...free to think freely


30th November 2022

Hear, hear Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie!

Today’s Reith lecture was given by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie on the subject of Freedom of Speech. What she said was spot on. For once, the BBC has championed the value of something it pretends to encourage but normally despises; the right of a variety of voices to be heard. Will it live up to this or continue to maintain its editorial assumptions? Time will tell, but this could indicate a small turn in the tide.

One sign of this is the return to the original meaning of “Four Freedoms’ replacing the EU’s hi-jacking of that expression. The theme of this year’s lectures, given by different speakers rather than a series developed by a single thinker, is F.D. Roosevelt’s notion that democracy relies on four freedoms: Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Worship, Freedom from Fear, and Freedom from Want. These values are very close to those behind Diverse Diversity, so it was good to hear someone speak for them in a medium where Wokeism normally rules. In choosing them as the theme of this year’s lectures, is the BBC signalling, perhaps, that it is beginning to recognise the limitations of its World View? We can but hope.

In her talk Ms Adichie confronted “Cancel Culture” and its tendency to deny its own existence and mentioned Europe’s weakness in failing to recognise its issues are not those of the US. She distinguished between incitement to violence and incitement to hatred and explained why the Soviet attempt to have the latter adopted as a definition when framing human rights was resisted by the West on the grounds hatred could be interpreted as hatred of an ideology or a policy of government. She also noted the algorithms of Social Media companies and suggested that given the public rôle of these private bodies they should be treated as public utilities. This was the issue I addressed just yesterday.

I found myself agreeing with everything Ms Adichie said in her lecture and although I wasn’t sure about one of her answers in the question session which followed I would want to know more fully what she meant before commenting on that. All in all, it was a pleasure to hear her speak so clearly on Radio 4.

The talk can be heard on BBC Sounds at www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m001fmtz.