There’s no doubt that even closely related or allied countries treat the issue of free speech quite differently. Perhaps our most natural European cultural equivalent, Britain, has laws that I often find either confusing or silly, with a particular eye towards their long-panned libel laws. But even correcting for cultural differences, I’m having a real hard time figuring out how a UK court can issue an injunction barring the publishing of an author’s recounting of his own personal history with sexual abuse at his ex-wife’s request. You’ll have to forgive the vagueness here, because there are simply no names being discussed on the matter due to the ongoing litigation.
A British performing artist has been forced to shelve a book based on his experiences of childhood sexual abuse after his ex-wife obtained an injunction to prevent their young son from reading it. In a case that is alarming freedom of speech campaigners and which publishers say is deeply disturbing, the court of appeal has ordered that the artist cannot publish key sections of the book until the issue has been decided at trial.
However, his ex-wife’s lawyers dispute claims that the case could set a precedent undermining the rights of other authors, arguing that it is concerned only with the rights of one child, who has a number of health problems, who they say would suffer catastrophic psychological distress were he to read parts of his father’s work.
Let me flesh this out for you a bit. A well-known artist in the UK is publishing a memoir, including sections that deal with the sexual abuse he suffered as a child. His ex-wife obtained the injunction on publishing that factual account of his life because she believes it will harm, by her lawyer’s own admission, a single child the two had together. That child is suffering a wide range of health problems, including Asperger’s Syndrome, and the ex-wife is suggesting that reading the father’s account would cause further harm. All of this, by the way, relies on a Victorian-era case the dealt with the intentional psychological harm some guy perpetrated on a woman in a bar by playing a practical joke on her. Seriously, I’m not making that crap up.