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A comparative guide
Series: Understandings
Author: Duncan Watts

Political systems are shaped by the societies in which they function. For this reason, it is helpful to know something about the historical, geographical, social and economic settings against which they operate. It is also helpful to understand something of the values and ideas which have mattered and continue to matter to those who inhabit any individual country. This book examines the background factors that help to shape the way in which political life and processes operate in Britain and America. In particular, it examines the similarities and differences in the political culture of the countries. Constitutions describe the fundamental rules according to which states are governed, be they embodied in the law, customs or conventions. Liberties and rights are of especial concern in liberal democracies, which claim to provide a broad range of them. The book examines the protection of liberties in both countries, in particular the right of freedom of expression. In advanced Western democracies, the media perform a major role. The book deals with the impact on political life of the two major mass media: the press and television. Elections are the main mechanism for expressing the public's collective desires about who should be in government and what the government should do. The book examines a number of issues about the functioning of elections in two democracies, looking at the electoral system, and the way in which voters behave and the influence upon their voting.

How did we get here and why does it matter?

This book asks who gets to exercise free speech and who does not, and examines what happens when powerful voices think they have been silenced. It asks how the spaces and structures of 'speech' – mass media, the lecture theatre, the public event, the political rally and perhaps most frequently the internet – shape this debate. It explores the long histories of this contemporary moment, to think about how acts such as censorship, boycotts and protests around free speech developed historically and how these histories inform the present. The book first explores two opposing sides in this debate: starting with a defence of speech freedoms and examining how speech has been curbed and controlled, and countering this with an examination of the way that free speech has been weaponised and deployed as a bad faith argument by people wishing to commit harm. It then considers two key battlefields in the free speech wars: first, the university campus and secondly, the internet. This book is the first to explore this moment in the free speech wars. It hopes to equip readers to navigate this complex, highly charged topic: rather than taking a side in the debate, it encourages the reader to be suspicious – or at least sceptical – of the way that this topic is being framed and articulated in the media today. The free speech wars should act as context, provocation, stimulation and – hopefully – a route through this conflict.

Jodie Ginsberg

’s ability to investigate matters of national importance. Laws meant to deal with hate speech, harmful speech online and fake news in countries from Singapore to Germany are already scooping up political criticism and satire. Even the United States, which prides itself on being the flag bearer for free speech, demonstrates less than unfettered commitment to freedom of expression when its leader sees fit to brand the press as the ‘enemies of the people’. Meanwhile, authoritarian states such as China and Saudi Arabia continue to exercise more traditional means to suppress

in The free speech wars
Open Access (free)
Humanitarianism in a Post-Liberal World Order
Stephen Hopgood

modernity and the solidarity of humanitarian strangers? Can these humanitarians work with governments that use violence as standard to deter dissent and punish opposition and discriminate on principle against those they see as deviant in terms of gender and sexuality? Governments that suppress freedom of expression and persecute minorities? Or who routinely abuse refugees? Reform risks opening up the entire humanitarian enterprise to these sorts of pragmatic compromise with unpredictable results. There is, of course, significant pragmatism already

Journal of Humanitarian Affairs
Duncan Watts

their power should not be abused. There are occasions when there is a need to deploy the powers of the police or security services, and to impose other limitations on freedom. But those restrictions must be capable of justification on grounds of the common good. The more the citizens know of the reasoning behind them, the better. They can then assess whether essential values have been preserved. For many years the rights which were emphasised tended not to require the government to act (freedom of expression, for example), whereas in recent years more importance has

in Understanding US/UK government and politics
Democratisation and freedom of speech (1975– 81)
Duncan Wheeler

In the words of Paul Rae, ‘many (mainly Western) governments and human rights NGOs use freedom of expression as a standardized metric for assessing the political status and global rights rankings of states worldwide. It is an important principle, but a blunt instrument.’ 1 Blunt as it may be, a critical analysis of censorial apparatus between 1975 and 1981 can help articulate the means by which democracy was conceptualised and exercised alongside a greater appreciation of what were formulated as key performance indicators for the Transition and

in Following Franco
Abstract only
Thinking with Russia, writing English commonwealth
Felicity Jane Stout

the readings of Muscovy Company governors and the very ‘Catiline’ of Elizabeth’s regime, Burghley, or one of his clients at least. Burghley’s act of suppression confirmed the politically sensitive nature of Fletcher’s text as well as the regime’s tyranny over freedom of expression. Controversial on its first publication, Fletcher’s text on Russia also held political purchase for later editors. The themes of evil counsel, tyranny, oppressive taxation, parliament as every man’s voice, the importance of virtuous nobility and the crucial role of counsel in government in

in Exploring Russia in the Elizabethan commonwealth
Chandrika Kaul

censorship, punitive legislation, extortionate fines, forcible closures and imprisonment. The Utilitarian school of thought as it developed over the nineteenth century emphasised the Raj’s responsibility for inculcating Western attitudes towards freedom of expression and participation in self-governing institutions – the Viceroy Lord Ripon’s attempts to introduce local self-government in the 1880s

in Writing imperial histories
Abstract only
Theatre and protest in Putin’s Russia
Molly Flynn

in prison. The Bolotnaya Square Case, as it has come to be known, symbolizes the rise of authoritarianism in Russia for many as the extended detainment of political protestors and the persecution of opposition leaders has persisted. Increased restrictions on freedom of expression were put in place immediately following Putin’s return to the presidency. In 2013 Russia’s parliament passed a bill outlawing the representation of so-called ‘homosexual propaganda’ in the presence of minors. The vocabulary in the bill does not define the parameters of the restriction, an

in Witness onstage
Imen Neffati

opposition between free speech and censorship, which often ignores context. However, Charlie Hebdo itself does not subscribe to an idea of absolute freedom of expression. In fact, in response to accusations of causing offence to Muslims, Philippe Val (editor of Charlie Hebdo from 1992 to 2009 and responsible in 2006 for the publication of the Muhammad caricatures) had argued: We never pretended to fight for a freedom of expression that is not restricted by the freedom of others: we acknowledge the necessity of the boundaries that French laws pose, such as the

in The free speech wars