Peter Rhodes on hypocrisy - and what do Satanic Verses and emulsion paint have in common?

In the wake of the knife attack on Salman Rushdie, where do we stand on freedom of expression? “Dave of Coventry” joined a phone-in on Talk TV. Dave's brainwave is that the cartoons of Mohammed which caused so much anger and distress to Muslims, should be defiantly shown each day and every day by every media outlet in the land.

Richard Madeley – ticked off
Richard Madeley – ticked off

For all I know, the Daves of this world may hold some deep, liberal and hugely principled commitment to freedom of thought and expression. Or do they just want to offend other people, at zero risk to themselves? While Dave wanted the media to publish the cartoons, I bet he won't be displaying them in his own front window.

How to be woke. If you're woke, you wholeheartedly and unhesitatingly support Salman Rushdie's right to publish The Satanic Verses, because, with every fibre of your being, you believe in freedom of expression. However, you also call for the latest Crown Paints TV advert to be banned on the grounds that it casts the female character as a woman who sleeps around and is therefore misogynistic. If someone accuses you of double standards you report them for a hate crime.

The model and actress Lily Cole this week seemed to tick off Richard Madeley on Good Morning Britain for an earlier interview in which he mocked an eco- activist for wearing clothes derived from oil. Cole declared: “It’s really, really important that we don’t focus too much on individual action... the reality is that it’s impossible to be perfect. If we focus on that and focus on hypocrisy, we stop having the more important conversation.”

Nice try, but she's up against a lot of history and religion. Ever since Jesus thundered: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye are like unto whited sepulchres.” it has been open season on those who say one thing and do another.

A rock star who turns up at a “save the world” festival by private jet, the boss of a leaky water company who gets a massive pay cheque, the “green” prince with a fondness for helicopter flights all deserve to be held to account. Whatever celebrities may want us to think, hypocrisy is always an important conversation.

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