Andrew Doyle on why freedom of speech matters in this balanced, articulate and timely polemic. Pithy yet exacting: these 20,000 words may even change the way you think...
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.