Never in human history has there been such opportunity for freedom of expression, one of the core freedoms at the centre of our liberal democracy. If we have Internet access, any one of us can publish almost anything we like and potentially reach an audience of millions. Free speech, as author Timothy Garton-Ash tells us is his new book Free Speech, is essential to the discovery of self, truth, good governance, and diversity.
Yet never has there been a time when “truth” has seemed to matter less, when incitement to violence flows unimpeded across frontiers, when stereotypes spread so quickly, and when privacy is violated so easily. Paradoxically, it seems that we have simultaneously too much and too little freedom of speech. Will freedom of speech disrupt or preserve our liberal global order?
Garton Ash is Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St. Antony’s College Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. He is director of freespeechdebate.com
, a 13 language online project developed at Oxford dedicated to exploring free speech.