It’s good to talk – if you dare

Everyone is in favour of free speech. Hardly a day passes without it being extolled, but some people’s idea of it is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Those words have seemed particularly relevant this week.

While the Government was being derided and applauded in equal measure for announcing tougher legal measures to strengthen free speech in universities, battle lines were being drawn by those eagerly anticipating Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s interview with Oprah Winfrey, and those shouting very loudly that the Royal outliers should just shut up.

The freedom of being able to express your opinion openly seems to have been hobbled by those who fail or refuse to accept that a different opinion isn’t automatically the wrong one.

But with the exception of those promoting violence and spreading known, harmful untruths, the world would be a lesser place without a public platform for people to air their views – even if they make others hot under the collar.

Where would our newspapers be without their opinion columns and letters pages? How could you compose a thought leadership piece if you need to pre-emptively factor in any potential offence it might cause?

Disagreeing is part of being human and social media has given us a raft of platforms on which to voice opposing views.

Perhaps it would be worth taking stock of this comment before responding to an opinion you strongly oppose: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”

That famous quote is attributed variously to the philosopher Voltaire and to his biographer Evelyn Beatrice Hall.

And the one at the start of this piece? Those are the words of Winston Churchill, the best Prime Minister in British history, or a racist, misogynist imperialist – it’s all just a matter of opinion.

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