by Tara Henley
Free speech is not particularly fashionable these days. Indeed, this summer NPR’s On the Media dedicated an entire episode to the topic without interviewing a single defender of free speech.
With free speech skepticism on the rise, the new book Free Speech And Why It Matters could not be more timely, or more important.
British comic Andrew Doyle initially found fame with his hilarious social justice warrior Twitter parody, Titania McGrath.
But he’s since become known as a crusader for free speech and the host of Free Speech Nation.
In his thoughtful, well-argued, and well-written polemic, Andrew Doyle walks through key arguments in favour of free speech, and makes the case that the erosion of speech rights we’ve witnessed in recent years is destructive for democracy and human rights — and awful for art.
Here is episode two of the Lean Out podcast, featuring Andrew Doyle
Book abstract: Towards the end of the twentieth century, those who advocated what became known as ‘Political Correctness’ rightly identified the ways in which marginalised groups were often disparaged in everyday speech. Casual expressions of homophobia, racism and sexism went from being commonplace to being rejected by the vast majority of the public over the course of just two decades.
Since then, the victories of Political Correctness have formed the basis for a new intolerant mindset, one that seeks to move beyond simply reassessing the social contract of shared discourse to actively policing speech that is deemed offensive or controversial. Rather than confront bad ideas through discussion, it has now become common to intimidate one’s detractors into silence through ‘cancel culture’, a ritual of public humiliation and boycotting which can often lead to the target losing his or her means of income.
Free Speech is a defence of our right to express ourselves as we see fit, and takes the form of a letter to those who are unpersuaded. Taking on board legitimate concerns about how speech can be harmful, Andrew Doyle argues that the alternative – an authoritarian world in which our freedoms are surrendered to those in power – has far worse consequences.
This is court case Doyle referred to:
UK gets massive free speech win as Court of Appeal rules police’s definition of a “hate incident” is unlawful and had “chilling effect” on speech
An ex-cop has won a UK Court of Appeal challenge over a guidance by the College of Policing on “hate incidents,” after he claimed that the guidance violates his freedom of expression.
Harry Miller, a former police officer, had a complaint filed against him in January 2020 after posting allegedly “transphobic” tweets.
The Humberside Police force recorded the complaint as a “non-crime hate incident,” which the College of Policing defined as “any non-crime incident which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice.”
In February 2020, Miller challenged the action taken by Humberside Police and the guidance by the College of Policing at the High Court.
The judge ruled that the actions by the Humberside Police were a “disproportionate interference” to his freedom of expression.
But the judge ruled against him in the challenge to the guidance by the College of Policing, ruling that the guidance “serves legitimate purposes and is not disproportionate.”
Free Speech Nation with Andrew Doyle: The Podcast
On Free Speech Nation: The Podcast, comedian Andrew Doyle talks to people who don’t hold back – people who think it’s better to be honest about what you believe, so differences can be resolved. Today, saying the wrong thing can lose you your job, your friends and even get you in trouble with the law. Unsurprisingly, people are nervous of speaking their mind. They feel they have to self-censor, rather than say what they really think. Andrew’s getting the adults back in the room to chat frankly about difficult issues, without the threat of being shamed, shunned, or canceled. See acast.com/privacy for privacy and opt-out information.