Free-speech program tomorrow on Radio 4

Note that tomorrow Radio 4 in the UK will broadcast a 42-minute program on free speech and its potential “limits”. The first airing is Tuesday at 0900 GMT (4 a.m. Eastern time US), and will be rebroadcast the same day at 2130 GMT (4:30 pm Eastern time US). I suspect it will also be archived for a while. Note that there will be 60 people weighing in remotely, and I have no idea how this will work.

Click on the screenshot below when you want to hear it.

The site’s summary:

Free speech is a cornerstone of democracy and freedom of expression is regarded as a fundamental human right. But even in democracies there are disputes about the limits to free speech. And most countries have laws restricting free speech, such as libel laws, or laws controlling forms of pornography.

But should limits be placed on free speech? Should people be allowed to say and write whatever they like, even if it is untrue and is deeply offensive to vulnerable individuals or groups? Professor Sandel unpicks the philosophy of free speech.

h/t: Michael


  1. Christopher Henson
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:23 am | Permalink

    The program is unlikely to tell listeners anything they don’t already know if they live in the UK. “Free speech” in this country has become a quaint subject that essentially means anything that doesn’t offend Muslims, feminists, homosexuals, black soccer players, transvestites who insist they’re women, and any other minority capable of filing a police complaint. It’s OK to insult white men. People in the UK have actually been jailed for tweets that have been found, by a magistrate no less, to be ‘offensive’. And the BBC, a bloated establishment bureaucracy long overdue for privatization or abolition, has colluded wherever and whenever it could.

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      I suspect you’re exaggerating somewhat.

    • David Evans
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      I’m sure Rupert Murdoch would love to get his hands on some of the BBC. Or to see it disappear. The rest of us would not be so happy.

      • Richard
        Posted February 6, 2018 at 2:15 am | Permalink

        Really? There is very little, with the exception of Sir David Attenborough, on the BBC these days that I consider worth watching. For entertainment I prefer NetFlix or YouTube, and I don’t think the BBC’s news coverage is any better than that of other broadcasters.

        There may have been a justification for the BBC’s licence fee when it was the only UK broadcaster, but that became less valid when ITV started, even less valid when Channel 4, and then Channel 5, started, and ridiculous when FreeView, FreeSat, BSB, SkyTV etc. made almost unlimited channels available.

        I think it is time that the BBC became a subscription-only service, then we could all choose whether we want to pay for it (as I do with NetFlix), rather than having to pay the BBC’s very own poll tax. And then perhaps the BBC would lose its peculiar conceit that it is the keeper of the nation’s conscience.

    • tomh
      Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:55 pm | Permalink

      Those poor, oppressed white men, how long will the bigotry go on?

      • Posted February 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm | Permalink

        How long? All racial bigotry will go on until people, not unlike you, stop seeing others through race-tinted glasses.

        • tomh
          Posted February 5, 2018 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

          What I see is that white men have oppressed pretty much everyone else since the founding of the Republic. Those are the glasses I’m looking through.

          • Christopher Henson
            Posted February 6, 2018 at 1:21 am | Permalink

            That would be the Roman republic? Black men, Arab men, Asian men, have never oppressed anybody? The glasses you are looking through are mirrors.

    • Posted February 6, 2018 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      Leave the BBC alone. You may not like some of the things it does or says but it’s way better than the commercial alternative.

  2. glen1davidson
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:32 am | Permalink

    Should people be allowed to say and write whatever they like, even if it is untrue and is deeply offensive to vulnerable individuals or groups?

    I guess if you know the final truth you can just prevent untrue speech.

    How is this not inherently dependent upon some religion or religion-substitute being the unquestioned truth?

    One might argue that “truth” is decided all of the time by government, but that ignores the fact that it is free speech, free debate, in the wider society that provides checks and balances on that and prevents governmental decisions from being treated as final truth.

    When the government tells us what is true and prevents discussion, we’re just back to theocratic-type control.

    Glen Davidson

    • Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      Just a note Glenn, in some important ways Government does regulate what speech is true, punishing those who misuse it and we all agree they should. It just depends on what truth you’re dealing with.

      In the U.S. courts have been careful to distinguish between speech that are claims of fact (or truth, if you will) and speech that is opinion, conjecture or art; the former can be restricted but the later can’t. This distinction is the basis of many criminal fraud cases as well as the point of many FDA regulations (as an example). Government actions can restrict our rights to free speech when that speech involves claims of fact (there are other restrictions on free speech we accept from the government) and in many instances it is the Government itself which determines what is “true”.

      It’s complicated in some ways.

      • glen1davidson
        Posted February 5, 2018 at 11:56 am | Permalink

        Yes, I said so, slightly obliquely. I then made the point that it requires free speech in the wider society to prevent the government’s decisions on truth from being effectively “final truth.”

        Glen Davidson

  3. Jake Sevins
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

    How can you interview 60 people in 42 minutes?

  4. David Evans
    Posted February 5, 2018 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

    I think in the interest of free speech, Professor Sandel and his contributors should be allowed to speak freely. The time to moan about them is afterwards.

  5. zytigon
    Posted February 10, 2018 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

    Should there be limits to free speech ? Well I am in favour of freedom of speech.However there needs to be people to point out when others have said things that are exaggerated, distorted or factually incorrect. Actually each individual should be proof reading what they said, checking it for errors, inaccuracies, other mistakes & nonsense so as to be first in line to apologize & correct it.

    To compare with computer graphics, I think it often comes down to low resolution Vs high resolution expression of ideas.
    generalized Vs specific remarks.

    As an example, I drive a vehicle which has a female copilot voice reminding the driver to fully apply the handbrake before leaving the vehicle. Even if I depress clutch, park, apply the handbrake, put the gear into neutral, switch off the engine, remove the key and still have seat belt fastened the voice still sometimes gives me the handbrake reminder.

    So if I think of the copilot, “You are crazy, mental” it sounds more like hate speech than what I really mean which is, “There is something a bit off about how you are behaving” or really, “I think you need to be more on the ball, pay more attention to what I am doing, notice that I have applied the handbrake and not give the warning reminder if I have acted in accordance with the rules”

    I am not advocating that there is only one o.k way of talking about things, it is too difficult to go straight to a very specific comment. It is just the awareness that often when people make a quick, short hand remark, that probably on reflection they could put it better.

    In films there is often the line, “I hate you” but on analysis of the situation the person usually means,”I hate that thing you did or said just now” or “I have a list of things that you did recently that I hate but mostly i am indifferent or o.k with what you have done”

    On the other hand in real life I’d be more likely just to say,”Please don’t do X” or just ignore & avoid.

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