Is Speech and Thought Now More Free in Russia Than in the West?

Peter Hitchens writes:

As I strolled through the frozen winter streets of Moscow a few years ago, a worrying idea came to me. Were speech and thought now more free in Russia than in what we used to call the West? I rather think that they are.

Last week, Kevin Roberts resigned as executive chairman of Saatchi & Saatchi for publicly questioning ultra-feminist beliefs.

He is not the first. A similar wild frenzy of persecution burst around the head of the Nobel prize-winning scientist Sir Tim Hunt, shamefully driven from his position as an honorary professor at University College London.

It doesn’t matter whether you agree with these men’s opinions or not. Can it be right that they have been treated in this way for expressing them?

According to Hitchens, “the nasty totalitarian ideas that had once been trapped behind the Iron Curtain” have now become entrenched in “the once-free West.” You have to be careful of what you say and what you write, “especially if you [work] in the public sector.”

But it’s “worst of all at universities, where boot-faced commissars patrol the minds of the young, enforcing speech codes — and the wrong ideas can get you marked down in more ways than one.”

This simply isn’t so in Mr Putin’s Russia, now astonishingly the most conservative, patriotic and Christian country left in Europe.