There’s a lot of talk about “free speech” being under threat these days, with reports of de-platforming at universities, academics losing their jobs because of their political opinions, artists and celebrities getting “cancelled” over an off-colour joke, an even vaguely non-PC opinion, or just supporting Donald Trump.
The entire reason this website exists is the sheer amount of censorship in both corporate media and social media.
We have an archive dedicated to it, that doesn’t include even half of 1% of the deleted comments on The Guardian alone.
Rather notably the US is trying to extradite (and perhaps execute) a man for simply telling the truth.
You’d be forgiven for thinking that free speech was, indeed, under attack.
But you’d be wrong. The Guardian says so, or at least Martha Gill says so. She headlines:
Free speech isn’t under threat. It just suits bigots and boors to suggest so
But is free speech really under threat? The first thing to say is that the scale of the problem in universities has been exaggerated. The practice of denying people speaking slots over their views has rightly caused concern, but every single instance has also attracted vast coverage in national papers, giving the impression of an epidemic. They are not reflective of the feelings of most students.
Free speech advocates also misunderstand the motivation of those who might want to shut down a debate: they see this as a surefire mark of intolerance.
…some debates should be shut down. For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there.
It’s a magical journey:
- Censorship ISN’T happening, that’s just something racists say
- If censorship WERE happening it would be for a good reason
- Censorship IS happening, and is a good thing
Personally, I love the phrase “For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there”, wonderful. Perfect. The liberal argument for censorship – The debate isn’t shut down, it’s just over. We won. We need to move forward.
Dissent will be bad for “public dialogue”.
The examples she cites – Flat Earth, burning witches etc. are deliberately extreme and ridiculous, but the principle could equally apply to anything. Global warming, Assad’s “war crimes”, socialism, antisemitism. MH17. The Skripals.
The list is endless. All they have to do is assume a political position, declare the debate over and then silence the dissent for the sake of “public dialogue”. This does not make them “anti-free speech”:
No-platformers are not scared – they simply think certain debates are over. You may disagree, but it does not mean they are against free speech.
A beautifully totalitarian position. They will rebrand intolerance as being “enlightened” and “woke” and “progressive”.
Don’t worry guys – The only debates being shut down are ones which should be, because they’re over.