Censorship in an Age of Freedom

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Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Main Lecture Theatre, Clerici, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


Observer Columnist, journalist, bestselling author, and Brookes' Creative Writing Fellow Nick Cohen, will discuss the subject of his latest book, 'You cannot read this book': Censorship in an Age of Freedom.

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the collapse of Communism, and the advent of the Web which allowed for even the smallest voice to be heard, everywhere you turned you were told that we were living in an age of unparalleled freedom.  In 'You cannot read this book': Censorship in an Age of Free (2012), Nick Cohen argues that this view is dangerously naive.  From the revolution in Iran that wasn't, to the Great Firewall of China and the imposition of super-injunctions from the filthy rich protecting their privacy, the traditional opponents of freedom of speech - religious fanaticism, plutocratic power and dictatorial states - are thriving, and in many repects finding the world more comfortable place in the early 21st century than they did in the late 20th.  This is not an account of interesting but trivial disputes about freedom of speech: the rights and wrongs of shouting 'fire' in a crowded theatre, of playing heavy metal at 3am in a built-up area or articulating extremist ideas in a school or university. Rather, this is a story that starts with the cataclysmic reaction of the Left and Right to the publication and denuciation of the Satanic Verses in 1988 that saw them jump into bed with radical extremists.  It ends at the juncture where even in the transgressive, liberated West, where so much blood had been split for Freedom, where rebellion is the comformist style and playing the dissenter the smart career move in the arts and media, you can write a book and end up destroyed or dead. 

Nick Cohen is a columnist for the Observer.  He does occasional pieces for Time, the Spectator, Standpoint, the Literary review and New Humanist.  He is th author of Cruel Britannia (1999), Pretty Straight guys (2003), What's Left: How Liberals Lost Their Way? (2007) and Waiting foe Etonians (2009).  You Can't Read This Book: Censorship in an Age of Freedom was publishes in 2012.