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Self-censorship

Posted by Richard on February 8, 2012

Nick Cohen writing in Literary Review:

The grand posture of writers in liberal democracies is that they are the moral equivalents of dissidents in repressive regimes. Loud-mouthed newspaper columnists claim to ‘speak truth to power’. Novelists, artists, playwrights and comedians announce their willingness to transgress boundaries. Their publishers look for controversy like boozers look for brawls because they know that few marketing strategies beat the claim that a courageous iconoclast is challenging establishments and shattering taboos.

To maintain the illusion that they are part of some kind of radical underground, intellectuals must practise a deceit. They can never admit to their audience that fear of violent reprisals, ostracism or crippling financial penalties keeps them away from subjects that ought to concern them – and their fellow citizens.

Although it is impossible to count the books authors have abandoned, radical Islam is probably the greatest cause of self-censorship in the West today. …

Read the whole thing. Cohen is mistaken in one respect, however. He states that:

… It is a mistake to think of repression as repression by the state alone. In much of the world it still is, but in Britain, America and most of continental Europe the age of globalisation has done its work, and it is privatised rather than state forces that threaten freedom of speech.

That may be true of the fear of having your throat slit by some random Islamofascist. But state forces are clearly at work in his other example, Britain’s egregious libel laws (which he correctly describes as “(c)ontrary to common law and natural justice”).

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