Everyone laughed when Radio 1 began bleeping the word 'faggot'. But few have spoken out in opposition to Brighton Council's decision to introduce a city-wide ban on all music with homophobic lyrics. And there has been little said in defence of Samina Malik, the self-styled 'lyrical terrorist' who was sentenced to a nine-month suspended sentence for possessing jihadist literature. Doesn't freedom of artistic expression mean freedom even for dodgy poets, homophobes and nihilists, or is this a moral cop-out? Should people who have obnoxious thoughts be challenged legally as well as morally? Are there any limits we should set on what can be said or written? We have invited free speech supporters from different backgrounds to kick off the discussion on the state of artistic freedom today.
The Manifesto Club's February Club Night is an occasion for defenders of free speech to meet, swap ideas and push their arguments.
Guido Fawkes a.k.a. Paul Staines is a political blogger. His 'Tittle tattle, gossip and rumours about Westminster's Mother of Parliaments' is read by thousands of people every day. He is a lover of freedom, a defender of free speech, and he advises those who disagree, are easily offended, or just bore him to get their own blogs.
Dr Evan Harris is Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon. He has a long-standing campaigning record in anti-racism, refugee rights and civil liberties issues, with a particular focus on free speech, anti-discrimination and the separation of religion and the state. He recently hit the headline for his controversial support of the Oxford Union's decision to invite BNP leader Nick Griffin and controversial historian David Irving to speak - a debate in which he took part.
Hari Kunzru is a novelist and journalist. He is deputy president of English PEN, an international fellowship of writers working together to promote literature and defend the freedom to write. He is the author of the novels My Revolutions, The Impressionist and Transmission, and was named in 2003 as one of Granta's Best Young British Novelists. As a former associate editor of UK Wired magazine he has a long-standing interest in the political and cultural impact of the internet on censorship and freedom of expression.
Aki Nawaz is a rap artist and front man of the group Fun-Da-Mental. An outspoken political commentator, Aki was accused of 'glorifying the war on terror in his 2006 album All is War (The Benefits of G-Had) The Sun dubbed him a 'suicide bomb rapper'. Read an interview with Aki in Red Pepper, and an article on Freemuse. Download or preview Fun-Da-Mental's latest album here.
Brendan O'Neill is editor of spiked, the online magazine 'dedicated to raising the horizons of humanity by waging a culture war of words against misanthropy, priggishness, prejudice, luddism, illiberalism and irrationalism in all their ancient and modern forms'. Writing regularly for a host of print and online media around the world, O'Neill is a vehement defender of freedom of speech and artistic expression.
With readings from literature that has been banned over the past century, by Tim Black, spiked staff writer. See Tim's article, Hold that thought: or go directly to jail on The Free Society website.
When: Tuesday 26 February 2008
Time: Doors open 7pm; event begins 8pm
; bar open till 11pm
Where: Corbet Place bar
, 15 Hanbury St, London E1 6QR
Cost: Free to Manifesto Club members; £5 non-members
(pay on the door) - or join the Manifesto Club
Download a POSTER for this event (PDF).