From Charlie Hebdo to Sir Tim Hunt:

defending free speech, no ifs no buts

The dreadful attack on Charlie Hebdo in January brought a wave of support for free speech. #JeSuisCharlie became the Twitter hashtag du jour and world leaders walked arm-in-arm to demonstrate their support for free expression. But it quickly became apparent that the response to the attack had changed little. From hate-speech legislation to language codes, today’s orthodoxy demands bans more often than it defends free expression, with hurt feelings trumping the most fundamental of civil rights. I will argue that it is crucial that we defend free speech unequivocally, particularly the right to be offensive.



Claire Fox is the director of the Institute of Ideas (IoI), which she established to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. She is convenor of the annual Battle of Ideas, an international festival of public debate which takes place at the Barbican this year on 17-18 October. She is a panellist for BBC Radio 4’s Moral Maze; a columnist for TES and the MJ and is regularly invited to comment on developments in culture, education, politics and the arts across the whole range of media outlets. Prior to founding the IoI Claire was co-publisher of ground-breaking current affairs magazine LM (formerly Living Marxism), a teacher and a social worker.

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