DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Provocateur Piers shouldn't be shackled

DAILY MAIL COMMENT: Provocateur Piers shouldn’t be shackled

Piers Morgan is a professional provocateur. Upsetting people is what he does.

While skewering the great and good, the brash TV host treads the fine line between strident opinion and offensiveness.

And while polite society and the ‘woke’ might splutter indignantly, what’s not in doubt is he’s broadcasting box office gold.

Or was, until Tuesday, when he was effectively fired as a Good Morning Britain presenter. His crime? Denouncing the Duchess of Sussex on-air by saying he ‘didn’t believe a word’ of her self-pitying interview with Oprah Winfrey.

Pictured: Piers Morgan seen leaving his West London home to take his daughter Elise to school on March 10, 2021 in London

During this prime-time performance, the one-time actress accused the Royal Family of racism and making her life so miserable she contemplated suicide.

After Morgan’s acerbic remarks, Meghan – who purportedly ignores the media – personally complained to ITV. He then fell (or was pushed) on to his sword.

Let the Mail be crystal clear: Racism is abhorrent. This paper has been saying so since launching a campaign to bring justice for Stephen Lawrence a quarter of a century ago – and indeed long before that.

Equally, mental health issues should be treated seriously and never belittled. If Meghan, as a new member of the monarchy, was deprived of help during psychological turmoil, that was profoundly wrong.

But while the duchess is entitled to tell her ‘truth’ (and a number of her bombshells to Oprah were simply not accurate), aren’t other people entitled to theirs?

If she and Harry seek to burnish their reputations by hurling poisonous barbs at the monarchy before a global audience, shouldn’t they expect criticism?

Pictured: Prince Harry and Meghan, The Duke and Duchess of Sussex, give an interview to Oprah Winfrey

No one has to agree with Morgan’s every utterance. But it is vital we defend free speech – the bedrock of civilised society.

People must be able to express uncomfortable opinions and challenge orthodoxies without fear of losing their job.

But increasingly, debate is being shackled by an intolerant neo-censorian mob.

Female lecturers concerned about women’s rights? Cancelled. Scientists critical of the Government’s Covid strategy? Blacklisted. One academic was even barred from giving a university talk on free speech.

Such curbs on acceptable discourse are dangerous. If certain subjects and ideas are inviolable, society can’t progress.

While skewering the great and good, the brash TV Piers Morgan (pictured left with Susanna Reid on March 9, before he stormed off live on air) treads the fine line between strident opinion and offensiveness

With deplorable opportunism, Labour is exploiting the royals row by demanding tough regulation on the ‘racist’ media.

This not only highlights the hypocrisy of Sir Keir Starmer, who previously worked to put an anti-Semite in No10, it would give free licence to sleazy celebrities, corrupt politicians and dishonest businessmen – reined in by the threat of exposure.

If free speech, encompassing the right to offend, isn’t defended fiercely we risk an unwitting slide into tyranny.

After being fired, Morgan took to social media to quote Sir Winston Churchill: ‘Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.’ 

That rings as true today as it did 80 years ago.

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