Human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell explores threats to free speech and how preventing free speech can be dangerous. Some speakers are now being 'no-platformed' and prevented from talking for fear of offending someone. Is free speech under threat? If it is, Peter asks, what does this mean for democracy and society generally?
Some of the most important ideas in history caused great offence in their time. And being spared offence is not a human right.
There have been stories where one misjudged comment can get a person 'cancelled'. Apologies are dismissed. The possibility of redemption excluded. This has echoes of McCarthysim and the Salem witch trials.
Yet at the same time, there are difficult ethical problems around attempts to 'stamp out' 'cancel culture'. We rightly expect universities to uphold free speech - but are student-run events not student speech? If a student invites a speaker to an event, could a law reasonably prevent them changing their mind (for any reason)? Questions like this bid some commenators to speculate that the issue has been exaggerated and mischaracterised as part of an ongoing 'culture war', or for political ends.
Join us for a very fruitful discussion on the right to free speech, attitudes to free speech in society, and the state of the law.
Humanists have long argued that the best way to challenge ideas you disagree with is to confront them in open debate, and to show others why their views are wrong by marshalling better ethics, reason, and evidence. This is the way to change hearts and minds and build a consensus for a kinder, more compassionate society.
Peter Tatchell was born in Melbourne, Australia, in 1952 and has been campaigning since 1967 on issues of human rights, democracy, civil liberties, LGBT equality and global justice. His human rights inspirations include Mahatma Gandhi, Sylvia Pankhurst, and Martin Luther King.
For more information please visit the Peter Tatchell Foundation website.