09 January 2017

Two Years on from the Hebdo Massacre, Freedom of Expression is More Imperiled Than Ever

.... Whether forcing students of the LSE Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society to remove “Jesus and Mo” T-shirts or attempting to silence ex-Muslim Maryam Namazie’s speeches to students at Warwick University or Goldsmiths College, a climate of intimidation prevails. Amnesty International has also maintained complicit silence in offering no public support to those satirising or critiquing Islam in the UK even though it did take a principled opposition to the banning of the play The Bible: The Complete Word of God (Abridged).

The Guardian’s topic-specific selective censorship (above) is consistent with the general approach of the UK media, as evidenced by the refusal of any mainstream media outlet to publish or show the Danish cartoons when the controversy exploded in 2005.

Taking offense has become the first refuge of the censor and the media meekly complies. Hasan concludes his chapter with a poignant citation from On Liberty, in which Mill reflects on the inconsistency in wanting free discussion while objecting to it being ‘pushed to an extreme’.

If the reasons for allowing extreme cases of free expression are not good then they are not good for any case at all, since free expression is intended a forteriori for those ideas which are up for debate, not for ones that are considered to be so certain as to need no further discussion.

Hasan concludes that restoring the freedom of expression enjoyed four decades ago will require courage and determination, as well as the participation of the mainstream media and academia. [Conatus News] Read more