You mean, the free market actually works? vs The Slow Death of Free Speech

Funny piece by Tabatha Southey bringing some perspective to those who claim the decline of free speech following the Hirsi Ali Brandeis controversy:

Socrates is not remembered as that guy who, found guilty of corrupting the young minds of Athens, was denied an honorary diploma – but invited to come back to the agora to debate any time.

Galileo is not remembered as the man who claimed the Earth revolved around the sun and, for that sin, was banned from becoming pope.

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn wasn’t trolled on Twitter for writing One Day In the Life of Ivan Denisovich – he was exiled. And Lady Chatterley’s Lover wasn’t published instantly, in its entirety, in 1928, then given a lot of uncharitable reviews on Goodreads. Indeed, it wasn’t published unexpurgated in the United Kingdom until 1960.

In short, a little perspective suggests that recent reports of the death of free speech have been greatly exaggerated….

The dystopian world of “political correctness,” of repressed expression and sexuality, not irrationally predicted in the sometimes silly 1980s, never materialized. We’re a gloriously loud, bawdy bunch these days. But a sleight of hand that equates being answered with being “silenced,” dissent with being “bullied,” allows old soldiers of that 1980s culture war to reenact battles and claim the victimhood they once dismissed as the left’s low moral ground….

To be to be less than universally celebrated is to be censored. The ideology that lambasted the “nanny state” whines for a “wet nurse state” and what you smell from those babies is hardly books burning.

You mean, the free market actually works? – The Globe and Mail.

On the other side of the argument, Mark Steyn:

Oh, don’t worry. There’ll still be plenty of ‘offending, insulting or humiliating’ in such a world, as Ayaan Hirsi Ali and the Mozilla CEO and Zionists and climate deniers and feminist ‘cis-women’ not quite au courant with transphobia can all tell you. And then comes the final, eerie silence. Young Erin Ching at Swarthmore College has grasped the essential idea: it is not merely that, as the Big Climate enforcers say, ‘the science is settled’, but so is everything else, from abortion to gay marriage. So what’s to talk about? Universities are no longer institutions of inquiry but ‘safe spaces’ where delicate flowers of diversity of race, sex, orientation, ‘gender fluidity’ and everything else except diversity of thought have to be protected from exposure to any unsafe ideas.

As it happens, the biggest ‘safe space’ on the planet is the Muslim world. For a millennium, Islamic scholars have insisted, as firmly as a climate scientist or an American sophomore, that there’s nothing to debate. And what happened? As the United Nations Human Development Programme’s famous 2002 report blandly noted, more books are translated in Spain in a single year than have been translated into Arabic in the last 1,000 years. Free speech and a dynamic, innovative society are intimately connected: a culture that can’t bear a dissenting word on race or religion or gender fluidity or carbon offsets is a society that will cease to innovate, and then stagnate, and then decline, very fast.

As American universities, British playwrights and Australian judges once understood, the ‘safe space’ is where cultures go to die.

The slow death of free speech

About Andrew
Andrew blogs and tweets public policy issues, particularly the relationship between the political and bureaucratic levels, citizenship and multiculturalism. His latest book, Policy Arrogance or Innocent Bias, recounts his experience as a senior public servant in this area.

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