Contribution #1: And Rosta
This the first of a series of posts from people who have contributed ideas and analysis by email or in the comments section.
You did an excellent job. Whereas the enemies of free expression delight in actively striving to suppress freedoms, free expression's supporters wish simply to enjoy their freedoms and find it onerous to have to actively defend them. (As a trade union rep I know how hard it is to mobilize members who would rather enjoy their protections without having to fight for them.) But we have to make a start and we need leaders to step forward as you have done.
The enemies of free speech have the backing of vast organizational infrastructures. The defenders of free speech don't -- yet. The rally showed that there are a few hundred people -- and a dozen principled organizations -- who in collaboration and coalition can work to build that organization.
I can't see the Voltaireans ever managing to hold bigger rallies than religious groups. Instead the defenders of freedom of expression need to build organized branches of support in key areas of society:
* in the universities
* in the press
* among elected politicians
* in the major political parties
* among religious groups
If the rally drew a line in the sand, this is what has to happen to defend that line.
While it is clear that the rally's organizers had a tricky job -- the need to galvanize support yet avoid press coverage presenting the rally as some anti-muslim BNP event, it will be important to avoid red-herrings: we must be able to defend the right to free expression without having to pass judgement on the beliefs of those whose rights we defend, and without having to pass judgement on the way some people choose to exercise their right.