When I spoke out in favour of free speech last week on Channel 4 News, I was unpleasantly surprised to find just how unpopular this view now is with the fashionable people who watch that programme.
My great sin was to suggest that the Britain of my youth had been much more free than it is now.
Oh, yes, they sneered, free for people like you – white, heterosexual males. They suggested that, for anyone else, the country was a seething pit of racial and sexual bigotry.
One, utterly misunderstanding the past, even tried to tell me that women were not allowed to drink at the bars of pubs until 1983.
Revolutionaries always defame the past. I remember the amazement and surprise among Russians when a film called The Russia We Have Lost appeared in Moscow in the 1990s, showing how clean, civilised and often beautiful pre-Communist Russia had been, including the people themselves, uncrushed by decades of war, poverty, purges and stupidity.
And there is a wonderful passage in George Orwell’s 1984 in which the hero, Winston Smith, tries in vain to discover, from a rambling old man in a pub, what the past before Communism was really like.
He gives up in despair. ‘When memory failed and written records were falsified, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted because there did not exist, and never again could exist any standard against which it could be tested.’
Read more: Peter Hitchens: Paradise? No, but the Britain of my youth was FREE – by today’s standards absolutely it was