Reaction to O’Shea’s ‘Say no to hate speech’
HOT’s Chandra Masoliver reports on one of the few hostile reactions to Sean O’Shea’s recent article, Say no to hate speech. She insists that those who value free speech will not be silenced by bullying or intimidation from a minority in the Labour Party.
“Hope is the fuel of progress and fear is the prison in which you put yourself.” Tony Benn
Sean O’Shea recently wrote an article in this paper – and in Hastings Independent Press (Friday 17 March) – entitled, ‘Say no to hate speech’, where he said: “Demonising individuals or groups that don’t agree with us should have no place in the new politics or in political discourse.”
He was critical of Momentum’s ‘A World Transformed Festival’ held last year, where ‘We hate Thatcher’ mugs were on sale and phrases like ‘Tories are Vermin who should be eradicated’ were considered acceptable. He went on to remind us of the National Labour Party policy prohibiting such language. Indeed Jeremy Corbyn pledged to stamp out ‘hateful language’ in the Labour Party.
Sean felt strongly enough about this issue to initiate a local ‘Say no to hate speech’ appeal, which I also joined. How ironic that subsequently a large wooden board nailed to a broom handle was placed at the front of his house, with the poster below glued to it.
Sean made his opinions known in a reasoned, respectful and upfront manner. The reaction he got was an anonymous message placed by his front door, designed to intimidate and silence him.
This does not help Labour get votes – and I deplore it. As Tony Benn once said: “My dad said to me ‘Say what you mean, mean what you say, do it if you have a chance and don’t attack people personally.’ I’ve found that a brilliant guide.”
I also deplore the misogyny expressed in this placard by its reference to Theresa May and Amber Rudd as ‘witches,’ and the depiction of Amber Rudd as a Nazi. We are not living in medieval times when it was common for men to feel they had the right to label, persecute and kill women as witches. Anyone in the local Labour Party who may attempt to return us to those times will not succeed.
Sean and I are both paid-up members of the Labour Party. We don’t understand this to mean that we have to be mindless conformists. To be able to express a different point of view or criticise another person’s opinions without fear of personal attack or intimidation is essential for civilized political debate.
With the blessing of free speech everyone has the right to reply to Sean’s article, including the person who chose to slink up to Sean’s house under the protection of darkness to deposit their threatening message. If they think that this tactic will work however, they have entirely underestimated the character of the man and of the many people who support his point of view.
I think these are matters which the Hasting & Rye Constituency Labour Party should investigate and address. They have a responsibility towards their members, to ensure they are treated with respect and that their personal details are kept private and not used for malicious purposes. Not to address breaches of their own standards would be a serious omission.
I feel fortunate to be able to voice my opinions both in Hastings Online Times and in Hastings Independent – and I hope there will be no more covert intimidating messages sent to Sean O’Shea – or myself, come to that.
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