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Threats to freedom of speech
on 22 May 2015
Freedom of speech explored, from many angles. It shouldn't be taken for granted. Salman Rushdie's book 'Satanic verses' is discussed, and the appalling treatment at the hands of Islamist threats and the coercion by those in the West, when bookshops across the West withdrew copies because of those threats. Censorship by religious fanaticism. Khomeini's fatwa amounted to a head of state ordering the execution of a private citizen in a foreign country for writing and publishing a work of fiction; when put like that it sounds absurd and because it's absurd it should have been ignored, but it wasn't. Blasphemy laws are discussed: 'Confusing ethnicity - which no one can change - with religions or political ideologies - which are systems of ideas that men and women ought to be free to accept or reject.' 'The Rushdie affair was not a 'clash of civilisations' but a struggle for civilisation'. He adds that if another writer today came along with a book similar to The Satanic Verses no-one would dare publish it, and he states that 'free societies are not free because their citizens are fighting for their freedom, they are free because previous generations of citizens have fought for their freedom.' 'censorship is at its most effective when its victims pretend it does not exist', as in the Rushdie affair. All credit to British artist Grayson Perry for admitting then that ' I have not gone all out attacking Islamism in my art because I feel the real fear that someone will
slit my throat.'
There are some words about the wealthy: 'Extreme wealth is creating societies in which it is harder to hold economic power to account' and 'they are unshakeable in their belief that they are entitled to their wealth, and have every moral right to resist attempts to reduce it.' Some interesting words about the modern workplace: 'Every time you go into your workplace, you leave a democracy and enter a dictatorship' - how very true!
'Anyone who has worked in a hierarchical organisation must have noticed that bravery is rarely on display when a superior enters the room'.
The internet has opened up the entire world to an element of freedom not seen before, but the author adds this warning: 'Authoritarian regimes and organisations do not just censor the Net - they mine it for information. On a scale greater than any other communications technology, the Net offers states the power to spy and entrap.' 'The main targets of oppressive regimes are not always psychopaths or potential revolutionary leaders, however. Ordinary citizens concern them as much.' 'The knowledge the state is watching you, or might be watching you, is a powerful deterrent against activism.'
This is an excellent book to read if you are concerned about threats to freedom and free speech. We shouldn't be complacent about it, it can be taken from us. We must recognise the signs and stop it before it starts.