Learning from History: Orwell’s (Prophetic) Proposed Preface to Animal Farm and Freedom in Society

"At any given moment there is an orthodoxy, a body of ideas which it is assumed that all right-thinking people will accept without question. It is not exactly forbidden to say this, that or the other, but it is 'not done' to say it..." - Ben Edwards

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T Howard's picture

Quote:
If the intellectual liberty which without a doubt has been one of the distinguishing marks of western civilisation means anything at all, it means that everyone shall have the right to say and to print what he believes to be the truth, provided only that it does not harm the rest of the community in some quite unmistakable way.

Two points in rejoinder:

  1. Appealing to western civilization or culture to save intellectual liberty is no longer an acceptable defense either because we are being told western culture is inherently racist, colonial, and a product of white privilege.
  2. We are also told the reason some should be silenced / canceled is that what they are saying or writing does harm the community "in some quite unmistakable way." Thus, certain ideas and speech are now equated with violence. Microaggressions abound. Even if you don't speak, you're committing violence.

So, while I agree with Orwell, his defense of intellectual freedom is actually canceled by the very arguments he used to defend it.

josh p's picture

Orwell was a modernist. He would have had no tolerance for the post-modern arguments that as you say cancel him. A roughly equivalent modern parallel was, his follower, Hitchens.