Elsewhere, on Offence

In The Independent, Michael Coveney discusses theatre that offends, and what to do about it. There is a quote from yrstrly too:

Freedom of speech carries with it a freedom to insult; otherwise, as Tom Stoppard says, it’s not a freedom worth having. Bhatti’s first play was not based on any real-life case history, but offered as an extreme allegory of hypocrisy. And as a Sikh herself, who is she to be denied that privilege?

It says much about the state we’re in that her new play comes with explicit support from campaign groups Index on Censorship, English PEN and Free World. Robert Sharp of PEN says that the Sikhs who took exception to Behzti (and many prominent Sikhs didn’t) should remember that when you are satirised or criticised, then you’re relevant, you’ve arrived. But is there any limit to the offence a theatrical play can cause, or should there be?

“None at all,” says Sharp, “except perhaps from a clear incitement to violence. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion are sister rights. There is neither in China or Iran. People here should respond to things they don’t like by writing reviews, or writing their own plays.”

Both of the readers of this blog will note the provenance of the sound-bites offered. The bit about satire of minority faiths as a badge of relevance was first mooted in 2005; Putting limits on free speech in cases of incitement was noted last month; and my thoughts on counter-speech and responding through plays and reviews was the subject of a Comment is Free piece last year.  Its a long term project, but you can see how the blog-as-scrapbook model is beginning to pay off.

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