COMMENT:

"No rescue like this, and on this scale, has been attempted in human history," said Richard Lloyd Parry in

The Times

.

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If he means no rescue of 12 boys and a man trapped in an underground cave tunnel system in Thailand has been attempted, then he's absolutely right. The grandeur of this achievement has been equalled only by the extremes of hyperbole used to wring even more drama from an event that already had more than enough of it.

The complexity of the task, the ingenuity brought to bear on its solution, the bravery of the rescuers – especially after one of their number died before the operation even began – and the courage of the rescued all deserve the highest praise. Nothing could possibly diminish it.

But why does it have to made into a competition? Is it really more impressive than past rescues, such as the evacuation of 338,000 soldiers from Dunkirk in one week of World War II by a flotilla including hundreds of civilian volunteers? Is it greater than Ernest Shackleton's epic voyage to rescue his stranded crew from Elephant Island? More importantly, does it matter whether it is or not?

Thanks to technology, the Tham Luang rescue is more "real" to us than these other events.

When Shackleton was defying the odds, he was not able to tweet his progress or post updates on Instagram. The men and women of Dunkirk operated free from the eye of all-seeing media. People on the far side of the world were not picking up their phones every morning to see whether those missions were succeeding or not.

None of us alive this week will ever forget it what happened in Thailand. Tham Luang is a great reminder of what humans are capable of and that there are still plenty of people who will do their best and achieve great things.

But let's not forget all those others, elsewhere in the world, equally brave and self-sacrificing, who have not survived, nor those who face death every day in the course of their duty, quietly and purposefully, because we are humans and we look after each other.

The kerfuffle concerning the cancelled visit of "alt-right" speakers Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux highlights how slippery the issue of freedom of speech is.

We still don't really know why their visit was cancelled. Surely not because they were unwilling to speak in any other than a council venue? Perhaps bookings to hear their defence of free speech with ticket prices starting at $79 weren't all that might have been hoped.

I don't believe they should have been banned (which they weren't) or silenced (which they weren't). You need to be able to hear an argument in order to counter it.

So, before we pile on the pair, we should know the sorts of statement they are capable of making. Here's two examples. Molyneux: "Screaming 'racism' at people because blacks are collectively less intelligent ... is insane." Southern: "Hitler was a "social justice warrior".

Well, I've made up my mind.

On the strength of that I think one thing we should ban is the use of the phrase "alt-right" which sugar coats extreme views and makes them sound closer to some sort of mainstream.

"Noxious hate merchants" might be a better label.

I'd also like not to hear any more from the heart-tugging chorus telling us that their grandfathers went to war in order to defend freedom of speech for everyone. That's rather missing the point of World War II, which was fought precisely to silence one of the vilest bigots the world has ever seen.