Kahui twins’ mum highlights a freedom of speech issue – and a freedom to protest issue, too

June 30, 2011

Alf kicks off on a lofty note today: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

Yep. Most of us are familiar with that libertarian quote that champions our freedom of speech.

Usually it is attributed to Voltaire, although it is reasonable to suppose he would have expressed himself in French. Anyway, it seems those words were first used by an Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the pseudonym of Stephen G Tallentyre in The Friends of Voltaire (1906), as a summation of Voltaire’s beliefs on freedom of thought and expression.

Now let’s vary it: “I disapprove of what you sell in your bookshop, but I will defend to the death your right to decide.”

Maybe not to the death, on second thoughts.

But Alf is happy to support the proposition that book-sellers should be free to decide which books they sell and which they do not.

This idea is not much different – if at all – from the proposition that a book publisher should be entitled to publish what he or she wants to publish, and to reject the rest.

If things were otherwise, then publishers would be obliged to publish everything brought to them and book-sellers would be obliged to sell everything that is published.

Palpably, that is bollocks.

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