1) Freedom of Expression: The Gray Areas
This month, the online arts and politics magazine Guernica, in collaboration with Free Word, Article 19 and English PEN, have published their first of five themed issues, commissioning writers and artists from across the globe to submit articles on freedom of expression. Among the contributions, Chilean playwright Ariel Dorfman reflects on the ways by which technology enables governments to spy on their citizens and ultimately silence them. And in light of the NSA scandal, Dorfman tells us, “A warning for those who bask in the glow of that self-congratulatory phrase, ‘It can’t happen here’…it can always happen here, it can happen anywhere.”
Surveillance, in any land where it is ubiquitous and inescapable, generates distrust and divisions among its citizens, curbs their readiness to speak freely to each other, and diminishes their willingness to even dare to think freely. – Ariel Dorfman, Repression by Any Other Name
In the same issue, Chinese-born, London-based writer Xiaolu Guo tells Guernica about the difficulties she faced getting her novels published, the pervasiveness of what she calls “commercial censorship” in American publishing houses.
There’s an abortion section in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary. In the beginning my U.S. editor wanted to take it out. She said the Bush government had just issued some policies and that middle-class readers wouldn’t like it, which would reduce the market. – Xiaolu Guo, Why Do We Still Pretend We Are Free?
2) The People Have Lost Their Voice
In an article for the February 2014 issue of Chatham House’s The World Today, London Times special correspondent Anthony Loyd describes the risks faced by correspondents inside war-torn Syria and his decision not to return:
The ascendancy of Islamic radicalism and the terrible rate of abduction among the small cadre of reporters who ventured into the rebel zones meant that I could no longer justify the risks. The aim of any war correspondent is to survive and report. In Syria after my Friday 13th encounter with ISIS, I no longer saw that aim as achievable. – Anthony Loyd, The World Today.
Kidnappings, killings and imprisonment of journalists in Syria mean that few reporters are willing to take the risk of going there anymore. And that means few reporters are able to tell the story of what’s really going on in Syria, says Loyd.
“…the absence of journalists from opposition areas in Syria has not only resulted in the ossification of our perception of the war, but also handed a golden card to the regime.” – Anthony Loyd, The People Have Lost Their Voice.
3. Free Speech Isn’t Free
We Americans love our free speech, which is a tenet of our constitution. In the latest issue of the Atlantic online, novelist and legal scholar Garrett Epps considers the pros and cons of free speech, which he argues isn’t always risk-free.
Specifically, Epps looks at the case of hate speech, which research shows can sometimes inflict emotional hard as painful and lasting as any harm inflicted on the physical body. If that is the case, then, why do we promote it so?
Epps offers an interesting answer. The freedom to speak out offers us a healthy outlet for anger—and it certainly beats turning on one another with bombs and bullets.