THERE'S been a couple of "freedom of speech" issues going on this week I wish to gently touch on.
Firstly, those who were unhappy with Jan Moir's article in The Mail about the death of Stephen Gately, were equally unhappy with the Press Complaints Commission finding that she was perfectly entitled to hint that the reason he died was not, as a coroner found, because he had died of natural causes, but that he was queer and well, probably died because that's what queer people do isn't it, especially if they go about picking up strange men...
Needless to say, my own feeling is there's a circle of hell found by Dante set aside for columnists. I have a map and will make my own way there, don't you worry.
A chappie on the radio (he was on the Jeremy Vine show, some sort of web editor for an online publication) suggested this was an example of free speech and fair comment, and - completely missing the irony of what he was saying - the bile which poured forth (aimed at Moir, as opposed to the bile that originally came from her) was unfair.
So, according to this chappie, the free speech afforded Moir to offer up comment (I won't say "fair" as to be classed as "fair comment" it has to be based on fact, and not much of what she wrote was based on fact) should not be afforded to those who took umbrage at what she said and then went posting comments in reply. Often with rather a lot of passion.
Whereas my feeling is if a) let he who is without sin cast the first stone and b) if you do think you're sinless and do start casting stones, don't be surprised if you're knocked out cold when a hail of stones comes back at you from very unhappy greenhouse owners who are sick to the back teeth of you throwing your bloody stones at their greenhouses and ruining their prize tomatoes...
Free speech is all well and good, but if you can't be responsible about it, then you can't complain when others go "oi, that's not nice, you slag".
Secondly, you whining, whinging, bitter and twisted folk of Plymouth and the absolute guttural tosh you come out with sometimes. All under the banner of "freedom of speech"
Oh, okay - so not all of you. The very large majority of you are rather lovely and I'd love to have you lot to tea and biscuits with maybe a sherry trifle afterwards.
But the rest of you, the ones who endlessly post on the Herald website at the end of every story you can, you really do get me hunting for my hob-nailed boots, gum-shield and lead-lined mittens.
I swear, there should be some kind of test which you must pass to be given a renewable license to post comments. It should start with spelling and include basic humanity.
Case in point - and take into account I've read comments on stories in the past about firms who've shut down losing jobs galore and seen heartfelt comments showing empathy and concern for those workers and their families - we had a story about the printing works shutting down at the glass ship here and talk about bile! Frankly, if there was a real market for bile to power cars, then the next ten drilling platforms will be dotted around this city.
I can't get over the level of complete ****-wittery shown. Such as the one where the Herald was described as "xenophobic", which made me laugh considering last year the amount of negative emails we got from locals after a reporter did a number sensitive pieces about Nigerian families and Kurdish men who had their final application for asylum turned down and were being nabbed in the middle of the night and sent home on the next flight, regardless of the kind of roots they'd put down over the past decade they'd lived here. One year we're liberal-lefty wets, the next year, xenophobes. Marvellous.
Then there's those who said good, the paper won't be missed, because there's no local news in it anyway...
So - no daily reports from Plymouth Crown or Plymouth Magistrates Courts on drug dealers, perverts, wayward youths, violent thugs, dumb vandals, dangerous drink drivers. No council chamber debates about gypsy land, bus company sell-offs, life centre and incinerator building plans. No football/basketball/rugby reports at professional and amateur level. No interest in live bands such as yearly contests set up by one single reporter with a passion for music, entitling it Battle of the Bands and getting young musicians from across the South West to take part. No offering up supplement pages for local schools to create their own Herald reports about what's bothering them or what they want to show of. No stories about local schools/teachers/head teachers/pupils, no stories about local theatre groups and their productions, local charitable organisations raising funds for things like a box of helpful items to be sent to Haiti, no stories about local soldiers based in local barracks who fight in very un-local countries or go training in ice-cold and boiling hot conditions
And for me, no stories about elderly women who suffer awful injuries and their face is put on a front page and as a direct result ends up with people calling police to assist with their inquiry and a suspect arrested and others offering the elderly women special gifts to give her her dignity back...
Nope - never seen any of those stories in the Herald. Must've been that other paper I read.... The Basildon Echo.
*deep breath... hold for five seconds... and relax... sigh*
I take it those of you who said there's no local news, can. actually. read. and. live. in. Plymouth?
It's times like this I actually feel morally superior. And, I should remind you, with me being from south Essex, that happens very, very, very rarely.
Anyway. What do I know? I'm not local.