Liberty censored: how debates about free speech came to dominate the political landscape

Freedom of expression has never been absolute yet questions about where its limits lie have become ever more urgent in the digital age, says Ben Chu

Sunday 04 November 2018 09:11
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‘We’re living through a nuclear explosion of free speech; much of it not worth hearing’
‘We’re living through a nuclear explosion of free speech; much of it not worth hearing’

Boris Johnson seems to have forged a career out of saying the unsayable. Recently, the former foreign secretary upset people by suggesting that Muslim women who wear a face veil resemble “bank robbers” and “letter boxes”, prompting demands even from fellow Conservatives for him to apologise. Yet Johnson’s supporters rapidly presented him as some kind of free speech martyr.

Boris is offering himself in sacrifice on the altar of freedom of speech,” proclaimed the MP Andrea Jenkyns, without irony.

The comedian Rowan Atkinson, now sadly fully transformed from Blackadder to Johnny English, came to the battlements to defend the “freedom to make jokes about religion”.

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