Monday, 20 June 2016

George Orwell on free speech


On a plat­form, or in cer­tain recog­nised open air spa­ces like Hyde Park, you can say al­most any­thing, and, what is per­haps more sig­nif­i­cant, no one is frightened to ut­ter his true opin­ions in pubs, on the tops of busses, and so forth. The point is that the rel­a­tive free­dom which we en­joy de­pends of pub­lic opin­ion. The law is no pro­tec­tion. Gov­ern­ments make laws, but whether they are car­ried out, and how the po­lice be­have, de­pends on the gen­eral tem­per in the coun­try. If large num­bers of peo­ple are in­ter­ested in free­dom of speech, there will be free­dom of speech, even if the law for­bids it; if pub­lic opin­ion is sluggish, in­con­venient mi­nori­ties will be per­se­cuted, even if laws ex­ist to pro­tect them. 
How far we British have regressed since he wrote these words. Stanley Baldwin said England's secret was freedom. No-one would say that now.

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