Freedom of Speech?

I don’t really know what I’m writing tonight, which I’m sure is going to entice you to read this post.

I want to write about what’s been happening in Paris, because it feels like the elephant in the room- but apart from fear and despair I don’t know what I can really add to the conversation.

What I think has really frightened people is the attack on freedom of expression. In the West we’re so used to being able to say what we like that something like this feels personal and terrifying. Anyone who writes, or draws or creates content (like me, writing this blog) must feel like they’ve had the rug pulled out from under their feet.

I’m a passionate historian and former performance artist, this means that I am no stranger to restrictions and dire consequences for people exercising their freedom of expression. One famous example is Vsevolod Meyerhold, a theatre practitioner in the Soviet Union who was arrested and killed in 1940. Meyerhold is one of hundreds of people who have paid the ultimate price for art.

Charlie Hebdo was a satirical magazine that poked fun at all religions, it pushed the boundaries as satire is supposed to. I might not agree with what they said, but I would defend their right to say it- as I defend my right to say what I like here, on this blog.

There are a number of groups in the UK that promote views that I disagree with, strongly. I think that they are intolerant and promote hatred. I may hate what they say and do, but I try not to hate them personally, and I hope that if it came down to it, I’d defend their right to say it.

The Conservative government say that if we re-elect them they’ll clamp down on groups who promote hatred. They’ve promised stronger laws… but that’s hypocrisy. Everyone has different opinions, different world views and different beliefs. We can’t just uphold freedom of speech for those we agree with- if we don’t have freedom for everyone then it’s not true freedom.

The one way to ensure that something flourishes is to ban it. Instead I think we need to bring things out into the open and challenge them. The world as we know it is changing, the statistical possibility of something like the Paris shootings happening to you or I is tiny, but it’s still enough to frighten us.

We’ve now been shown, with startling clarity, the very worst that can happen when you say what you want. I feel like the weight on the shoulders of writers, artists and bloggers has increased.

’til nest time,

Wren x

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