Posts Tagged: free speech



What a welcome coincidence that, just as Banned Books Week was about to get underway, President Obama passionately defended freedom of expression in a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. Partly in response to recent anti-American protests in the Islamic world and the murder of a U.S. diplomat after an anti-Muslim video was posted on YouTube, Obama warned about the dangers of silencing and censoring free expression. The “strongest weapon against hateful speech is not repression, it is more speech,” he said in his remarks on September 25.

The president was not talking about books specifically, but his message resonated with all of us at Politics & Prose, especially with Banned Books Week set to start September 30. Now in its 30th year, the week-long commemoration was initiated by the American Library Association as a nationwide effort to celebrate the freedom to read and to raise awareness of censorship efforts. According to the association, more than 11,000 books have been challenged since 1982, often by local school districts, parents, or outside groups.

Among the most challenged titles in 2011 were classics such as To Kill A Mockingbird and Brave New World and the recent bestseller, The Hunger Games. Also challenged or banned at various times over the years have been books cited by the Library of Congress that helped shape America: Mark Twain’sThe Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Toni Morrison’s Beloved, The Autobiography of Malcolm  X , Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, and Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls.

During Banned Books Week, P&P and other bookstores, as well as libraries across America, will feature displays of banned and challenged books and sponsor other activities. P&P’s staff members will take turns reading from banned books and will post our selections through social media. While censorship may often seem a problem of a different place or different era, we invite all of our P&P community to join in a collective celebration of books and the ideas contained in them, whether we agree with them or not.

As President Obama said so eloquently at the United Nations: “Americans have fought and died around the globe to protect the right of all people to express their views, even views that we profoundly disagree with. We do not do so because we support hateful speech, but because our founders understood that without such protections, the capacity of each individual to express their own views and practice their own faith may be threatened. We do so because in a diverse society, efforts to restrict speech can quickly become a tool to silence critics and oppress minorities.”

- Brad and Lissa

This post is reprinted from our website.

Source: politicsprose

This six-part introductory course examines the basic question of where we should draw the line between acceptable and unacceptable expression. We will be discussing topics such as blasphemy, offensive language, respect, humour, incitement to violence, pornography and the Internet as well as looking at the broader philosophical and psychological arguments which are used to justify both freedom and censorship. The course will include guest speakers from the world of free speech and a session drawing on the related archive collections of Bishopsgate Library. This course will take place at the Free Word Centre (pictured), 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GA. Enrolment is through Bishopsgate Institute. Organised in association with English PEN and the Free Word Centre.

Book now!

Free Speech: An IntroductionThursday 13 September – Thursday 18 OctoberTime: 6:30 PMDays of Week: ThursdaysVenue: Free Word, 60 Farringdon Road, London EC1R 3GATutor: Mark VernonMax students: 18Cost: £70.00 to £93.00


A month after thousands of teddy bears were dropped out of an airplane as part of a PR stunt, President Lukashenko dismissed top military brass for failing to protect the country’s airspace from the “hostile invasion.”

Belarus’ State Border Committee, Air Force and Air Defense have all lost their commanders, who in July apparently failed to prevent a complete takeover of the skies by a small airplane, which dropped thousands of teddy bears with leaflets defending freedom of speech around the country. The minister of Defense and top officials of the State Security Council received severe reprimands from President Aleksandr Lukashenko.

The stunt was orchestrated by Swedish advertisement agency Studio Total, known for its unorthodox advertising campaigns.

Swedish news sources first reported the incident, adding their own colorful commentary. According to them, a plane piloted by two Swedes crossed into Belarusian airspace from Lithuania, dropping off teddy bears with “Support Free Speech” leaflets as it flew towards the capital of Minsk. Once the cargo was emptied, the pilots simply turned around and returned to Sweden.


"What separates a free country from a repressive one is the way government and citizens react, automatically, in all those constantly recurring situations where a “right” has to be translated into a response to a messy situation. What protects us is not so much the reference in a constitution to a right to free speech. It’s the more prosaic and harder to define guarantees like those of due process and proportionality in punishment, and the habit of governments and citizens of insisting that these actually be implemented. Still, it’s probably better to phrase the battle as one for freedom of expression. Due process and proportionality are just not very punk rock."

- M.S., writing in The Economist


Malaysian social and alternative media is describing an impending ‘National Harmony Act’ as “Orwellian” and “draconian.”

Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak announced that Malaysia’s Sedition Act of 1948 is to be repealed, and replaced with the National Harmony Act (NHA.)

The Sedition Act, a hangover from Malaysia’s era of colonial rule, was originally introduced to quell opposition against the British, but is infamous for its vague definitions and use by the ruling Barisan Nasional coalition to silence political opposition.

Datuk Seri Mohamed Nazri Abdul Aziz, a minister in the Prime Minister’s department, stated that unlike the to-be-repealed Sedition Act, the NHA will allow for criticism of the Malaysian government:

“There should be no absolute freedom to the extent we can call people pariah, pimps and so on. It is obvious we want to protect the Institution of the Malay Rulers. They are above politics and this country practises Constitutional Monarchy.”

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"For me, coding is a form of self-expression. The company controls the most effective means of self-expression I have. This is unacceptable to me as an individual, therefore I must leave."


Justin Frankel, co-creator of the Winamp MP3 player, in his 2004 resignation letter to AOL

Winamp’s woes: how the greatest MP3 player undid itself | Ars Technica

Source: Ars Technica

What are the limits of free expression in video games? Women online gamers are being harassed—what can be done? Microsoft claims that it is concerned. Will it develop a self-regulating system like Youtube to take down abusive accounts?

(via BBC News - Sexual harassment in the world of video gaming)

Source: BBC


Jeremy Waldron’s new book examines the value of hate speech laws.

(via The Harm in Hate Speech - Jeremy Waldron | Harvard University Press)