|I LOVE this cover. SO awesome.|
It's a book on free speech issues, so you know I've got to read it, but this time it's by a British guy! Mick Hume is the editor of Spiked, writes newspaper columns, and is a Marxist which I don't really get but OK. The back cover says he "was described as Britain's only libertarian Marxist newspaper columnist" so that makes it really confusing. And here is his free speech opinion.
It's kind of a screed and definitely a polemic. Hume is not happy and he's going to let you know it. It gets a bit repetitive at times. And, even from my "free speech is pretty much a religious tenet with me" perspective, I think he goes a bit too far. I agreed with a lot of it, though, and there's some great analysis in there. It's very worth reading; not as necessary as Kindly Inquisitors (I'd like every citizen to read that by age 19, please), but an important addition to the free speech library.
Hume's British/European perspective is really interesting to read. He starts off with the Charlie Hebdo murders and dubs people who wish to limit speech "reverse-Voltaires." There is just generally more about Euro concerns, so it's fascinating.
The boring chapter, to me, was the one about sports. Largely because I really don't care about sports, and I especially don't care about Manchester football or whatever, but Hume's actual point isn't bad. Then I just plain disagreed with him when he said that Twitter shouldn't do anything to trolls; we should all just learn to ignore them. While I do think that trolls are better ignored than fussed over, Twitter is a private company with a perfect right to set rules about what is and is not acceptable, and the fact is that normal people tend to leave online fora when things get more abusive than is comfortable. Most people can only ignore so much.
But right after that there is a fabulous chapter about Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes' far-overused line about "there is no right to shout 'Fire' in a crowded theater." Hume complains about the constant use of this mis-quotation (they always leave out the 'falsely' bit) as if it applies to anything at all--and he also points out that Holmes changed his mind about the case and the ruling was struck down in 1969.
Underneath all the legalese, the fire-in-a-theatre argument has often been an expression of elitist disdain for the masses. It rests upon the assumption that many people are ignorant and suggestible enough for a word out of place to start a riot, just as being told a theatre was on fire might start a stampede for the exits.There is also quite a lot about Holocaust denial, which is a much bigger issue in Europe than the US. Several European countries have made Holocaust denial an actual crime, and not just Germany. To my mind, this gives more power than necessary to the silly people in the Holocaust denial business. Hume argues that while the Holocaust is important, it is not dogma; we can discuss and argue about it. It's a very interesting section on something I don't hear much about.
Hume makes a lot of good points that are worth thinking about and discussing. Overall I liked Trigger Warning pretty well, and I recommend it.