Saturday 31 October 2015

Howard Jacobson on free speech

On a related subject, I must just recommend a superb article in the Independent by Howard Jacobson.

The attacks on Germaine Greer over her dismissal of 'transgenderism' and on Martin Amis over his dismissal of Jeremy Corbyn are its pegs, but the piece is essentially a plea for the benefits of free speech, especially to those who don't like what they're hearing - and we can't get enough of those at the moment:
It isn’t only in the name of free speech that the views of an itchy polemicist should be tolerated – and I say itchy polemicist promoting thought, not itchy ideologue promoting violence – but because provocation is indispensable to the workings of a sound, creative culture. The loser, when silencers have their way, is not the provocateur but the provoked. To be easily offended is to be shut off from the invigoration of that argumentative give-and-take we call liberty; not to understand the poetics of provocation is to miss out on the joys of living in a literate and robust society that excels at satire and burlesque. 
We hear too much of “phobia”. Attach “phobia” to any cause you care for and you have ring-fenced it against the words of the critic and the devious antics of the clown alike. Nothing is to be mocked; everything – except the act of critical dissent itself – is sacrosanct. Thus have we created for ourselves an impoverished world of touchy fools who understand no mode of address other than the internet’s yes/no, like/dislike, thumbs up/thumbs down discourse of the dumb.


  1. "itchy polemicist promoting thought"

    I like that. Unfortunately, Jacobson then ruins his point about how debate is stifled and society stunted by moaning about the less important world of 'like/dislike' and conflating that with the actually commentary being liked/disliked, which is the real problem he's meant to be talking about.

    Having said that, Jacobson will probably be attacked for this because his the itchy polemicists he's supporting tend to provoke unapproved thoughts, which to the SJWs is the same thing as inciting hatred.

  2. "Our country is in a censorious mood. The more educated we are, the less we are prepared to tolerate views contrary to our own"

    Er... no. Speak for yourself. Such presumption why I have the #wefiles hashtag


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