Nick Cohen’s book opens with a quotation from the late Christopher Hitchens about how ‘ideas and books have to be formulated and written by individuals’. It is just as well that we still have individuals such as Cohen, who are sufficiently bloody-minded – as Hitchens himself was – to strike out against conventional wisdoms and a wilful collective complacency. As Cohen’s work amply demonstrates, we in the West believe ourselves to be free but when it comes to freedom of speech we are anything but. Even legitimate criticism can leave us financially ruined or dead.
After Parliament gave judges the power to develop a right to privacy in 2000, the judiciary saw fit to reject England’s tradition of open justice with a breathtaking disdain for the past. They built a wedding cake of suffocating injunctions and super-injunctions to the point, Cohen observes, that ‘the censors