1. Free speech – an unrepresentative tour

Do we really have freedom of speech and expression?

I am going to take you on a brief tour of works that have been censored or considered offensive. The list is not comprehensive, but represents a shortlist of some of my personal favourites. I cannot hope to talk about all the books that have been banned in the English language. There is an iPad app which facilitates book downloads. One of the categories you can search is “banned books”. There are over 24,000 titles. Many of them are classics of English literature.

I will cover various restrictions on freedom of speech: legal (both criminal and civil) and social/political. Legal sanctions can of course have social/political motives, but there are also some that are not enshrined in law. Robust debate can sometimes go off the rails and turn into something like harassment or other adverse consequences for a person who speaks out. This can in turn lead to an institutional response – the Harvard Law School proposed “speech code” (discussed below) is an example.

“Literary censorship in the twentieth century has been both preventive—exercised prior to publication—and punitive—applied after the work has been published. Censorship can be explicitly laid out in laws forbidding publication of certain ideas or information, or it can take the form of implicit censure of unpopular ideas, in which people are threatened with losing their jobs or position in society. It is defined as the official prohibition or restriction of any type of expression believed to threaten the political, social, or moral order imposed by governmental, religious, or local powers. Censorship consists of any attempt to suppress information, points of view, or method of expression such as art or profanity. The purpose of censorship is to maintain the status quo, to control the development of a society, and to stifle dissent.”

See:  HYPERLINK “http://www.enotes.com/censorship-twentieth-century-literature-criticism/censorship-twentieth-century-literature” http://www.enotes.com/censorship-twentieth-century-literature-criticism/censorship-twentieth-century-literature

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