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Samizdata quote of the day – Eastern Europe is showing Britain up on Free Speech

Scruton gave a lecture on Wittgenstein to a private circle of intellectuals. He was quick to notice, however, that “they were far more interested in the fact that I was visiting at all”, rather than deliberations on the rather impenetrable Austrian thinker. The sense of togetherness was, according to the recollection of a Czech dissident, “the most important morale booster for us”.

It wasn’t just intellectuals who were in peril. The country, Scruton discovered, contained a sophisticated network of secret agents and snitches. Denunciation was prolific and social scrutiny omnipresent. No one, including the most inconsequential citizens, could feel safe from the Big Brother of the state and social pressure of their peers. The Czech author and playwright Václav Havel made this atmosphere famous when describing the deliberations of a greengrocer, who had to place a pro-regime slogan on display in his shop to avoid being denounced or judged unfavourably by his neighbours.

It is 2024, and in many ways the positions of Britain and Czechoslovakia (now Czechia) have reversed. It is now in Prague where freedom of speech and thought is tolerated, and it is in Britain where it is under assault – sometimes on the social level, but increasingly on the legal level as the recent legislation in Scotland shows. True, people seldom go to prison for expressing their opinions – like Havel did in Czechoslovakia – but lives have been destroyed nonetheless. Sackings, cancellations and character assassinations have proliferated in the country that was once hailed as the cradle of liberalism.

Štěpán Hobza

4 comments to Samizdata quote of the day – Eastern Europe is showing Britain up on Free Speech

  • Paul Marks

    However, all members of the European Union are now compelled to have “Hate Speech” laws and all members of the “international community” are soon to be compelled to have Diversity and Inclusion (translation – Death-To-Liberty) policies.

    This will NOT exclude Eastern European countries, and it will not exclude the United States either – a couple of leftist appointments to the Supreme Court and the 1st Amendment, and the rest of the Bill of Rights, would be exterminated.

    To safeguard any basic liberties it is vital to secede from the “international community” – the various international organisations and agreements (treaties and other such).

  • Paul Marks

    Recently a Cambridge academic (yes Roger Scruton’s beloved Cambridge) was driven out for saying that if the same standards were applied to black people as to white people there would be very few black academics and students at elite institutions – no argument or evidence was presented against what he said, that what he said was heresy was enough.

    “But the Woke (the Frankfurt School “Critical Theory” Marxists) do not send people to prison or execute them” – give them time, they will.

  • Barbarus

    people seldom go to prison for expressing their opinions

    Tell that to Mark Meechan

    That wasn’t even an opinion, just a bit of fun.

  • Paul Marks

    Barbarus – yes many people have faced criminal punishment for saying things that, in my own lifetime, were not “crimes”. Even jokes are now crimes – and that is true in America as well, for example a good man is in prison for the joke “Vote by Text” meme – a meme he did not even invent (he was brought to New York, where he does not live, and put on trial before a jury of leftists – who would have voted to burn him alive, if asked to do so).

    As for reform – it depends on repealing Acts of Parliament and other basic legal documents.

    For example, as the courts recently reminded the government – one can not change policy on energy prices unless one first repeals the “Climate Act”.

    One can not stop mass immigration unless one gets the United Kingdom out of the European Convention on Human Rights and, as well, the United Nations Conventions on refugees and migration (which are now even hitting Japan).

    And one can not have Freedom of Speech without repealing the Equality Act (2010) and a whole series of Acts of Parliament going all the way back to 1965.

    “And there is little chance of any of this stuff, on climate or anything else, being repealed” – I know.

    And Proportional Representation would change “little chance” to “no chance at all”.

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