Free Speech: Are You Sure About That?

free speech

free speechFree speech and censorship are topics I have always taken a lot of interest in, even as the terms themselves take on a range of meanings. Some such meanings amount to deliberate, malicious redefinition, in case you hadn’t noticed. What more of a good-is-bad, up-is-down piece of nonsense could you imagine than the announcing of a Free Speech Champion by the very same government that tried to order schools to ban any ‘anti-capitalist material’ from the curriculum?

While that appointment does seem to be yet another contemptuous power-play on behalf of one of the worst governments this country has seen in decades, supposedly progressive people can also be ridiculously and even dangerously censorious when they forget – and this is perhaps the crucial point – that you can’t make rules that only apply to those you disapprove of without risking those same rules being turned straight back on you. Want to prohibit things which are offensive? Bigots are offended by all sorts of things – how will you stop them from stopping your activities on the grounds that what you are doing offends bigots?

free speechIt’s generally the Right who misuse the concept of free speech more, these days: they tend to be the ones who believe the entitlement to speak freely includes the entitlement to speak uninterrupted, unchallenged and uncriticized – at least for them and those who share their worldview. People who bawl and whine about having been ‘silenced’ for their unpalatable or contrarian view generally seem to be able to do so copiously and lucratively from a wide range of platforms, essentially failing to understand others’ equal entitlement to argue with them, point out their factual errors or simply ignore them. No one has an indisputable right to be added to a bill or a panel, or to be published if an editor decides not to run a piece of writing. (It’s unfortunate that some people’s virtue-signalling takes the form of publicly disinviting a speaker at the last minute: it can be childishly ill-mannered, but it’s not illegal. When there have been contracts signed or fees agreed that’s a matter for those involved to sort out among themselves.)

Maybe student organisations can give the Free Speech Warriors a run for their money by inviting the most OTT ‘looting is righteous’ radical activists to come and give a talk, and then appealing to the new authorities if the event gets cancelled…


Don’t forget to have a look in the bookshop before you go…

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