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Saturday 6 July 2019

what can’t be said

New taboos

We used to assume that speech would always become freer. Not any more

By Arifa Akbar

The ThinkIn began with a Ricky Gervais quotation, nodding to Voltaire: “If you don’t believe in a person’s right to say things you find ‘grossly offensive’, then you don’t believe in free speech.” How does that apply to comedy and where should the limits – if any – lie?

  • Political correctness as power play. What is labelled “political correctness” is intended to offer protection to the vulnerable. But the label is often used pejoratively – frequently in the phrase “PC gone mad” – appropriated by precisely those people in power who don’t need protection. Is this just another means of silencing minority views?
  • A plea for the return of “good, old-fashioned despising”. Unfashionable, but that’s the point: if we find something despicable, let’s say so. Moderation in all things may sound healthy – but what does tactful silence do for the blood pressure?
  • Be a snowflake. Just as the powerful have appropriated the word “political correctness” so the vulnerable should rescue the word “snowflake” from the snide, and celebrate admission of vulnerability as a personal and social good.
  • Lessons of the 2015 attacks on the satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo. How is satire to be understood in the modern world?

Video produced & edited by Kimberley Moore

Photography by Getty Images