Wednesday 18 October 2017

Curtailing over-the-top free speech will never be the answer to violence

Those who call for a kinder, more respectful form of political dialogue should start with themselves, writes Eilis O'Hanlon

MP Jo Cox speaking in the House of Commons. Photo: AFP/Getty
MP Jo Cox speaking in the House of Commons. Photo: AFP/Getty

Eilis O'Hanlon

Nature abhors a vacuum. Tragedy hates one even more. Within moments of the attack on British Labour MP Jo Cox, social media was full of people not only seeking more information on the shooting of this young woman, but commenting on possible motives. It was only a matter of time before the conspiracy theorists flocked to fill the information gap.

Within hours, reacting to reports that the murder had been carried out by a man shouting "Britain first", some fringe commentators concluded that this must have been a so-called "false flag" attack carried out by forces in the British establishment who were panicked by the rise in support for a "Brexit" from the European Union in Thursday's vote.

Such conspiracy theories proliferate in the aftermath of a tragedy like toadstools in a damp cellar. They're easily identifiable as deranged, and a firewall of common sense stops them spreading too far - but what if the idiocy isn't quite so obvious?

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