Free Speech

As an academic, I am a supporter of free speech and the right to express our ideas even if other people don't like them.  In the UK, section 5 of the 1986 Public Order Act outlaws 'insulting words or behaviour'.  But who decides what is insulting?  If someone says (as they occasionally do) that I am to the right of Genghis Khan, I feel insulted.  Should I therefore dial 999 (911 for US readers)?  If someone criticises my paper at a conference in the UK and they use insulting words whilst doing so, should I report them to the police?    

Reform Section 5, a new pressure group set up by  bunch of secular, libertarian, and Christian think-tanks / lobbying groups, highlights some of the ridiculous arrests and cases that have come before the courts as a result of section 5.  See the video below, where David Davis MP explains the reasons for setting up Reform Section 5.   

My favourite novel is George Orwell's 1984.  Orwell was so prescient - the world he describes is similar in many ways to the crazy world we live in today, where freedom of speech or freedom to express our ideas and beliefs is increasingly constrained.    

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