If you have not already seen David Starkey’s outrageous racist slurs have a little watch. Awful no? There have been no shortages of people who have thrown their weight into articles to highlight why he was not only wrong, but also dangerous. If unchallenged, views such as Starkey’s can foster hatred which has very real and very dangerous consequences. The point however, is that they are not left unchallenged. Authors such Owen Jones have done a great job of providing an articulate alternative. Indeed, what has been lovely is the way the majority unite in shocked opposition to the repulsiveness of Starkey’s comments.
In a perverse twist of logic, we would not have had a torrent of columns and articles about tolerance, trust and community if it was not for Starkey’s awful comments. This thought process draws its ideas from the thinking of John Stuart Mill’s ‘On Liberty’ (1859) in which Mill argued that truth (that evolves and adapts over time) can only be ascertained through its comparison to ‘false’ sentiments. Although he also warns about our ability to judge what is ‘false’ and what is ‘truth’. He argues freedom of speech should be celebrated, and ‘false’ comments should be welcomed as they help us to distinguish what is ‘truth’. Mill argued that free discussion is necessary to prevent the “deep slumber of a decided opinion“. I would argue that the likes of Starkey and Douglas Murray (two high profile public figures whose views I find deplorable) keep the moral consciousness alive and burning.
Ordinary people are struggling to find meaning behind the recent riots. It is interesting that it takes someone like Starkey for us to be able to articulate what we know was not the ‘cause’. Without doubt or hesitation, 99% of Brits can happily say the riots did not happen because the “whites had started to act black”. Thanks to Starkey and Mill, we know what we are not – racists.