Freedom of speech

There is a fondly-held belief in the UK that we have ‘freedom of speech’ ~ in other words, there are no restrictions on what people can say or write. This has never been entirely true, of course, as there are censorship and libel laws, but today the principle of free speech is being sorely tested.

An old saying is that: “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me”.  This is rarely heard nowadays as the modern accusations of ‘political incorrectness’, ‘fake news’ and ‘hate speech’ seem to encompass any language which offends, denigrates, criticises or questions, as if this is somehow taboo or unnatural. We all know it is not.

Thankfully, another old saying which the Brits do still like to quote is :“I disapprove of what you say, but I defend to the death your right to say it” (Evelyn Beatrice Hall, 1906).




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