We have a great tradition in this country. It goes back a long way; the classic statements of which are in John Milton's Areopagitica, and in John Stuart Mill's essay On Liberty where it is said (Christopher Hitchens paraphrases):
"However discredited an opinion may be, to ban it would still be a huge mistake; because otherwise there would be no way of finding out if you yourself had made a correct point. If you had no opponent; if you silenced them there would be no opponent. There would be no measure of your own articulacy or your own willingness to argue." (At 56 minutes 40 seconds of video above)Hitchens adds his take:
"Thus, it must always be the case that any opinion, no matter how unpopular must be at the front and centre of the argument."Christopher Hitchens then said that Rosa Luxemburg put it even better:
"Freedom of speech is meaningless unless it's for the person who thinks differently."Member of the audience then asked: "do you believe in the laws of libel and slander?"
Christopher Hitchens replied:
"No. I left England partly because of the laws of libel. It makes journalism almost impossible. Because again, it's a matter of her feelings (lady beside him). The person bringing a law suit in Britain (many of them tried it on me when I was here) has only to prove that their reputation has been damaged or that their feelings have been hurt. They don't have to prove what I say is not true."He then added a real shock and awe statement which if you think about it, does kind of ring true. Hitch said:
"There you have it again: it's a secular form of a blasphemy law." (At 57 minutes 25 seconds of the video above)Powerful stuff. YouTube video in full here.