the author of nine books of political writing or ‘history of the present’ which have charted the transformation of Europe over the last thirty years. He is Professor of European Studies in the University of Oxford, Isaiah Berlin Professorial Fellow at St Antony’s College, Oxford, and a Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University. His essays appear regularly in the New York Review of Books and he writes a column on international affairs in the Guardian which is widely syndicated in Europe, Asia and the Americas.
At 504 pages, the book is a heavy and valuable resource to explore matters of free speech. In addition to the sub-titled “ten principles”, it contains extensive background materials and summaries of recent global events relating to free speech. The presentation of the background material is clear and mature compared to the more voyeuristic tone of Geoffrey Hughes’ book on Political Correctness which we also recently reviewed.
Ash frequently references his work with www.freespeechdebate.com, a website well-worth exploring for its articles and discussions. The book and website might be considered to be extensions of each other – or variants of the same essential tools.
Features of the book which we appreciated include the contextualization of massive social media and information organizations such as Google, Facebook or even Wikipedia and modern nation-states. Net neutrality is duly explored as is the concept of privatization of censorship.
This last concept, privatization of censorship, is interesting to relate to such matters as advertising of unpopular opinions. The blocking of a bus-ad or bill-board in 2014 might be understood to be the equivalent of blocking access to a website in a school, library or public building in 201X !
Is it worth reading? Absolutely. Buy it, borrow it from your local library and visit the website.