Miriam’s Musings

Cancel culture mutes free speech – and can ruin reputations

Those of us preparing for what was the most boring Christmas of our lives may have been too engrossed in our country’s shocking and worrying coronavirus stats to realise that Minister for Justice Helen McEntee launched the findings from the ‘public consultation on Hate Speech and Hate Crime’ on December 17th.

Now I’m wondering which members of the public or sections of society were ‘consulted’, because I certainly wasn’t one of them and nobody I know was either. Therefore, I’m hoping that the results represent a broad spectrum of taxpayers/society as opposed to snowflakes – sorry individuals, who systemically call out and publicly smear right-thinking people for – God forbid – having and expressing an opinion, i.e. the poor sods like you and me who fail to toe the ‘cancel-culture’ generation’s line!

Now I’m not talking about incidences containing and inciting anti-LGBTQI+, racism, gender-based abuse/violence, victim blaming or discrimination of any form – I would not tolerate that. It’s hurtful, it’s derogatory and I’d be the first to call someone out on it. However, as this new Bill (due in the spring and updated with more ‘modern legislation’) will repeal the existing Prohibition of Incitement to Hatred Act 1989, it’s my concern as a journalist that our freedom of speech will not just become stifled, it’ll be muted altogether.

Here’s an example of why I’m concerned. If I’m disagreeable to hubby, he just accepts it because he respects that I have a different opinion. However, what if, under this new legislation, I’m disagreeable to an individual who doesn’t like what I’ve said or who opposes my opinion – will I then be hauled before a judge and thrown in prison? Furthermore, will/can this new legislation be used by angry zealots as a tactic to undermine an individual’s security regarding their own points of view?

What do I mean by that? Well (as another example), will an individual that makes a comment that they perceived to be hilarious, yet harmless, effectively lose their job because some joyless creature decides they won’t ignore it but instead, they’ll ring up the poor sod’s employer and make a scene?

Look folks, in my view, causing irreparable reputational damage appears to be the modus operandi of today’s ‘cancel culture’ mob. I mean, if it weren’t, they’d simply just make the person who unwittingly caused their perceived offence aware of their feelings. As in, the radiographer who blamed my body-shape and vegan diet for my osteoporosis diagnosis – I confronted them face to face, and at no time did I ever consider complaining to their boss. But hey, the cancel-culture whingers believe it’s far better to launch a weapons-grade, public attack on people – one that’s guaranteed to ruin their lives.

These are people who clearly have no interest in carrying out a meaningful discussion around offensive remarks, because hey, why allow common sense to get in the way of a knee-jerk reaction guaranteed to shut down a conversation completely?

For the record readers, while I will always be respectful of others’ feelings, I will continue to speak my mind. So should you! Why? Because we’re human beings, not robots, and not drudges! We’re all entitled to our opinions and personally, I find it extremely disturbing and unhealthy when a rabble of agitators and scandalmongers force us to continuously self-censor, rather than risk reprisals for fear of committing the crime of thinking and speaking freely.

How many sleeps until normality?

While it may appear that we’re facing into a bleak winter, with cases of coronavirus growing exponentially (and I for one fear we’ve not yet reached the peak of this pandemic, but hey, I’m a worrier), there is a sliver of hope on the horizon by way of the vaccine roll-out.

Just as well, because this virus has hit our country particularly hard. Indeed, the speed with which the situation has deteriorated is staggering. Daily figures have extended into their thousands, with reports stating (at the time of writing) that Ireland had reached over 100,000 cases. And while many are criticising the government for what has become an explosive situation (and they do appear to be way out of their depth), I personally believe that the rise in cases is due to those irresponsible, selfish prats who threw/attended lockdown parties which, without doubt, made for super-spreader environments.

Now, listening to news reports, it does appear that rather than expecting this upsurge, our government may have been caught unaware. I don’t know about you readers, but it does seem to me that every time one of our well-paid public representatives opens their mouth on national TV, instead of offering firm leadership and solutions, they’re just randomly throwing out lines from ‘Outbreak’ and ‘Contagion’.

It’s worrying that the need for hospital beds is rising by the day, while the supply of our frontline staff goes down. An example of this is the worsening situation at Cork University Hospital, which has been forced to close a ward due to having a staggering one hundred nurses ‘out of work for Covid-19-related reasons’.

However, all is not lost. There’s still hope. The results of the Christmas lockdown should begin to kick in this week, and the figures should begin to come down. And, as the country’s on course to receive ‘forty thousand vaccines a week from Pfizer’ between now and February, I hope Health Minister Stephen Donnelly’s Department adds the daily vaccination stats onto the reported daily Covid figures so we all know how many sleeps we have left until we return to normality.

 

Looking forward to life after lockdown

If coronavirus has taught us anything it’s been the importance of our families, our living spaces, our outdoor spaces, and our appreciation of the everyday things like social interaction and human contact. I mean digital interaction is fine, but it’s absolutely no substitute for the real thing. While I admit that I’m not a hugger (OCD issues), I’m actually looking forward to being able to shake someone’s hand again.

Mind you, coronavirus and the lockdown-out-of-lockdown-into-lockdown situation has, surprisingly, made many of our friends and family members understand our decision to move away from the magic spell cast by the bright-lights, big-city vibe and relocate to County Roscommon.

Yep, the “what were you thinking…were you having an out- of-body episode?” barbs have been replaced by “OMG you’re so lucky you’re living in a cottage in a field in the middle of nowhere”. For the record, we’re not in the middle of nowhere, but to my fellow Dubliners/now wannabe ex-urbanites, who dwell in over-priced, over-populated big cities, Roscommon is, quite simply, as remote as you can get!

Well readers, at least we don’t have to suffer a crop of overcrowded local house parties, nor do we have to worry about the horrendous effects of those riots – sorry ‘peaceful protests’ – that many of my close friends and relations who live in Dublin have had to endure over the past week.

Happy New Year, roll on 2021!