Timothy Garton Ash weighs in with a fine piece on the Springer affair. Even though I don't agree with his view of the show's merits ("a brilliant piece of musical theatre") I can't argue with his conclusion. Maybe we could all have a debate on what constitutes an acceptable form of "public offence" Is that possible? For instance, I'm much more troubled by crass advertising billboards than controversial plays. Perhaps it comes down to forms of civility in the public square. This is such a tricky issue I find myself changing my mind every half-hour.

Here's Garton Ash anyway:
"And there is the choice that faces our increasingly multicultural society. We can try to defend an ever growing number of 'cultures', defined by religion, race, ethnic traditi craon or sexual preference, from public comment they regard as grossly offensive. There's a case for this, but let's be clear what it will mean. The result must inevitably be that we shall have less free speech. Future historians may look back on the last three decades of the 20th century as a high point of freedom of expression, never to be achieved again. There may be a net gain in other public goods - such as civic peace - but there'll be a net loss of liberty.

Alternatively, we can take the view that, precisely because Britain is increasingly multicultural, all variations of religion, all 'cultures' - including, of course, atheism, devout Darwinism, etc - should get used to living with a higher degree of public offence. Either you try to protect everyone from offence, or you allow offence equally for all. I'm emphatically of the offence-to-all persuasion. "

|||Clive|||http://clivedavis.blogspot.com/2005/01/free-speech-timothy-garton-ash-weighs.html|||1/13/2005 09:49:00 am|||||||||