Leaker, “Against Free Speech”

Well, this one is nothing if not straightforward. Indeed, it has the virtue of stating plainly that for at least some scholars, advocacy of free speech is really only desirable when the results of such advocacy align with their own deeper political and moral commitments. When they don’t, it’s time to jettison free speech. I’ve noted similar moves by various legal scholars in this piece. But it is salubrious to see the position marked out with such openness and clarity.

The book is Against Free Speech (Rowman & Littlefield) by Anthony Leaker.Leaker

This book examines the renewed and vociferous defence of free speech witnessed in relation to a number of recent events, including the Charlie Hebdo massacre, the Brexit and Trump campaigns, and recent campus politics. Anthony Leaker argues that the defence of free speech has played a pivotal role in a resurgent right-wing nationalism, that it is the rallying point for a wider set of reactionary political demands, a form of aggrieved liberalism at best and patriarchal white supremacy at worst, aided by a complicit liberal centre. By focusing on these events and situating them within the wider geopolitical context of a post-democratic, post-truth world of austerity, ongoing conflict in the Middle East, pasokification, and rising fascism, Leaker critiques the role that the defence of free speech has played in legitimising the scapegoating of oppressed minorities while deflecting attention from the egregious operations of power that have led to ever greater inequality, injustice and capitalist destruction. This powerful book shows that free speech is in fact a myth, an ideological tool employed by those in power to sustain existing power relations.

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