How not to make the case for free speechPosted on October 10, 2010
The Independent published a peculiar puff-piece from Prof Dennis Hayes of Academics for Academic Freedom (AFAF) yesterday, purportedly on the topic of free speech. It’s part of a series to promote the Battle of Ideas being held by the Institute of Ideas, an entryist Marxist group which used to be known as the Revolutionary Communist Party.
In a messy, meandering article he rightly accused the Left of “suffering from intellectual amnesia about the attack on liberty that happened under New Labour.” However, having pointed out the Left’s failure, he goes on to launch a bizarre attack on the Right’s most successful promotion of free speech in recent years – the Freedom Zone.
“The best role the state can play in this is to keep out of the way entirely. It should not interfere by seeking to promote debate in ‘Freedom Zones’ that feature at the Tory Party conference as these, like Hyde Park Corner, run the danger of turning free speech into an irrelevant entertainment.”
This is weird for several reasons.
First, there has never been any question of “the state” promoting or indeed having anything to do with the Freedom Zone. It’s a merrily anti-establishment event from The Freedom Association which offers a popular alternative to the tightly controlled conference hall.
Second, in the same piece he lavishes praise on the largely leftist Convention of Modern Liberty. What, I wonder is the difference between the two that makes the CML “very successful” but the Freedom Zone “irrelevant entertainment”? If anything, the CML was a flash in the pan which its organisers sadly never bothered to repeat – whilst the Freedom Zone has been growing for three years and will next year branch out to the other conferences.
Most amusingly, if Hayes reckons the Freedom Zone is such a “danger” to free speech, he should probably tell his host and ally at the Battle of Ideas, Claire Fox, who…erm….spoke at the Zone on Monday.
I am delighted to support the free speech of Academics for Academic Freedom, the Institute of Ideas, Prof Dennis Hayes and indeed anyone else – and I’m sure the Freedom Association holds the same view. Prof Dennis Hayes, on the other hand, seems to think it’s consistent with free speech to attack the Freedom Zone as dangerous.
Which of those two views, do you reckon, is actually a “danger” to freedom?
Tags: Academics for Academic Freedom, Claire Fox, Communism, Conservative Party Conference, Dennis Hayes, Freedom, Freedom Zone, Institute of Ideas, Marxism, opinion, Politics, Socialism, The Freedom Association, The Independent