TRUTH AND FREEDOM

Brenden O'Neill in Sp!ked:

Brendan_march_coverThe most curious thing about the political class’s war in defence of truth is that it coexists with a war against freedom of speech. In one breath, our betters, whether it’s the technocrats of the EU or broadsheet thinkers, bemoan a crisis of truth, claiming that a combination of demagoguery and populist myth-making has propelled the modern West into a ‘post-truth’ era. Yet in the next they express disdain for the ideal of unfettered free thought and debate. Whether they’re instituting laws against ‘hate speech’ or enforcing social stigma against such things as ‘climate-change denial’ or ‘Europhobia’, they exhibit a palpable discomfort with the idea of a fully open public sphere in which nothing is unsayable.

We might even say that in 2017, there are two things that really animate the political and cultural elites of the West: first, their self-styled urge to defend truth, their pose as warriors for honesty against the misinformation of the new populists; and secondly, their agitation with unfettered discussion and with the expression of what they consider to be hateful or outré views. This is striking, because truth without freedom, without the freest possible space in which to debate and doubt and blaspheme, is not truth at all. It is dogma. It represents an assumption of intellectual and moral infallibility rather than a winning and proving of it in the only way that counts: through free public contestation. That our rulers both claim to love truth and fear freedom of speech utterly explodes the pretensions of their moral panic about a ‘post-truth’ era. It’s not truth they want to protect – it’s the authority of their prejudice.

More here.

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