Toby Young - Is free speech currently under assault?
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About the Event
George Orwell wrote “If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”
The belief that we should allow disagreements about issues big and small without descending to violence or intimidation is a part of British history and culture. Free speech could be seen as the most effective bulwark against abuses of power, with history demonstrating that its denial is both the aim of tyrants, because it stops people criticising them, and an ominous precursor to the removal of other freedoms.
Is free speech currently under assault across Britain and the rest of the World? How does the issue of free speech relate to organisations such as schools, universities, the arts, the entertainment industry and the media?
We condemn all incitements to violence and discourage offensive or personal attacks but and at the same time many hope that when engaging in discussions and disagreements we can keep faith with the spirit of the Enlightenment and use reason and evidence to debate. Is this really under threat or is the argument nothing to do with free speech really and is just a justification for protecting privilege, insulting others and putting forward controversial views?
Toby Young is a British journalist and former Director of the New Schools Network, a free schools charity. In addition to being the founder and General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, he is an associate editor of the Spectator, the Critic and Quillette. He writes in The Spectator weekly and has written for The Times, co-founding the London magazine Modern Review. His 2001 memoir How to Lose Friends & Alienate People details his subsequent employment at Vanity Fair. He has also written for The Sun on Sunday, the Daily Mail and The Daily Telegraph. The Free Speech Union is a non-partisan, membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members.