Posts Tagged Free expression

Review: Sixties counterculture: A lecture from Dr. Greg Scorzo at The Academy 21 July 2019

gregscorzo

Greg Scorzo

Greg Scorzo is the director and editor of Culture on the Offensive and host of the Art of Thinking. I attended his lecture at The Academy which contrasted the counterculture of the 60s with the Leftist culture of 2019. Greg’s central argument was that the 60s counterculture was predominantly individualistic whereas the 2019 Left stressed collective themes.

For Greg, the 60s counterculture was in favour of pluralistic free speech and not only opposed government censorship of ideas but sought to foster a cultural environment that nurtured the expression of radical, even ‘dangerous’ ideas. Alongside this sat the belief that this could be done in a peaceful way and that such free expression led away from a view that violence was the only way to gain a voice or achieve change. Fast forward to the present day and that concept is linked explicitly with the Right. The Left instead now champion a ‘call-out culture’ which seeks to restrict free expression with symbolic prohibitions. Bans on words, symbols and even certain types of creative writing (for example writing with a cast of characters who are not sufficiently diverse). Additionally, Religions have been reclassified in terms of ethnic culture rather than seen as ideologies. This places them off-limits for criticism on the basis of the values they promote or their political impact. The Left today would view such criticism as an attack on the ethnic culture these religions now represent.

Whereas the 60s counterculture valued non-conformity the Left today engineers social incentives for people to stay ‘on message’. In Greg’s view whereas pluralistic free expression led away from violence the suppression of ideas favoured today was likely to create the conditions for it.

Greg also highlighted how the 60s counterculture appealed to universalism. It sought to persuade those who held a different view and emphasised to them the fairness of equal treatment. He accepted that there were those within the 60s counterculture who favoured equality of outcome as an aim but argued that this was not the dominant ideology of the movement. The 2019 Left emphasises equality of outcome which essentially looks at dividing power between rival groups and holds individuals responsible for the group to which they belong. Rather than appealing to universal values, it is divisive.

How the Left in 2019 has moved from the positive ideas of freedom expressed in the counterculture of the 60s to the promotion of a bureaucratic conformism today is a question worthy of further study? How they square this with an emotional attachment to the earlier counterculture is also a puzzle. I left Greg’s lecture full of these and other questions.

By Pat Harrington

#theacademy

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Don’t Say That

dontsaythat

How far should we limit free expression?

The Age We Are’s ‘Don’t Say That’ raises questions about our use of language reminicient of Newspeak in Orwell’s 1984. Newspeak is “politically correct” speech taken to its maximum extent. Newspeak is based on standard English, but all words describing “unorthodox” political concepts have been removed. Don’t Say That asks whether we are censored or self-censor to avoid causing offence. Should we just say what we want? Should we be frightened of causing offence? Is it possible to be conditioned to avoid causing offence? Is there a line and where should it be drawn?

The production is set in a paralell world centred around The Bureau. The Bureau monitors communications to limit expression in order to limit the possibility of causing offence. Serious stuff but the cast work in a lot of humour. I particularly liked the physicality when they came togehter in a choreographed routine to represent censorship machines. I also loved the sketches of a supermarket checkout girl and customer showing the politically correct and incorrect ways to conduct a transaction. The language of the Bureau was spot-on, New Labour helping or facilitating your ‘choices’ (which was, in truth, a thinly veiled coercion).

The production raised more questions in my mind than it answered but perhaps that is no bad thing!

Reviewed by Pat Harrington

Fri 28 Aug
1330
Space 3, 80 High Street, EH1 1TH
£5 / 0845 508 8316

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