On Friday 3 May, OW Alex Marthews
(1995) lead a workshop for Sixth Formers in the MCS Politics Society on the
topic of free speech. Mr Marthews is the National Chair of the US non-profit
corporation, Restore the Fourth, which is dedicated to ‘ending unconstitutional
mass government surveillance’.
He started by outlining the differences between US and UK approaches to freedom of speech and how they differ. He provided examples of case studies where both governments tried to limit access to information because it was embarrassing to their government or used police to harass people who were protesting against the status quo, including civil rights activists and, more recently, environmentalists. Mr Marthews also discussed free speech online and how bigotry or false opinion can spread quickly and can be more permanent than something in print.
He ended with a fabricated – but very realistic – case study and asked the pupils to come up with suggestions on how they thought the UK government should respond in that situation, from a political and legal viewpoint.
Unsurprisingly, it was a deliberately provocative -- and terribly interesting – session.