Thursday, July 23, 2020

Offensive speech

It looks like I'm probably not teaching Mill this coming year, which is a shame. This case - in which police required that a banner reading 'white silence is violence' be removed because it was 'offensive' - would be a good one for discussions of free expression.

Wednesday, July 15, 2020

Desmond Swayne, MP, objecting to face masks

This clip is doing the rounds. In case videos get taken down, it can also be found here and here. (If all else fails, it's in Hansard here. The wording recorded there is not exactly what is said in the video.) It might be useful for teaching in several respects.

Swayne describes mandatory face masks as a 'monstrous imposition' and suggests that the police will be needed to make him wear one. My understanding is that masks will soon be a legal requirement, rather than just a recommendation, so this could qualify as civil disobedience.

In reply, Hancock refers to the need to balance public health against the liberty to go shopping, suggesting that allowing people to shop while wearing masks strikes the right balance. This illustrates the idea that the rights/freedoms we allow may be the subject of some kind of cost-benefit analysis.

He also notes that the law may be enforced not only by the policy, but also by the public. It's not entirely clear whether he means only that most people will probably obey voluntarily or whether he means that public pressure will enforce the obligation on others. The latter, at least, could possibly illustrate Mill's idea that freedom can be limited by social pressure (though Mill thinks this a danger even without the law).

Not bad for 80 seconds...