Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Speaking Freely

Over at Spiked, Dolan Cummings, co-convenor of the Battle of Ideas, makes his (excellent) case for freedom of speech. argue for free speech is to make the case for free-thinking, reasoned debate and genuine tolerance. It is also to put forward a particular understanding of how society functions and the role of individual and collective agency, which is very different from the fearful and conservative worldview that gives birth to censorship and taboos. Instead, it is a worldview that allows for the possibility that things could be very different, and that human beings could be the authors of our own destinies. Rather than seeing change as a threat and seeking to contain discord, we can talk openly about the future, exchange ideas and argue over them rather than trying to suppress those that make us uncomfortable.

Freedom of speech is not merely a means to an end, then, or a rhetorical trick. It is an invitation to live a free life.

1 comment:

Sir Percy said...

Freedom of Speech is de rigeur today!

Keen current affairs 'junkies' ( me) will recall the origin of the phrase 'the oxygen of publicity' in this context.

Voltaire himself would have no difficulties in agreeing with this move.

From the Guardian

Let extremists speak, Lammy to tell media

Julia Day
Wednesday October 18, 2006

The culture minister David Lammy is set to wade into the debate on the media's coverage of Islam this evening by saying extremists should be invited to air their views in the British press.

Mr Lammy, delivering the Polis lecture on media and diversity in London this evening, will say that Islamic extremists should be given publicity in order to show their "poisonous" views up for what they are.

"People ask, is it right for the BBC or al-Jazeera to interview groups who spread mistrust and division through a twisted reading of Islam? To give them what used to be called the oxygen of publicity? The answer is 'yes, it is'," the minister will say.

"Freedom of expression means showing up the extremists for what they are. They usually don't speak for anyone other than themselves, and their poisonous voices are best silenced by rational and reasoned argument."

In a multiracial and increasingly fragmenting community, Mr Lammy will argue, it falls to the media to open up debate.

But he will tell the media that "the right to be offensive doesn't mean it is right to be offensive", and that increasing diversity meant that the media need to respect differences too.

"Publishing cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed was no shining defence of free speech. It ignored how power works," Mr Lammy will say. "The majority can shout louder than the minority, and printing the images was deliberately designed to cause offence.

"The British media acted with intelligence and sensitivity, just as they did when the London bombs went off last year.

"Freedom does not mean that regard for others no longer matters. Having the right to be offensive does not mean that it is right to be offensive."

Earlier today, it emerged that the Daily Star pulled a page from today's edition that mocked Muslim law by turning the tabloid into the "Daily Fatwa" following a newsroom revolt last night.

Management acted after the Daily Star's National Union of Journalists' chapel held a stop work meeting that produced a resolution condemning the page.

The page included a "Page 3 burqa babes special" showing a woman in a niqab, as part of a feature billed as "How your favourite paper would look under Muslim law".