JK Rowling, Margaret Atwood and Salman Rushdie lead fightback against attacks on free speech – Bill Jamieson

There is a growing gulf between opinions expressed in public and those in private, writes Bill Jamieson.

JK Rowling was among 150 signatories of a letter raising concerns about attacks on freedom of speech (Picture: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)
JK Rowling was among 150 signatories of a letter raising concerns about attacks on freedom of speech (Picture: Ben Pruchnie/Getty Images)

Why has it taken so long? A fightback has now begun over the stifling of open debate and “a vogue for public shaming and ostracism” in public commentary. Some 150 writers, academics and activists – including authors JK Rowling, Salman Rushdie and Margaret Atwood – have signed an open letter denouncing the “restriction of debate”.

Several signatories have been attacked for comments that were deemed to have caused offence, including JK Rowling, fiercely criticised this month for comments about transgender people.

Hide Ad

“The free exchange of information and ideas, the lifeblood of a liberal society, is daily becoming more constricted,” says the letter.

“It is now all too common to hear calls for swift and severe retribution in response to perceived transgressions of speech and thought.”

Hide Ad
Read More
Scots author sacked for backing JK Rowling

I fear this is why the fightback has taken so long, for many are afraid to speak out in public for fear of attack and denunciation.

Hide Ad

The result, sadly, is a growing gulf between opinions expressed by prominent people in public – and those expressed privately by millions of people in the privacy of their homes.

The letter warns of fear spreading through arts and media. “We are already paying the price in greater risk aversion among writers, artists, and journalists who fear for their livelihoods if they depart from the consensus, or even lack sufficient zeal in agreement,” it adds.

Hide Ad

We are told such inhibition is a good thing and the way forward. Really? I sense the opposite is true.

A message from the Editor:

Hide Ad

Thank you for reading this article on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Hide Ad

Subscribe to scotsman.com and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit www.scotsman.com/subscriptions now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Hide Ad

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.