They say “time flies while you’re having fun”, so I guess I must have been having more fun than I realised last year because I found it hard to believe it’s been twelve months since the dreadful and terrifying attack in Paris on the people working for the Charlie Hebdo magazine. This magazine, which has a small and specialist following, was always aware that its editorial and negative portrayal of religions and religious leaders was likely to cause offence. They knew that this policy had the potential to make them targets for the zealots who believe they have a divine right to attack and ultimately overwhelm the ungodly western world. But despite this, Charlie Hebdo’s journalists and cartoonists stuck to their guns and paid the ultimate price for their belief in the right to express their views.
We live in a world where the communications networks are so all-embracing and pervading that it is almost impossible to say anything even mildly controversial or ‘off the wall’ before you find yourself in hot water with either the law or your peers for sticking your head above the parapet. Only this week I noted an article in a newspaper about a comedian currently releasing a new series onto the airways that had to get special permission from the heads of television because several sketches involved very ‘non pc’ characters portraying the disabled and even one character who is blatantly a white person ‘blacked up’ to resemble a black person. Now, you may think this sort of thing is beyond the pale or you may think, like me, that unless there’s malice or underlying deliberate racial hatred implied by the item, there is no harm done…unless if course it isn’t actually funny! And in any case you still have to option to switch the damn thing off if it offends your delicate sensitivities.
However, telly comedy programmes are one thing but it seems that the controlling world of politics still isn’t really comfortable with the idea of MPs and Cabinet Ministers freely expressing opinions unless they are the ones handed down to them from the top. Last week both Labour and Conservative top dogs have been wrestling with the issues caused when their MPs start going ‘off-message’ and expressing views that don’t necessarily sit easy with the policies that the leaders have decided are the meat and drink of their respective parties. Mr Corbyn has been forced to eat his words recently and plainly wasn’t interested in the notion of free speech when it came to some of his team and consequently re-shuffled new, more compliant, people into his shadow cabinet. Mr Cameron, on the other hand, has decided to allow a free vote for his people when campaigning starts for the referendum although my guess is that when push comes to shove, if you want to retain your place in the queue for a Buggins’ Turn ‘gong’ in the Honours lists, you’d be better off toeing the line! Plus ca change!