How so-called liberals have stifled free speech and have become censors
Anna Farquhar had noted that talk about NHS changes was spreading within the health service, remarking: "You cannot help the jungle drums."
Sitting as a member of the general public in the local scout hut where the meeting took place was Sonia Carr. She objected strongly to the phrase "jungle drums", regarding it as racist.
Mrs Farquhar, 70, immediately apologized for any offense caused, but Mrs Carr, a member of the Wiltshire Racial Equality Council, was unsatisfied, and submitted a complaint to Wiltshire Council, which launched a lengthy inquiry.
Six months later the council has produced a ten-page report upholding Mrs Carr's complaint.
Mrs Farquhar and fellow members of her independent watchdog have been banned from council meetings and premises as though they were common criminals rather than people trying to improve their local health service.
The council has also withdrawn funding that covered the group's administrative costs.
It can't be true, can it? I'm afraid it is. It may sound like a parody or send-up or an elaborate and not very good joke, but this is a fairly normal event in modern Britain - so relatively unexceptional that most of the media have chosen to ignore it.
Time and money has been wasted, and the peace of mind of a decent woman and her group shattered, all because a silly woman and a nincompoop council took offence at the term "jungle drums".
There is, of course, nothing remotely racist about it. In the pre-telegraph age, jungle drums served as a very good method in parts of Africa and elsewhere of communicating messages over a long distance. That's a fact.
The phrase does not make us think badly of Africans, nor does it diminish them or anyone else in our eyes. It serves as an effective metaphor for the rapid and sometimes mysterious way in which gossip is transmitted.
Though on one level the story is farcical, at a deeper level it is disturbing. One of the greatest threats to all of us in life is stupid people who are unaware of their limitations.
They can cause a great deal of damage. When their stupidity receives the backing of the law and the support of one of the institutions of the State - which is what Wiltshire Council is - it assumes a threatening, even sinister quality.
How did supposedly liberal people turn into petty tyrants? I believe that is what Mrs Carr, and many other people who regard themselves as enlightened, have become.
The intellectual history of the past 250 years has been one of increasing freedom of expression in politics, religion and literature. In the past 50 years that process has accelerated, so that it seemed there was practically nothing that could not be said or written.
Except when it offended the sensibilities of people who proclaim their so-called liberalism but seek to censor others who say things they deem offensive.
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