IT shouldn’t come as a surprise that any discussion about freedom of speech on Twitter soon descends into an embarrassment, and I’m getting tired of an underlying belief among some participants that utter idiocy is permissible simply because they are a citizen and can think whatever they like.

I, too, am a citizen. I was not born a journalist, I became one by happy accident while drifting through life in bar jobs. I’m of working-class stock and I still own absolutely nothing of value (buying a couch last week was the financial highlight of my adult life). I am more a woman “of the people” than a number of high-profile charlatans on the far right (yes, Nigel Farage, I mean you).

And so as I write this, consider me speaking to you as a fellow citizen, not some suspect member of the “liberal elite” as the likes of Farage would have you believe. I am an enraged citizen, and I’m at the end of my tether with the success the far-right is enjoying with celebrating ignorance like it’s a working-class virtue and sneering and vilifying anyone who turns up with a fact or an argument that extends further than 280 characters. It’s manipulative, it’s embarrassing and it’s high time citizens woke up.

We citizens have a responsibility; democracy – and by that I mean us having any hope of a say in how the country runs and how our lives are affected – does not take care of itself. It needs work, attention and determination. It requires us giving a stuff about it and being prepared to take action when it’s doing us down. Is it unfair when it’s corrupted by the rich and greedy? Yes. Is it an injustice when those at the top reap the benefits while all of us at the bottom scrimp and save? Yes. Does that mean we can stick two fingers up to it all and decide we’re having nothing to do with it? No, it doesn’t, not on your nelly.

My impatience with what I observe was awoken again this week after Stephen Yaxley-Lennon – aka Tommy Robinson – hit the headlines when he left prison after being jailed for taking it upon himself to broadcast on the internet outside a court about an ongoing case because of his chilling obsession with "Muslim" paedophilia.

It was all about freedom of speech, screamed his far-right supporters in a rehearsed chorus, and it’s infuriating to see how well it’s lapped up by the, often working-class, target audience.

Now, understand me here: the abject failure of successive governments, both locally and globally, has pushed many to the point of desperation and hopelessness. We know that this is fertile ground for the far-right, and we know that the best propaganda leaves its targets utterly convinced of their freedom of mind while being relentlessly controlling.

But we are not living in times of old. We have access to more information than we could ever absorb, and it’s all at our fingertips. We do not have to simply sit as passive receivers of whatever propagandists wish to throw our way. We need to stop excusing intellectual laziness with the blame game. Take Brexit for example: if I see one more TV vox pop of a voter repeating that they didn’t have basic information about things that were being extensively written about, I will scream.

The far-right feeds off exactly that kind of attitude. It vindicates lazy ideas. It encourages people to seek less information and opt for slogans instead. It’s much easier to scream “fake news” at something than to spend half an hour examining it and challenging your own thoughts.

And here we are this week with social media users screaming “free speech” when it comes to Yaxley-Lennon while offering no analysis about the Contempt of Court law he broke and how they believe it should be reformed in line with both freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial. Note: a university education or a Mensa IQ is not required to understand these things, they’re really quite straightforward and there’s plenty of information right there on whatever device you’re reading this column on.

The dumbing-down of society suits the dark-right forces backing the likes of Yaxley-Lennon, and the accompanying passiveness and unwillingness to question anything in any detail whatsoever is a powerful tool for those who wish to do great harm. We have seen this in history before.

So, citizens, we have a responsibility. We are duty-bound to keep our minds as educated, open and knowledgeable as they can be, and we have more access to information now than we've ever had. All it takes is just a splash of critical thinking. We can blame a lot of other people for a lot of things, but we only have ourselves to blame if we allow our minds to be taken over by the emerging idiocracy.