Never in human history was there such a chance for freedom of expression. If we have Internet access, any one of us can publish almost anything we like and potentially reach an audience of millions. Never was there a time when the evils of unlimited speech flowed so easily across frontiers: violent intimidation, gross violations of privacy, tidal waves of abuse. A pastor burns a Koran in Florida and UN officials die in Afghanistan.
Drawing on a lifetime of writing about dictatorships and dissidents, Timothy Garton Ash argues that in this connected world that he calls cosmopolis, the way to combine freedom and diversity is to have more but also better free speech. Across all cultural divides we must strive to agree on how we disagree. He draws on a thirteen-language global online project – freespeechdebate.com –conducted out of Oxford University and devoted to doing just that.
With vivid examples, from his personal experience of China’s Orwellian censorship apparatus to the controversy around Charlie Hebdo to a very English court case involving food writer Nigella Lawson, he proposes a framework for civilized conflict in a world where we are all becoming neighbours.
A major piece of cultural analysis, sane, witty and urgently important. Timothy Garton Ash exemplifies the "robust civility" he recommends as an antidote to the pervasive unhappiness, nervousness and incoherence around freedom of speech, rightly seeing the basic challenge as how we create a cultural and moral climate in which proper public argument is possible and human dignity affirmed. -- Rowan Williams, Master of Magdalene College, Cambridge, and former Archbishop of Canterbury
Particularly timely. . . Garton Ash argues forcefully that. . . there is an increasing need for freer speech. . . A powerful, comprehensive book * The Economist *
Garton Ash has two virtues that are rarely combined. The ability to theorise and the ability to work. His research is wide-ranging. He covers all the great controversies of our time and many more illuminating conflicts you are unlikely to know about... An urgent and encyclopedic work -- Nick Cohen * Observer *
Illuminating and thought-provoking... [Garton Ash's] larger project is not merely to defend freedom of expression, but to promote civil, dispassionate discourse, within and across cultures, even about the most divisive and emotive subjects. -- Faramerz Dabhoiwala * Guardian * Timothy Garton Ash aspires to articulate norms that should govern freedom of communication in a transnational world. His work is original and inspiring. Free Speech is an unfailingly eloquent and learned book that delights as well as instructs. -- Robert Post, Dean and Sol & Lillian Goldman Professor of Law, Yale Law School
There are still countless people risking their lives to defend free speech and struggling to make lonely voices heard in corners around the world where voices are hard to hear. Let us hope that this book will bring confidence and hope to this world-as-city. I believe it will exert great influence. -- Murong Xuecun, author of LEAVE ME ALONE: A NOVEL OF CHENGDU
A thorough and well-argued contribution to the quest for global free speech norms. * Kirkus Reviews *
A master class in political and historical analysis * Publishers Weekly *
Free Speech is a resource, a weapon, an encyclopedia of anecdote, example and exemplum that reaches toward battling restrictions on expression with mountains of data, new ideas, liberating ideas. -- Diane Roberts * Prospect *
Admirably clear... wise, up-to-the-minute and wide-ranging... Free Speech encourages us to take a breath, look hard at the facts and see how well-tried liberal principles can be applied and defended in daunting new circumstances. -- Edmund Fawcett * The New York Times Book Review *
Timothy Garton Ash rises to the task of directing us how to live civilly in our connected diversity. -- John Lloyd * Financial Times *
A brave and admirable attempt to construct a platform on which more people can find common ground, even if only on how to disagree without killing each other. Whether the ten principles are used or not, they are a considerable achievement. -- George Brock * Times Literary Supplement *