Friday 21 October 2016

Will someone please save us from these busybodies?

Published 02/10/2016 | 02:30

Moral police: Lorraine Higgins has failed to get elected on several occasions. Photo: Tom Burke
Moral police: Lorraine Higgins has failed to get elected on several occasions. Photo: Tom Burke

One of the great delusions we spin children is that once they grow older, they will get to make their own choices.

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Of course, when you're a kid, the prospect of being allowed to make your own choices is one that involves you eating as many sweets as you can shovel down your gob.

We were all brought up with the idea that as long you live in your parents' house, you're under their rules.

Once you move out and start to lead your own life as you see fit, you get to make your own choices, for better or for worse - and you don't have someone telling you what to do all the time. The reality, of course, is very different. We grow up only to discover that we are still told what to do - by our spouse, boss, society at large.

But nobody signed up to have a loser like Lorraine Higgins telling them what they could say.

I call her a loser because, in political terms, she is a repeat failure - she has failed in her bid to be a TD, getting hammered in the polls in Galway - and couldn't even keep her sinecure as a senator, which is surely a double public humiliation.

But even though the general public has repeatedly spurned her electoral advances - Lorraine, they're just not that into you, get over it - she keeps on popping up, seemingly oblivious to the fact that the voters are not, have not and will not buy what she's trying to sell them.

Higgins got her beak back in the papers this week following a brief flurry of interest in her ridiculous views on online harassment and bullying.

Claiming a victory because the Law Reform Commission has mirrored some of her ideas in its latest proposals to deal with this non-issue, she says that she has been 'vindicated' when, of course, nothing could be further from the truth.

This latest effort to curb online expression is, naturally, couched in terms of protecting people from so called revenge porn - a problem that exists mostly in the imagination.

We seem to be entering a new phase of great stupidity, where people think they can legislate for anything they find unpleasant.

The not-so-subtle subtext of these latest proposals is that anyone who opposes them must, by definition, be in favour of bullying, harassment and posting naked pictures of their ex.

Irish politicians love a moral panic and when there isn't one, they will simply create something.

But behind the will-somone-please-think-about-the-children attitude, there is a desire to see people criminalised (12 months in jail and/or €5,000 fine) simply for being obnoxious.

Part of her proposal wanted to go after people guilty of 'repeat harassment', but what constitutes 'harassment' and what constitutes 'repeat'?

I still don't know whether our unelected (and in her case, unelectable) moral guardians realise that this is both unworkable and Orwellian or whether they just don't care.

For example, I get dog's abuse online and, frankly, I wouldn't be doing my job if everyone agreed with what I said.

Did I ask for the guy who repeatedly emailed me to say that I should be raped? Or the guy who went on Facebook to say that my house should be bombed? Or the Catholic nutter who repeatedly referred to me as a paedophile?

No, obviously I didn't. But I also don't care. These people are sad, socially inadequate losers who have no impact on my life.

In other words, we all have a choice about whether we get upset by the idiots in the electronic undergrowth.

Giving out about online abuse is a bit like waving your fist at the sky when it's raining - it's an exercise in futility and, of course, an opportunity to do a bit of grandstanding in the public eye as well.

We have developed a pernicious cult of the victim, where people are actively encouraged to feel harassed and victimised and 'unsafe' whenever they encounter something they don't like.

But all that is doing is simply turning an entire generation of people into emotionally incontinent weaklings who suffer a panic attack whenever someone is less than complimentary about them.

Rather than emphasising resilience and a basic degree of fortitude, our political masters know that if they can create a problem, they can create a solution and, therefore, they justify their existence.

It's a political scam, nothing more.

We don't even have to imagine what such a law would mean in this country.

No, we only need to look across the water to see the madness that has been unleashed in the UK by their Malicious Communications Act - dawn raids on trolls, prison sentences for being a jerk and, of course, the establishment and the cops get to massage their statistics to look as if they're cracking down on a scourge that exists only in their own febrile imagination.

The time has surely come for us to stop tolerating this asinine censorious. The law doesn't exist simply to save your feelings. In fact, nobody cares about your feelings.

How can something be a crime when the only damage is to someone's very subjective sense of self esteem?

We have too many laws as it is.

We certainly don't need meddling losers making more of them.

Indo Review

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