Where’s the line?

IN LIGHT of recent events, and as the current Opinion Editor for this media behemoth, I’ve recently had to consider my place on where to draw the line on what I personally would publish. I’ve never had to make the decision myself, and in the past I have knowingly written things which are incredibly near the knuckle, knowing that if it were to be considered too far, somebody would stop me. Now this isn’t the case and the buck which stops with me, is now controlled by me.

On The Opinions Show we run on Friday mornings, I mentioned in passing at the end after some casual chat about racism in football, a subject on which everyone in the studio shared the same opinion (surprise surprise), I jokingly shared the notion that should Robert Winnicki want to come on, it would make for some more heated debate.

Following the end of that broadcast I had to stop and think; would I allow myself to be the conduit for what could be considered ‘hate speech’? I haven’t seen, nor have I heard what he has to say, I, like many have only read what other people have said to this point. However, if what I have heard is true, I’m not sure I could justify my decision to print or play it, but then, why even have free speech eh? And surely, if I trust that most human beings can see through and make up their own, less radical minds, then what’s the worry?
My decision therefore shocked myself more than anything. I’ve always been on the stauncher side of ‘where the line is’; primarily because the majority of the debates I have waged have been based on comedy. When I belatedly found out about the arrival of Mr Winnicki and his views, my reaction was at first akin to, ‘you must be f***ing joking’. But of course, some of these beliefs are nothing to joke about.

However, I’ve previously defended people like Jimmy Carr, Bo Burnham and Frankie Boyle for jokes they’ve made on things such as the Holocaust. The reason is intent. There is no intent from these people, yet there is from Winnicki. Comics make light of issues in society in a way people can relate and engage with without feeling too awkward, a-la, this piece. There are plenty of Jewish comedians out there who do the same and defend others who do to. Seinfeld is just one of many.

Boyle for me took it too far targeting an individual in specific, and even though I understood the joke, it removed the individual from his collective, singling one person out for something society already deems risqué is probably where I draw the line, but it’s really a case by case basis. It should also be noted that he’d already been brought up on a joke directed towards Katie Price before, and another direct assault seemed to be a tad too much. Again, that’s my opinion and I can still see why people find it funny. There’s no intent to offend in humour, there is in bigotry.

Come the last Friday in October there was uproar then as it turned out Winnicki was supposed to be speaking in the Old College, then a pub and then just ‘somewhere’. Turns out, he spoke  at a student’s flat. I’m glad the University and the Students’ Union released the statements they did, it’s impossible to commit to LGBT rights and allow somebody with Winnicki’s views to speak on your premises.

If there was anybody out there though who wasn’t sure about Winnicki’s views, they are plentiful on the internet and in the media. A few which have been raised to me and which in turn raised my eyebrows are from an interview with Onet.pl (a popular site in Poland) in June of this year solidified my decision not to have anymore to do with it after this and the Open Letter, (undersigned by countless Polish students unhappy with how they were portrayed). Within the interview, Winnicki neglected to apologise, condemn or even deny his expressions that “faggots and left-wingers” should be afraid, and dodged questions on the holocaust or that in another interview in 2012 he stated that homosexual tendencies were a type of disease to be fought back against.

This offended me, and I’m neither gay nor Jewish, nor would I consider myself that left wing at all. I try to be as open as possible; the much repeated adage from Ricky Gervais that “just because you’re offended doesn’t mean you’re right” sticks with me like glue. It reminds me to look at things from different points of view and it also reminds me that if people are offended by something I’ve said or written, it could just be that they don’t agree with me, rather than asserting they are right. And it’s right that people should get offended and voice their opinions, it’s the backbone of democracy but for me, in 2013, when there are people who are still fighting vehemently against people being gay, not just gay marriage, people being homosexual, I have to wonder what they’ve been doing for the past forty-fifty years.

My only issues with gay marriage are that I don’t understand why anyone would want to get married, gay or straight, but that’s for another article. I understand a Christian protesting gay marriage, I can see where they’re coming from, no matter how much I disagree. I understand UKIP campaigning for stricter immigration because I can go and read their reasoning, no matter how much I disagree with it, but I cannot fathom a holocaust denier or a somebody who believes homosexuality is a disease. There is no reasoning, there is just ignorance and bigotry.

I grant that Winnicki probably isn’t the worst the world has to offer, and I grant that he made his speech in a private flat and in no public forum in the end, but in my opinion, I’m glad he’s gone and I wouldn’t exactly be ecstatic to see him back anytime soon.