I am delighted to be participating in two sessions on Plebity’s online conference on free speech and the left.
In my first session I will be debating Norman Finkelstein on Holocaust denialism and the limits of free speech. It is scheduled to premiere at 8pm British Summer Time (BST) today (3pm on America’s east coast). Sasha White is the moderator.
I should say that I fundamentally disagree with Finkelstein on some key questions; in particular his strident anti-Zionism and his take on the Holocaust. However, that is no reason to shun debate. On the contrary, it is even more important to embrace it.
As it happens we are much closer on free speech. In that respect Finkelstein sees himself as broadly in the tradition of John Stuart Mill, a nineteenth century British classical liberal philosopher.
Finkelstein’s case is particularly interesting to consider in relation to cancel culture as anti-Israel BDS activists have cancelled him. He used to be a leading figure on the scene but fell out of favour when he publicly criticised BDS. His offence was to insist that, for pragmatic reasons, the BDS should support a two-state solution in relation to Israel and the Palestinians. That was enough for the number of his speaking invitations to plummet despite the fact his views on the conflict had not changed significantly.
Mchangama has written one of the best and most accessible books on free speech. I have no hesitation in recommending it highly.
Many other sessions at the Plebity conference are likely to be of interest to Radicalism of fools readers. These include a keynote by Nadine Strossen, sessions introduced by Noam Chomsky and Susan Neiman, as well as discussions on cancel culture, Covid, media ownership, transgender ideology, the Ukraine and several more.