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Ian O'Doherty: Gray Gate is NOT all black and white

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Okay, let's clear up something first of all. Andy Gray deserved to be sacked. But that doesn't mean I'm not extremely uncomfortable with the whole thing and the cynicism that has surrounded it.

And why, as someone who regularly rails against the diktats of political correctness, do I think it was right to sack Gray for making a few off-colour gags?

Well, it wasn't that he made a few off-colour gags, it was the way he behaved to Charlotte Jackson in that now infamous footage of him asking her to tuck his mic into his trousers.

What made me so queasy at that footage was the uncomfortable look on her face and the almost manic cackling of Gray as he noticed her discomfort.

It wasn't so much that it was sexist, it was the fact that it was the act of a bully and that's the crucial difference. And bullies deserve everything they get.

It's all about context — there are some women in the office that I could say that to (even though I wouldn't) and they'd laugh and come back at me with something even more insulting. On the other hand, if I said that to some of the other women, I'd be up before human resources within five minutes.

And yet, and yet...

The sanctimonious bullshit we have been forced to endure over the course of the last week has been a worrying indicator of just how intolerant this society is becoming.

At one point there were even calls from people, mad people obviously, for Gray to be prosecuted for his actions — as if being a twat is now a criminal offence.

Here in Ireland and Britain, and indeed America, the airing of views that some people don't like is now seen as a potentially criminal offence.

In fact, the only Englishspeaking country that seems to have maintained any common sense on this matter is Australia, but I couldn't move there because I'm afraid of spiders.

You only have to look at how the Irish Refugee Council tried to have Kevin Myers of this parish prosecuted because he wrote a column that went against their orthodoxy.

And, in the current climate, when you go against someone's orthodoxy, that immediately makes you guilty of incitement to hatred.

This stifling of any debate is dangerous because it allows those with the thinnest skin, those who are quickest to take offence and those who are just arseholes to take the stage because they are the ones who are shouting the loudest and therefore they become the dominant voice in the narrative.

I've been the subject of this type of group’s thinking plenty of times and it tends to be both baffling and infuriating.

I wrote a piece last year in support of gay marriage and universal equality but pointed out that calling for these rights while dressed as one of the Village People at the gay pride rally probably, on the whole, wasn't the smartest way to do it.

Cue immediate outrage — how dare I criticise the pride rally. I was obviously a homophobic bigot and, inevitably, there were the usual tedious calls for this to result in prosecution.

It's as if the new rules for modern living have been decided by a mumu-wearing lesbian feminist who works as a social worker for Hackney council.

Any comment from a man on female behaviour? That's sexism, that is. Any comment on gay behaviour, such as saying that gay men should be done for public indecency as much as straight people when they go cottaging? That's homophobic, that is. Point out that the idea of a Black Police Association is itself inherently racist? Well, now you're nicked, my son, because that's racist.

And as for Muslims?

Jesus, don't get me started. The amount of times I've been accused of being Islamophobic is beyond count. And what's interesting is that the most vociferous defenders of Muslims and their ways — and I sincerely and genuinely feel that Islam is the biggest threat to the West since the end of the Cold War — tends to come from white, middle-class Leftists.

They compete with each other to see who is the most tolerant — by being completely intolerant of the opposite point of view. And they say it's only the Americans who don't get irony?

Perhaps the simplest way to look at it is this — being a Holocaust denier makes you an idiot, it doesn't not make you a criminal, yet denial of the Holocaust is a crime in most European countries.

Calling for another Holocaust, however, now that's a different matter altogether and should be a criminal offence because it is incitement to murder.

So, you see, one is a thought crime and an indication of stupidity, the other poses an actual threat to people's safety yet both will see you have your collar felt.

And to prove that this prissy intolerance of unpopular viewpoints is completely ideologically driven, look at the case of Francis and Susanne Wilkinson, the Cornish B+B owners who were sued when they refused to let a gay couple stay in their house.

Were they right to do so? I don't think so. Did they have the right? Yeah, of course they did. You have gay hostels that won't allow straight people in and that's fine by me, so why can't a couple of Christians be allowed to abide by their belief, regardless of how daft the rest of us find them?

And, inevitably, the couple have been subjected to a vile campaign of hatred and have received numerous death threats. Are the owners of gay hostels ever subject to such abuse? Of course not. And how do I know that? Because if gay hostel owners were subjected to that kind of treatment the Guardian, the BBC and the cops would be all over it as another example of homophobia.

Tolerance, it seems, is now a strictly one-way street.

And it's time we started driving up it the wrong way.

iodoherty@independent.ie