Free speech

Undiplomatic? Certainly. Stupid? Probably. Reason for a major media frenzy? Hardly. But nevertheless the unfortunate remarks by Henk Kesler, director of the Dutch football association, have unleashed just that.

The newspapers and radio chat shows this morning were full of shock, horror and condemnation because Kesler had called striking policemen ‘spoiled brats’. Vive freedom of speech!
But it seems this only applies if you are insulting Muslims…After all calling Muslims ‘goat f*******’ as did film-maker Theo van Gogh or ‘backward’ (Ayaan Hirsi Ali) means you are being brave and honest.
But calling the police ‘spoilt brats’, now that really is going too far.
Ministers said sternly that the police are valuable members of society and deserve our respect.
The chairman of the football association was furious and demanded Kesler apologise. Eventually after a short display of bravado, Kesler capitulated and said he was sorry – perhaps because his marching orders were being waved.
So what are the boundaries for public statements? Do we want a society where emotions are carefully choreographed and people are pilloried for every outburst? Or one where this only applies when the target (in this case, the police) are bastions of the (white, male) established order?

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