Summarised by Centrist
Lord Jonathan Sumption delivered a keynote speech at the Free Speech Union’s AGM and Conference in Christchurch Town Hall on 4 November 2023. In his address, Sumption says free speech is a fundamental human right, but it faces growing threats, even in liberal democracies like the United Kingdom, the United States, and New Zealand.
The primary threat to free speech does not come from the state, but from societal pressures and the fear of public opinion. The decline of individualism and the rise of conformity , which suppresses diverse opinions, is a trend. This is especially true amongst the young.
Free speech should only be restricted to prevent harm to others, not to avoid causing offence. Yet, the contemporary definition of harm is increasingly subjective. It has been used by self-righteous minorities in stifling dissenting opinions. He cites the transgender rights movement as an example of such a minority.
Individuals need to resist self-censorship and be willing to stand up to the mob.