Discourse is the only charitable organization in Europe extending assistance to our continent’s 21st century dissidents. Based in London and operating throughout the EU, our institute’s unique study of conscience and risk examines how expressing an opinion, can now imperil the life and livelihood of a person speaking their mind, and that of their family.
Three worldwide conflicts occurred over the last century. In each, both the European continent and the fight to preserve freedom of speech took centre stage. In the last few decades, Europe’s rapidly changing demography and social culture has led to the intentional discarding of an evolution of free thought, millennia in the making, largely from motives of pragmatic expediency.
Diversity of opinion is being increasingly seen, by some, as a necessary casualty in the fashioning of a diverse society. One whose pluralism seems based on competing groups rather than the equal enjoyment of civil rights. At the Discourse Institute we recognize that these trends within academia, journalism, politics and the law are mostly irreversible, but we also believe that freedoms never die. People merely become too afraid to exercise them.
The benefits of our societies derive from the liberties enabling them
For many, free speech: the ability to openly express your views, ideas, beliefs, arguments and opinions; is a dated and potentially dangerous matter of mere principle. A privilege whose use requires increasing caution. Though commonly held, this viewpoint only has merit insofar as all societies seek in some way to balance the communication of information, with its capacity to upset social order: libel and legally-defined incitement to violence, are concepts equally related to this truism.
Problems arise when recognizing that much of what makes free speech challenging also makes it invaluable. Namely, the powers of scrutiny, criticism, complaint, inquiry, warning and protest. Two motives invariably lie behind the restriction of opinions: the wish to obviate offence, from the fear that it might engender violence; and the desire to limit the spread of information, to preclude others from learning the same truth or sharing a similar sentiment.
Unfortunately, when either legal measures or speech codes deriving from multiculturalism, curtail discourse, no way exists to divine which motive is being advanced. Further complications stem from how offence is a profoundly bad criterion for limiting opinion, given that those with something to hide find scrutiny the most irksome.
In the absence of rigorously outlined guidance over what specific opinions are dangerous — something governments are reluctant to do as it removes the pretence that our fundamental rights remain intact — the expression of views can only be curtailed through the application of extraordinarily broad, vague and subjective legal definitions.
These in turn imbue the state with hitherto often unimagined jurisdiction over the most basic freedoms that human beings are supposed to enjoy. When universally acquired, such state powers are often applied with utter incoherence, in ways that only make sense in a context of nakedly political objectives.
Discourse’s research-based support in a rapidly evolving risk environment
The value of free speech extends far beyond its core function of facilitating the questioning of political or religious claims to authority. Cultures of inquiry in which everyone is entitled to a viewpoint not only enable everything from art to science, they are also the foundation upon which essential features of European societies, like gender equality, are based.
When it comes to the functioning of institutions tasked with public safety, the initially compassionate desire to prevent harm by restricting speech, can produce consequences where far greater wrongdoing, and its scale, is systematically concealed. Studying the real-world damage done to European societies by growing cultures of silence, increasingly mandated by both law and consensus, is a key component of the educational activities of the Discourse Institute.
The central objective of our research, however, is to enable the pro-active protection of freedom of speech, in an environment where a myriad of charitable organizations seemingly tasked with the same goal have self-evidently failed. In contrast, the academic grounding behind our institute’s 15 staff and volunteers, have allowed Discourse to develop the provision of a unique form of emergency assistance.
Since our foundation in 2010, we have continued to refine a dedicated and systematic approach to ensuring both the liberty and survival of those who take the difficult decision to raise the controversial, contentious and sensitive, in public life.
Discourse’s work mostly focuses on those individuals who face both credible threats of murder and violence, coupled with prosecution — rather than protection — from state agencies. As our activities have come to span the European Union, the need for an integrated approach to information technology has progressively become more important.
Consequently, we hope you will re-visit our newly protected website soon, to learn more about the value of preserving Europe’s pivotal role in developing critical inquiry, for the benefit of all mankind.