If you take freedom of speech as the right to publish naughty videos and to say rude words on television, modern England is, by definition, a libertarian utopia. If you take it as the right to publish anything that is not a trespass against some legitimate private right, or that does not clearly and immediately endanger the survival of the country, England appears as what it really is – that is, an increasingly repressive police state.
There are panics over the promotion of terrorism, and the alleged sexualisation of children. Above all, there is the official war on ‘hate.’ In the name of good community relations, or simply to protect minorities from being upset, whole areas of debate that once were free are now policed. There are speech codes and Internet filters. There are agents of provocation and omnipresent surveillance. Dissidents risk punishments that range between formal imprisonment and unemployability.
In this set of often controversial, essays, Sean Gabb puts the case for freedom of speech in an absolutist, libertarian sense. His subjects include holocaust denial, pornography, the rights of BNP members, and the persecution of Emma West, the South London "Tram Lady."
Extract: "I suspect that such freedom of non-sexual speech as we enjoyed until recently will not be recovered. I suspect that such freedom of speech as we currently enjoy will diminish further. If this book gains any circulation above the trivial or ephemeral, it may be regarded less as a demand for freedom of speech in England than as its obituary." (Introduction)
Keith Preston's pre-publication comment: “Libertarians can perform no greater service to freedom and humanity than by coming to the defense of the indefensible. The greatest victories for liberty have been won by those who would champion the rights of the outcast and despised rather than the popular or sympathetic. Tyrants seek to strengthen their position as oppressors by means of attacking those who are commonly feared and hated. In this volume, Dr. Sean Gabb heroically speaks out against appalling violations of liberty that take place in modern day England. In past eras, authoritarian rulers and censors who would seek to destroy liberty did so in the name of protecting society from religious heretics. In the modern world, the authoritarians and censors have not gone away. They have simply reinvented themselves as righteous crusaders against pornography or racism. Dr. Gabb’s book brilliantly exposes the contemporary Inquisition for what it is.”