Call Number: Mudd 2nd Floor Book Display
Publication Date: 2015-06-18
Free speech is being threatened, not by jackbooted censorship but by a creeping culture of conformism. This is a call to gird up our loins and laptops to fight the new free speech wars. Do we really need to worry about free speech in the West these days? After all, while the Internet might be censored in China and "blasphemers" can be executed in Islamist states, here everybody in public life insists that they now support free speech. And yet... Scratch the surface and it becomes clear that many support not so much free speech as speech on parole, released on licence with a promise of good behaviour, preferably wearing a security ankle bracelet to stop it straying from the straight and narrow. Lobbies demanding tighter regulation for the UK press try to differentiate between what they deem the respectable, serious press and the vulgar, irascible tabloids. Twitter has become the scene of "twitch hunts" where online mobs hunt down trolls and others who step outside the accepted conventions of online opinion. Football fans are nicked for a "racially-motivated public order offence" after calling a famously fat and Scottish manager a "fat Scottish w****r". In today's context, these all become coded ways to insist that there is too much freedom of expression in our society. And yet without freedom of expression, no other liberties would be possible. Against the background of the historic fight for free speech, this book identifies the unique challenges facing freedom of expression today and spells out how unfettered freedom of expression, despite the pain and the problems it entails, is the most important liberty of all.