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It's not extreme views that incur wrath of others, my critics just can't stand that I can respect a different tribe: Ruth Dudley Edwards

There will always be those who prefer us to live confined to cultural ghettoes

By Ruth Dudley Edwards

Published 13/06/2016

Rangers manager Mark Warburton
Rangers manager Mark Warburton
Belfast Telegraph columnist Ruth Dudley Edwards

A new friend whom I met for dinner last week reported that in the west of Ireland, where he goes often, he had asked an old friend if he'd read my latest book, The Seven: the lives and legacies of the founding fathers of the Irish republic.

Having never had a cross word with this person, he was disconcerted to see him, as he put it, "go nuts and red-faced, denounce me for all kinds of revisionist wickednesses" and indicate that he'd rather be dead than read anything I wrote.

I laughed, and told him that only a few hours earlier, a Dublin friend who had rung me to discuss cultish behaviour had told me of an almost identical encounter he had just had with someone he had hitherto thought sane.

I get a lot of abusive messages, mostly on social media, and almost all from Irish and Scottish republicans and anti-semites (categories that often overlap).

Since I am an enthusiast for free speech, I don't block or otherwise try to silence my critics.

Indeed, because I quite enjoy some of their ravings, I often retweet insults.

One recently claimed that I was a supporter of the armed paedophile wing of the Orange Order.

There was a bumper crop recently because of my column last week discussing a sinister attempt to demonise Rangers supporters by dehumanising them.

As I explained, I have no interest whatsoever in football, but I dislike injustice and lies, and it seemed to me that Rangers were suffering from both.

Like the Orange Order, they have far more good than bad apples, but they are culturally poor at public relations, and their opponents seem well organised and as vicious as they are self-righteous and unscrupulous.

Various outraged people denounced me as a bigot-lover, not least because I had quoted an article from the Vanguard Bears blogsite for Rangers supporters, which was, they told me, full of hatred and bigotry.

So I had a look at the site again, and declare myself baffled.

The motto at the top is a quote from Mark Warburton (below), the club's manager: "We have to maintain the highest levels of discipline and standards of behaviour.

"If we don't, we will be weak as a group".

I have tried to see what's objectionable about that and admit failure.

The articles I've read there are reasonable and intelligently written.

I read the terms and rules for the VB forum, which said that users of the bulletin board had to agree they would not post "any material which is knowingly false and/or defamatory, inaccurate, abusive, vulgar, hateful, harassing, obscene, profane, sexually oriented, threatening, invasive of a person's privacy, or otherwise violative of any law".

If I applied such standards to the apoplectic cybernats and Shinnerbots to whom I allow free expression on my Facebook or Twitter pages, there would be a drastic reduction in communications from those who don't like my opinions.

They hate unionists with such a passion that it drives them mad when people like me, from an Irish Roman Catholic nationalist background, get to know, like and admire people from the "other tribe".

Over recent years, Scottish nationalists have been emulating Irish republicans in their addiction to groupthink, an affliction I believe is responsible for many of the ills of the world. That is why I'm proud to be called a revisionist, for that is a person who changes her opinion in the light of new evidence.

And it's why I have a soft spot for Presbyterians and Jews, who never stop arguing with each other.

Some years ago, when Ian Paisley had to step down from his role as First Minister, I wrote an article about what I considered to be his malign influence on Northern Ireland.

I had phone calls and emails from Ulster Presbyterians who were delighted that in the middle of all the guff about his so-called conversion to peace-making, someone was recalling uncomfortable truths.

I love the company of Jews, not least because they're trained in exegesis, the critical examination of even sacred texts, something that would benefit followers of Roman Catholicism, Islam, many other religions, and groupthinkers everywhere who want us all to live in intellectual and cultural ghettoes.

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