been of course, but in the past they were a little harder to disseminate.
It goes without saying that ideas come from people. Imagine how different the world would be if Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, George Bush, Jesus or Muhammad, to take a few random examples, had kept their ideas to themselves. Of course, demagogues by their very nature never do keep ideas to themselves. It's only well-bred, reasonable people like me who have the decency to keep their more outlandish thoughts to themselves, being seen and not heard, refraining from making waves, impeccably not scaring the horses.
I guess Hitler, a master of propaganda, would have been a brilliant blogger. George Bush, well, maybe his grasp of the English language has prevented him from using this means of attack. He is obliged to use more direct action. Soldiers with guns are more loquacious, though not necessarily more persuasive, especially when they don't speak the language, in any sense of the word, of the people they are trying to convert.
The ironic thing is, although I am a firm believer in freedom of speech - I will defend to the death your right to express the most repulsive of views - when it comes to blogging I actually practice a rigid form of self-censorship. That's because it seems to me that that the vast majority of my readers are in fact bloggers who are nice, middle-class people, and I for one have no wish to offend them gratuitously. To do so would be like farting aloud in church. And, oh, I do so want to be one of them. A nice, middle-class blogger. Or at least that part of me that remains that little working-class boy from Tilbury, Essex does.
The irony is, of course, that the "nice" middle-classes certainly don't need protection from any puny thoughts or ideas I may propound. The "nice" middle-classes are far more robust than that. The reality is that "nice" is a supremely dangerous characteristic and not at all the same as "good". Indeed, the nice middle-classes in this country have ruthlessly managed to annexe all the important levers of power - like Parliament, the BBC, and the judiciary - largely through their very "niceness". Amazingly, even though I am well aware that the middle classes are indeed the masters now and pretty much impregnable, I still go out of my way not to offend them. As a result I pick the subjects of my posts, and the way I treat them, extremely fastidiously and thereby tamely yield to my readers' niceness. And just in case I should ever think of straying outspokenly out of line and causing offence to the status quo there exists a vociferous minority of bloggers who are much less reticent in their criticism but equally effective in their restraining influence. A rough, rowdy, ill-spoken bunch of self-appointed policemen armed with flamethrowers. And since I have no wish to be burnt at my posts, so to speak, I remain politely uncontroversial. This capitulation on my part I would characterize as abject moral cowardice, and I am not proud of what I have done. None of my writing heroes would have acted so spinelessly.
So, for me at least, in the past freedom of thought on this blog has not been not quite the same thing as freedom of speech. The main casualty of this conflict has been, as in any war, the truth.
All that, though, is about to change.