Should freedom of speech ever be curtailed?
Posted by Matt Walker on October 20, 2009
A couple of issues this week have combined quite powerfully to raise the issue of freedom of speech. Jan Moir, a columnist for the Daily Mail, wrote an article about Stephen Gately’s death, with alleged homophobic inferences. This resulted in 21,000 complaints to the Press Complaint’s Commission after an internet campaign which led to calls for Moir to be prosecuted or sacked from her job.
This Thursday, Nick Griffin, leader of the racist BNP, will take his place on the BBC’s Question Time panel. Labour’s Peter Hain has suggested that the invite should be reversed because the BNP were acting illegally by not opening up its own membership to ethnic minorities.
Freedom of speech is an important pillar of liberal thought. But it is not a simple concept. Should we stick with Voltaire’s (1694-1778) dictum that, “I detest what you say but will defend to the death your right to say it”? Or should we invoke the liberal concept of toleration, and claim that those who espouse intolerant views should not be allowed to do so.
It would be interesting to get some comments from you guys on this. Should we be like Voltaire, and accept the right of Moir and Griffin to say things we consider offensive, or should we limit the platform on which they publicly air their views?