Tag Archives: free speech

LibLink: Nick Clegg: Free speech must not be the victim in fighting extremism

In this week’s Standard column, Nick Clegg looks at the controversy surrounding Donald Trump and Tyson Fury and questions the knee jerk reactions that call for them to be banned:

But there are always things in life which are unpleasant and offensive. Donald Trump is a dangerous loudmouth. Tyson Fury is a terrible role model. Germaine Greer is wrong on transgender rights.

Maybe it’s the instant, push-button, “something must be done” culture of the internet age. Adding your name to an online petition without a second’s thought is a gratifyingly rapid reflex to something that is irritating or outrageous in the news. It’s the digital equivalent of children stamping their feet in anger or frustration. My kids do it all the time.

But in the real world we can’t just wish away everything we don’t like. More importantly, banning stuff doesn’t mean it goes away — it just pops up somewhere else. Barring Trump from the UK is the political equivalent of playing Whack-a-Mole — he’ll just pop up somewhere else, twice as loud.

In a liberal society, offensive views should be challenged, not blocked. Bigots should be exposed and defeated in argument. Big-mouthed cretins should be ridiculed, not turned into martyrs (and certainly not elected president).

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 2 Comments

Banning the Lord’s prayer – how outrageous (if it were true)

The tabloids do love a good moan about how Christians are persecuted in this country.  It’s lost on them that representatives of the faith enjoy a privileged position in our Parliament and national life. So today’s stooshie about the Church of England’s ad, or, even more sensationally, “the Lord’s Prayer”  being “banned” is an early Christmas Present for the tabloid editor.

Except nobody has banned anything as the subsequent prevalence of this short advert proves.. In fact, if the agency who runs the advertising for the three biggest cinema chains had accepted the ad, they would have been breaking their own policy, which is not to accept religious or political adverts. They were a bit burned last year when they received negative feedback after running independence referendum ads in Scottish cinemas and were understandably reluctant to repeat the exercise.

You have to hand it to the Church of England for playing this brilliantly. Without handing over a penny, everyone in the country now knows how to access their advert. It’s embedded into many news articles about the row, it’s on their website, it’s on You Tube, it is everywhere.  They have managed to simultaneously complain about it being banned while ensuring that many more people have seen it than would have done over Mockingjay and popcorn.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 40 Comments

Opinion: Freedom of speech?

Southampton University is under attack: it is planning a conference on ‘International Law and the State of Israel: Legitimacy, Responsibility and Exceptionalism’  in April.  Paris University has been forced to cancel a conference entitled: ‘Israel Apartheid is real’.

I have recently attended two conferences on Islam, one of which also came under threat.

So when is free speech permissible and when not?

At my local university I have been shocked at the racist and Islamophobic comments made in talks and seminars by those who support Israel unreservedly.  Had I made similar comments about Jews and Judaism, I would have been thrown out.  Islam is no more homogenous than Judaism or Christianity  and the way it is practised is as much cultural, political and historical as any other. When I condemn Saudi Arabia or ISIS I am not condemning Islam as a whole, nor do I delegitimize Saudi as a State. On the contrary I am often defending Islam. When I criticise Israel, as a Jew myself, I am not attacking Judaism, I am criticising a regime that gives Judaism a bad name and when I criticise the USA, I am often criticising those who give Christianity a bad name.

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Opinion: Let’s look at the harm caused by Page 3

Given that Page 3 wasn’t in The Sun this week, it sure took up a lot of media space, especially among Lib Dems. Maybe I shouldn’t be surprised that loads of us want to wade into a fight that was framed as free speech and sexual expression vs gender equality and quality news reporting. But that’s not actually what’s going on at all: so here is a rundown of what Page 3 is, and why it’s harmful.

Page 3 is normalising objectification of women. The Sun makes printing nude women for the sole purpose of titillation in a national newspaper, which would otherwise be totally weird, normal. Images of nude women and breasts are perfectly normal and widely available in a sexual context (see, 80% of the internet), but a daily national newspaper is not the place for it, because it’s supposed to be for news. “Women have breasts” is pretty much the oldest story there is. Unless, like my mother, your breasts make it into the paper because they are testing the new mammogram machine at your local hospital they don’t need to be in there. If the Guardian decided to swap Polly Toynbee for a massive naked man next week, I’d find that equally inappropriate, because quality reporting is not about getting your rocks off (unless you have a particular fetish for bad photos of Ed Milliband).

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 61 Comments

Charlie Hebdo – in sympathy and solidarity

The news from Paris today is deeply shocking. There are twelve people who are reported dead and four reported injured by the attack at the offices of satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. Four cartoonists and the editor-in-chief of the magazine are reported to be among the dead. We express our sincere sympathy to those who have lost loved ones and those affected by the tragedy. We also express our solidarity with the French people and Charlie Hebdo magazine in standing for free speech and against such mindless acts.

Posted in News | Also tagged , and | 29 Comments

Opinion: Liberals must think of ways to incentivise free expression

 

The recent withdrawal of The Interview from general theatrical release (later followed by online publication and limited release at selected theatres), following threats from what is currently believed to be a North Korean hacking group, has generated an international debate on corporate censorship in western societies. As liberals who believe in free expression and a free society, it is vital that we take part in this conversation.

It would be incorrect and unfair to place all the blame for this fiasco on Sony, the parent company of the film’s distributors, Columbia Pictures. Their initial decision to pull the movie was partly driven by the fact that an increasing number of cinemas were refusing to screen the film, and their efforts to distribute it via video-on-demand providers had were initially met with a similar response.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 52 Comments

Opinion: Does the Prime Minister really care about free speech?

The Prime Minister is concerned that Leveson’s “essential” legislative underpinning for press self-regulation would cross a line. “We should be wary of any legislation that has the potential to infringe free speech and a free press”, he stated, saying that we should be proud of our “great tradition” of freedom of speech. But the UK has many laws that restrict citizens’ free expression and which we should be deeply ashamed of. Will the PM be campaigning to end these?

There’s ‘Section 5’, under which – for example – a 16 year old was summoned to court for holding a placard saying, “Scientology is not a religion. It is a dangerous cult.” Thankfully, after pressure from MPs and the Reform Section 5 campaign, the Home Office consulted on the law and – separately – the Lords will tomorrow vote on amending it. Reformists (including the Deputy Prime Minister) can presumably count on the PM’s support!

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 5 Comments
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Recent Comments

  • User AvatarSteve Trevethan 27th Sep - 6:39am
    Jill Stein, Green Party presidential candidate, was better than either- realistic, compassionate and using hard data!
  • User AvatarRoland 27th Sep - 1:45am
    Rebecca, Tim's speech and the webinar are not primary sources. Given it seems you are more familiar with this material and specifically the OECD report...
  • User AvatarManfarang 27th Sep - 1:10am
    Jayne “BJP workers have sacrificed their lives for the cause of democracy. Violence is not the right road to democracy. Ahuti must be discussed at...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 27th Sep - 12:53am
    Stevan I see your point in this , but my view is if those like you or I or any of us who have ever...
  • User AvatarStevan Rose 27th Sep - 12:20am
    The problem is, Lorenzo, that you and I and 97% of this Party have no influence to insert radical elements, new ways of working and...
  • User AvatarLorenzo Cherin 26th Sep - 11:33pm
    A lot of good sense in the words above from Tony H, Stevan Rose and Tim Hill, different though they are in views. My view...