Monday, 27 August 2012

Times: Freedom to discriminate?
Monday, August 20, 2012, 12:46 by Ramona Depares

Cyber-space is full of pseudo philosophers and fake do-gooders who seem to have enough leisure time that they can spend their days passing judgement on lifestyles that don't coincide with theirs. Such as on those who are in a same-sex relationship.

Usually I'm happy to ignore all the thrash that clutters the web, but occasionally I get irritated enough to call these people out on their moronic approach to life. Last week was one such example.

A screen-shot of a tweet by actor Morgan Freeman bearing the legend "I hate the word homophobia. You are not scared. You are an a*****e" went viral. As is my wont with anything that can help promote an ethos of non-discrimination - I tweeted it back.

It didn't take too long for the first Gaħan Malti to pop up with a banal comment. Morgan Freeman, I was told in no uncertain terms, is an incestuous paedophile; anything he says is suspect and therefore homophobia is just fine. I paraphrase, mostly because the editor wouldn't be too happy if I repeat the actual term used.

Now, for those who don't count celebrity stalking as one of their hobbies, a bit of background is in order. Freeman has apparently been accused by no less august a publication than the National Enquirer of having an affair with his 17-year-old step grand-daughter. Gross, I know. Just to put things in perspective, this is the same publication that gave us hard-hitting headlines such as "OJ Simpson is Kardashian's Dad!" and "Mario Lopez kicked out of restaurant!" Yes, they just love to pile on the exclamation marks.

Even so - for argument's sake, let's say that news about Freeman's less than wholesome private life is indeed correct. Most people with an average I.Q. can distinguish between the message and the messenger. But not our hero.

Still, I like to give people the benefit of the doubt; with a stretch of the imagination I could see why anyone naive enough to believe any old gossip rag might be disturbed. So I politely explained that the idea is to focus on the sentiment itself, rather than on the supposed shenanigans of some actor. End of story. Or so you'd think.

For my pains, my inbox was besieged with messages from the same Gaħan Malti. The accusations levelled against me varied from "spreading hate" (sic) to "promoting paedophilia" (it took our hero about four comments to discover the meaning of the word "pederast") and...wait for it because this one takes not just the biscuit but the whole flipping cake... being "a Nazi".

Yes, this last one threw me too. What precipitated it was a comment made by a friend who was trying to figure out whether this particular Gaħan was bona fide or whether he was actually promoting homophobia in a cowardly and roundabout manner.

"Just tell us that you agree with the message, not with the messenger," my unsuspecting friend wrote.

This is where the Nazi comment made an appearance. How dare we attempt to stop discrimination? That sort of thing places us right on a par with the likes of Castro, Ghaddafi and Hitler, right?

I kid you not, this was the gist of the eight or so rabid comments that were left by this paladin of freedom. Comments that he proceeded to delete, may I add, making me wish that I'd had the presence of mind to grab a screenshot for your amusement/desperation.

The final straw was an exhortation that we should "live and let live" and not attempt to "force our beliefs on others". Like I said, I usually take these kind of inane comments with a pinch or two of the salty stuff but not in this case. Not when there are people who try to promote a culture of discrimination by using "freedom" as an excuse.

So read my lips. It is not those who work to eradicate discrimination who are "forcing" anything on others. It is the opposite. The right to freedom does not include "freedom" to discriminate against other members of society. We have different words for that; "abuse"; "uncivilised behaviour"; "xenophobia"; "narrow-mindedness"; "cruelty", even.

And in countries that are more forward-thinking than ours, any attempt to exercise this imagined "freedom to discriminate" lands you slap-bang in court. As it rightly should.

[Click on the hyperlink above to view the comments on the Times' website.]

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