UK Liberty

Do fascists have the right to free speech?

Posted in freedom of speech by ukliberty on November 26, 2007

Asks Peter Tatchell, about Nick Griffin and David Irving being invited to speak at the Oxford Union, about “The Limits of Free Speech” no less (and somewhat ironically).

Yes, of course they do, and of course they should.

You don’t have to listen.

And you do and should have the right to express your views about their speech.

Says the BBC,

For some anti-fascist campaigners like Donna Guthrie, the fact that David Irving’s views are offensive to large numbers of people is enough to prevent him from speaking.

A large number of people would find Donna Guthrie’s views offensive. However, she would undoubtedly disagree that she should be prevented from voicing them.

For libertarians like Brendan O’Neill, editor of the anti-censorship website Spiked, the convention does not go nearly far enough in protecting his right to say whatever he likes.

“I believe that there should be no limits at all on free speech,” he said. “No-one has the right not to be offended: that is the essence of a free society.”

He said that those who try to censor debate because it might stir up trouble were under-estimating the intelligence of the audience.

“The only time free speech should be restricted is if there is a clear and imminent danger of violence,” he said.

“Otherwise, even if what is being said might be defined as inflammatory then we still should not censor it,” he said. “People are not attack dogs – they are not automatically going to become violent if they hear controversial things.”

“Rather, these views should be expressed and challenged. Otherwise these horrible ideas will not be defeated, but will survive and fester underground.”

Well said.

In another BBC article,

Liberal Democrat MP Evan Harris, who is billed to speak at the forum, said it was the “views of these extremists which are a disgrace” and “not their right to hold their views”.

“I have spent my whole political life opposing racism and bigotry, but it is vital to demonstrate that they will be defeated within our existing laws.

“The measure of our country’s respect for free expression is our willingness to allow it for the most objectionable and offensive lawful speech, not just for those with whom we agree.”



2 Responses

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  1. Richard said, on November 27, 2007 at 1:04 am

    Of course they must be allowed to speak. Not least because Griffin and Irving are their own worst enemies.

    I’ve heard Nick Griffin speak. He can hardly string a coherent sentence together, let alone advance an argument. I’ve read the BNP manifesto and until I did, I thought the BNP was a serious political party – the manifesto should be in every school and public library. If you oppose the BNP, you could do nothing better to damage their cause than let them publicise their views and policies.

    David Irving tries to portray himself as a distinguished academic and historian yet he was kicked out of university without even a Bachelors degree to his name. I was really looking forward to the savaging he would no doubt have received at the hands of Oxford’s genuinely distinguished academic historians.

    Instead, rent-a-mob turned up and imposed their will by force. I wonder how many extra book sales and extra votes this ‘anti-racist’ action will earn for Irving and Griffin.

  2. Andy said, on September 22, 2008 at 9:13 pm

    In response to the last reply:
    I agree with totally free speech. Banning it is offensive. Only fascists attempt to stifle free speech.

    I’ve heard Griffins speech. It was made hard to listen to due to the very rabble he was arguing for.

    Griffin cannot string a coherent sentence together? Not the fact he is a barrister then? He’s won every case. I’m sorry if he talks beyond you, Richard.

    If the BBC, the Government, or any media will not honestly allow the BNP their views then the thinking public think on…… Guess who loses out in the long run?

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