Much as Boris Johnson tends to lead with his chin, …

and notwithstanding his being of too undiplomatic a disposition for the high office he held until recently, or, moreover, his exhibitions of egregious buffoonery, he is nevertheless emphatically right about the dangers entailed by recent assaults on freedom of speech, be it ever so offensive. It is, of course, possible to argue one’s case “sans toucher aux personnes”, but to choke the human voice is the worst of all follies. The poisoning is effected incrementally, as are doses of arsenic, a metaphor I’ve borrowed from Victor Klemperer’s Lingua Tertii Imperii, a compelling examination of the artificial denaturing of language during the Third Reich. Klemperer demonstrates this to have been a process of which the young were scarcely aware until its toxicity had already taken effect, hence the appropriateness of the metaphor “Arsendosen”. If there is a difference, it is that the current insanity was foreseeable as early as 1985, at least by me, because I remember expressing my apprehensions when teaching in Strasbourg. LJ

We need a campaign for free speech to take on the professionally offended
— Read on

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