Society and Culture

On free speech, the Queen’s Speech was a mixed bag

The government appears to be suffering from a combination of advanced Doublethink and early onset of magical thinking when it comes to free speech. On the one hand, it is commendably fighting back against the illiberal onslaught within higher education, but on the other hand, it has caved in to the authoritarian tendencies of the New Left on gay conversion therapy. In the Queen’s speech it was announced that speakers who are No-Platformed will gain legal redress against student unions. However, Britain will be turned into a giant Safe Space that excludes traditionally religious people from offering gay conversion therapy. A draconian Online Safety Bill will give regulators the power to censor virtually anything from Covid-sceptical content to re-runs of Muffin the Mule.

The government claims that Liz Truss’s proposed law will protect ‘people from the coercive and abhorrent practice of conversion therapy’. Given that under existing legislation, it is self-evidently illegal to physically drag homosexuals off the street and then impose forms of ‘treatment’ upon them they have not consented to, the new law will presumably seek to criminalise individuals who peacefully offer, or maybe even just publicly advocate, the use of such bizarre procedures. And what if, improbable as it may seem, a gay person wanted to try such a procedure? What about their rights?

What this strange announcement helps to illuminate is that for reasons that are not very clear, the government seems incapable of resisting the demands of politically correct lobby groups who are constantly pushing for ever more intensive and intrusive regulation of what can be communicated. Secondly, it represents the triumph of the anti-humanist, postmodern conception of what it is to be human. We are not understood to be autonomous persons with agency and responsibility for our own lives. Rather we are ‘de-centred’ beings who are ‘socially constructed’ by oppressive discourses of one kind or another that help sustain ‘heteronormativity’, ‘white supremacy’, ‘patriarchy’ and so on and on. It might make sense for anti-liberals to go along with this sinister worldview, but why would any rationally-minded conservative or, indeed, social democrat give time of day to such authoritarianism?

This connects with the New Left agenda of reducing women, gays, members of ethnic minorities etc to the status of hapless, eternally ‘vulnerable’ victims, people who do not know their own minds, can be triggered into states of emotional trauma simply by exposure to certain words and opinions. Thus, it is assumed, that homosexuals need protecting from eccentric people who might want to convert them to the joys of heterosexuality.

Doublethink is also in evidence regarding its Online Safety Bill. The government says this will ‘uphold democratic debate online’. However, as Victoria Hewson has made clear in her IEA paper More Harm Than Good, this legislation will inevitably undermine free expression by seeking to determine what constitutes acceptable and ‘harmful’ speech. It will enter the very sinister terrain of a government-appointed regulator deciding what is and what is not ‘disinformation’. Likewise, the proposed Online Safety Bill operates according to such a broad definition of what constitutes harm that virtually anything could end up being taken down by the regulator because it might offend or induce anxiety in some individuals. Why can adults not simply be left to decide for themselves what they view and make up their own minds concerning what is nonsense and what has validity?

3 thoughts on “On free speech, the Queen’s Speech was a mixed bag”

  1. Posted 18/05/2021 at 09:01 | Permalink

    I wholeheartedly agree with the content of this article. Since when did anyone have the right not to be offended, or to be made anxious, or to receive information of questionable validity? We live in a tyranny.

    Rosemary Enright

  2. Posted 16/06/2021 at 15:56 | Permalink

    Freedom of speech is a fundamental human right that supports the freedom of an individual or a community to articulate their opinions and ideas without fear of retaliation, censorship, or legal sanction. The term freedom of expression is usually used synonymously but, in legal sense, includes any activity of seeking, receiving, and imparting information or ideas, regardless of the medium used.
    Seems like it’s not true anymore… The world is going crazy!

  3. Posted 17/06/2021 at 13:08 | Permalink

    Yeah, i agree…

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *