‘Freedom of speech exists so that man may resolve conflict with words rather than weapons. Freedom of speech has been dealt a grievous, grievous blow in these last decades. The acceleration of its suppression in these last months should terrify us all. We must remember what we are, what this country’s been built on and what it stands for. We must remember what civilisation is built on: the free, fair and full exchange of ideas. If we don’t all of us come together in its defence, a descent into barbarism is unstoppable’.
Laurence Fox, July 20, 2021
INTRODUCING his In Protection of Freedom of Speech report, launched last Tuesday, Laurence Fox warned: ‘We have a very small window – even smaller after yesterday’s announcement over mandatory vaccinations – to gather together in defence of free speech and to legislate for its primacy in society, just as the Americans have done with their First Amendment.’
Three essential reforms are needed, he said, to give UK citizens the same protection as given by the First Amendment to the US Constitution:
1. The police should lose the power to investigate so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ and the Scottish Hate Crime Bill should be scrapped;
2. Websites should be prevented from censoring content posted by users unless a criminal offence or civil wrong is committed;
3. Employers should no longer be able to sack people for their speech.
Full details and explanation of why these specific proposals can be found here.
And here is the man himself giving his speech (apologies for the quality of my iPhone film), explaining the need for urgency, why he is so desperately worried, why the window of opportunity is so small, and why men and women of good mind and courage must come together in defence of free speech before it is too late.
A full transcript of this powerful and passionately delivered speech follows the video.
LAURENCE FOX: Good morning and thank you all for coming. Whilst this report is impartial and apolitical and deliberately so, I don’t want it to be. We are currently living in a climate where certain types of speech and political viewpoints are under unrelenting attack. More insidiously, so is our language itself. The warping and distortion of words and their meanings to serve ideological ends leaves those words stuck in the throat, for fear of causing offence.
Entire areas of moderate opinion have been sacrificed at the altar of this new, burgeoning secular religion: woke. Gender reassignment, race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, the definition of gender, climate change, Covid decisions, vaccinations, decisions taken by the NHS, national identity and British history, to name but a few.
The doctrine of diversity, equity and inclusion, which promotes division, inequality and exclusion, combined with the ever-growing tyranny of cancel culture, meaning the public discourse is broken.
Stable government relies on the broadest possible public debate in order to fully and fairly represent all the people. It is impossible to think without speaking freely. Free speech includes bad ideas as well as good. But it only by the airing of them all – some of them uncomfortable, offensive, unpalatable and downright wrong – that we can identify the good ideas and use them to dismantle the bad.
The rich and powerful have never had their speech restricted. Free speech exists to protect and give a voice to the most vulnerable in our society and it is the core principle of the democratic process. The Reclaim Party commissioned a survey [inaudible] ComRes earlier this year, which indicated that half the people in this country are frightened to speak their mind. That’s half the debate, done, removed, finished.
The traditional British value to preserve everyone’s right to free speech is just being destroyed in these days of twisted words and meetings where men are women, cowardice is heroism, victimhood lionised, grievance glorified, and we have a communist calling himself a Conservative in Number 10.
We have a very small window – even smaller after yesterday’s announcement over mandatory vaccinations – to gather together in defence of free speech and to legislate for its primacy in society, just as the Americans have done with their First Amendment.
And so many on this side of the argument who will . . . are entrepreneurial, innovative and industrious. The number of organisations, think tanks, media outlets that do incredible work to highlight the crisis in free speech is encouraging. But unlike our censorious friends on the extreme far-left, we do not be able to seem to come together and protect this sacred value to think, to speak your mind, to do wrong, to learn, to live, to understand, to forgive and to love.
I am so desperately worried following yesterday’s announcement that we no longer have autonomy of your own body. Or if we do have autonomy, it comes at a price that will split society down the middle. We are in the early days of tyranny. And the voices we so desperately at a time of national crisis were cancelled out and shut down by those who feel that they know how to make the world a better place, as long as the rest of us do exactly as we’re told.
America holds free speech so dearly that the very next Amendment written enshrines its defence with force if necessary. I am extremely grateful to Francis Hoar, Lucile Taylor, Anna Loutfi and Lord Jonathan Sumption for putting together this report. I wish I could be optimistic about the future, but following the announcement yesterday from the prime minister, I live in dread of our children’s path, the world they will inherit unless the tide turns and turns quickly.
Freedom of speech exists so that man may resolve conflict with words rather than weapons. Freedom of speech has been dealt a grievous, grievous blow in these last decades. The acceleration of its suppression in these last months should terrify us all. We must remember what we are, what this country’s been built on and what it stands for. We must remember what civilisation is built on: the free, fair and full exchange of ideas. If we don’t all of us come together in its defence, a descent into barbarism is unstoppable.