There’s Something Frustrating About The Assange Extradition Decision

District Judge Vanessa Baraitser today handed down her decision in the USA v Assange extradition case.

The Americans were attempting to have Julian Assange shipped to the USA to face espionage charges for his role in the release of the Wikileaks cables. Press freedom advocates argued that to prosecute Assange would be a violation of his free speech rights (Padraig Reidy wrote a good summary last year).

Today, district judge Baraitser ultimately denied the extradition application, and human rights advocates are celebrating the judgment.

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Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making

This crazy story about a university claiming that posters in a window “break the law” is a good example of how chaotic and inconsistent law-making can lead to a denial of liberty. Quick thread. #


I’ve been doing some reading on the ‘chilling effect’ recently. It’s usually used with regards to freedom of expression, but it’s a term imported from US legal thought, and can be applied to any kind of liberty or lawful activity. #
Supreme Court Justice William Brennan warned of how a ‘chill’ can be “generated by vagueness, overbreadth and unbridled discretion” of laws/state powers used to curb speech. (Dissent in Walker v City of Birmingham, 388 US 307 in 1967) # Continue reading “Vagueness, Overbreadth and Unbridled Discretion in Law-making”

Sometimes ‘Cancel Culture’ *Is* A Free Speech Issue

A letter in Harper’s Magazine, supporting the principle of free speech and bemoaning ‘cancel culture,’ has caused something of a stir. At least, on Twitter.

In itself, the letter is unobjectionable. However, many people think it is an ill-timed, coded rebuke to the social justice campaigns of the moment:

I think the uproar is more about the timing and the context in which this letter engages (BLM, TERF wars etc), which feels very dog whistle-y.

@sysh

Others have ridiculed its premise and the signatories. They say that freedom of speech does not mean freedom from consequences, and that if an audience reacts negatively to something they find offensive, that is merely a manifestation of free speech.

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Journalists Under Attack

I’m incredibly busy with a couple of major things at the moment made more difficult by the lockdown.

(No, not A Thousand And One Recaps — that’s ticking along just fine).

As a result of my distractions, have not had time to post about the appalling UK coronavirus death rate, the preposterous lockdown sabotage by Dominic Cummings, the horrific murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis, or the atrocious glorification of violence by Donald Trump that has finally caused Twitter to place warnings next to his Tweets.

My silence on all these issues is not to be taken as due to a lack of opinion, or sufficient emotion about each of them. I just don’t have time.

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COVID19, Free Speech and the Right to Receive Information

In 2004, the writer Orhan Pamuk gave the inaugural Arthur Miller Freedom to Write lecture, at the Prague Writer’s Festival. Among his remarks, he said this:

I have personally known writers who have chosen to raise forbidden topics purely because they were forbidden. I think I am no different. Because when another writer in another house is not free, no writer is free. This, indeed, is the spirit that informs the solidarity felt by PEN, by writers all over the world.

Orhan Pamuk

I would often use the highlighted bit of that quote in English PEN’s marketing communications. I thought it would appeal to the worldliness of other writers, their solidarity and empathy with fellow wordsmiths.

But occasionally I would worry that the proper meaning of that quote was properly understood. Because taken literally, it’s obviously untrue. The fact that Ahmet Altan (to pick another Turkish novelist) is currently in prison and censored does not stop me writing my derivative science fiction or my bad poetry. Continue reading “COVID19, Free Speech and the Right to Receive Information”