As Timothy Garton Ash makes admirably clear in his wise, up-to-the-minute and wide-ranging new survey, Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World, most of the difficult arguments about free speech bear on its price in terms of other things that also ought to matter to us...He writes with panache and understands the world he works in, especially the virtual world of the Net. Practical answers interest him more than doctrinal purity...Bewilderment is the easy option. 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.
Oxford professor Timothy Garton Ash’s new book Free Speech: Ten Principles for a Connected World is a rare thing: a worthwhile contribution to a debate without two developed sides. Ash does an excellent job laying out the theoretical and practical bases for the western liberal positions on free speech. What he may lack in innovation, he makes up for with breadth and detail...[But} it isn’t good enough for Ash to imagine speech operating the way he hopes it will; he leaves undone the work of evaluating what has actually happened over time, and to what groups.
Garton Ash has two virtues, which 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. Because freedom of speech is a right that other rights depend on, this book encompasses vast areas of 21st-century dispute...If he has a fault, it is his old one. He cannot speak plainly about the need to fight religious prejudice. We must bite our tongues in the presence of religion and 'respect the believer but not necessarily the content of the belief.' His formula is as canting as the claim of a queer-bashing preacher to 'love the sinner and hate the sin.' If a belief mandates the execution of apostates such as Hirsi Ali, you respect neither belief nor believer. But this is a small complaint.