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At FREER we’re tired of reading complaints about millennials. It’s time we gave them a break. That’s why we’re publishing our paper today on free speech. This week, Labour attempted to muzzle our free press and inhibit investigative journalism. It’s not young people who are closing down debate. We need a new generation to champion freedom and we want to hear what they’ve got to say. If they do, they can carry a breadth of opinions with enthusiasm and idealism.
Our society needs more young voices. If the worn-out line ‘our children are our future’ is to have any meaning (they themselves struggle to believe it nowadays), we need to revitalise it by giving younger generations more freedom to act, speak, and think.
But, why? Isn’t this the freest generation that has ever existed? Can’t they be anything they want to be, go anywhere they want to go, or even use their phones to travel, or experience a different part of the world through virtual reality?
Like Dave Gorman’s Modern Life is Goodish; we are only freeish.
We are free to do so much, but it must be done in a certain way – or else. Freedom of speech is being limited by kangaroo courts on social media. Under the watchful eye of the Twitterati, mob rule is imposed on those who dare offer a different opinion to the emotive groupthink.
Any challenges to the prevailing orthodoxy are met with death threats, calls to resign or even personal identities being shared online. The crime? To disagree.
The internet, the greatest innovation of the last century, should be a platform for open discourse. It offers an outlet to those who might otherwise might never have been listened to. Yet, young people are complaining about being scared off social media. Too much intimidation and abuse, for what they think, wear or which party they vote for.
We talk about diversity, but this means more than just skin colour, gender or sexuality. More than anything, we need diversity of ideas but instead, individual diversity is being compressed to a single, narrow-minded view.
‘You can’t say that’, leads easily to ‘you can’t think that’. The ability to understand diverse viewpoints is being slowly sapped. We are losing the potential for this generation to be the single most open-minded, tolerant and understanding that has ever existed.
It would be a mistake to think this hysteria is because young people are easily offended. The misguided idea that students are snowflakes is yet another way of dismissing opinions through identity politics. Who started using this label? Older members of society who simply do not think the young have anything worth saying.
We need to return to the classical liberal ideas that where no harm, (defamation, hate or harassment) is done, we should be free to speak according to our own moral compasses. I said in my maiden speech that democracy was messy. So too is freedom of speech.
It will still provoke raw emotion. It will still hurt to have our most cherished ideas challenged. But it will allow us to test each other without fear of reprisal and develop our characters and our thoughts for the better.
Kemi Badenoch is Vice Chairman of the Conservative Party for Candidates