The point is that the relative freedom which we enjoy depends of public opinion. The law is no protection. Governments make laws, but whether they are carried out, and how the police behave, depends on the general temper in the country. If large numbers of people are interested in freedom of speech, there will be freedom of speech, even if the law forbids it; if public opinion is sluggish, inconvenient minorities will be persecuted, even if laws exist to protect them. The decline in the desire for individual liberty has not been so sharp as I would have predicted six years ago, when the war was starting, but still there has been a decline.

– George Orwell, in 1945


10 thoughts on “George Orwell, on Freedom of Speech

  1. Most people live in bubbles believing their success is entirely of their own doing and believing they have some sort of privilege to a good life where others do not. They’re easily led by fascists.

    • Jan, I agree completely. Success is built from a lot of things; hard work may be one of them, but so is mere chance, luck, the good fortune of being in the right surroundings, the coincidence of being born into a more privileged socioeconomic status, and so on. We live amidst enormous inequality, and people DON’T all begin their paths on a level playing field; so, the only way to fix that is to help those who are in need. I really think most people would agree with this, if they took a moment to consider it.

      Unfortunately, we instead are now stuck with a racist, sexist, regressive demagogue who plays to people’s fears by blaming minorities. I believe that we’ll get through this, as a country, but it will definitely be a fight.

  2. I need to post a video I watched earlier with Christiane Amanpour’s CPJ’s award acceptance speech. It is very relevant to this topic as freedom of speech is entwined with freedom of press. With Trump in office, the loss of these rights are a literal danger rather than a philosophical one (as some in the US would like to draw a line in the wet sand as to quickly wash away the premise of this argument). Trump already had a closed meeting with reporters trying to tell them what will be and will not be acceptable. This dictatorship is in the works.

    • That’s definitely true: freedom of the press is one of the single most important freedoms of a democratic society, and Trump has already made his totalitarian views on the matter clear. Of course, the sheer fact that he-of-of-the-tissue-paper-thin-skin wants to silence all criticism is a big reason that media needs to respond by turning up the volume, and if the regular media doesnt, the alternative media must.

      It’s going to be a scary time ahead. In the meantime, it’s going to be incredibly important to keep the fight going, no matter how difficult it might get.

    • No kidding about that; his regressive climate policies are terrifying enough, and the hate policies are even worse. I think most of us experienced a collective heart attack that night, and the sick feeling has continued lingering.

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