Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Freedom of thought

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.


  1. I'll hold onto my hat!
    PS I, too, am taking time to regroup....

  2. i'm waiting for that imminent change...

    glad to have you back!

  3. I consider myself neither nice nor middle class.

    And I might throw flames at times but never in your direction. (Am I allowed to throw kisses?)

  4. Really excellent post, Bill.

    Blogging is entirely and of course an effete, middle-class pastime. Of that there's no question. But the middle-classes aren't all conservative (small 'c') and easily-offended. I'm pretty sure your 'new' honesty will be embraced and met with keen interest, while self-censorship (much as I myself self-censor) is a very interesting debate. I censor myself tremendously because I'd otherwise upset quite a few people. If you're keen to bridge that I'll be envious.

  5. Well, this sounds promising. Getting rid of all the fuckage and revealing your inner Pundy maybe worth a shout. I shall look forward to this new Beelzeblog.

  6. Pundy, you couldn't be a nice middle-class blogger, even if you tried. You have too much a distinctive style.
    I mean...all that caustic wit! :-)
    And to think I actually missed it.
    In fact, I was educated on this blog late last year that the word nice doesn't even exist and no one wanted to be one, and I now believe all these things.

    But all I have to say really is that I'm just so pleased you're back.

  7. I agree with Suzan, even if I may be disagreeable to Suzan. Looking forward to Pundy House Reloaded.

  8. Hi John,
    ...even if I may be disagreeable to Suzan.
    You are disagreeable to me. :-)
    That was made very clear.
    Don't be afraid to say it.
    In fact, if it's any comfort these days, the numbers in line with your disagreement of me have grown good and strong. You have a wonderful show of support.
    Isn't that grand?
    Keep it up, all of you!

  9. So there you are. Farting in church - I've always wanted to do that. A really ripping one too. In the middle of a long silence. why don't we see things like that on telly?