It started badly. The Chairman made a brief speech but quite forgot to introduce the two speakers. Hari Kunzru corrected the Chairman but it was downhill from then on. Kunzru was actually the best of the three on the platform, but still a walking, talking Mark 1 Guardianista.
The other panellist was Janne Teller, an archetypical Scandinavian pinko.
1988-95: Economic/Political Advisor for the EU and the UN in Dar-es-Salaam (1988-89)and seemingly not short of a bob or two from the taxpayer and the great and the good:
New York (1991-93)
and Mozambique (1993-94), respectively.
Grants:The endless rain battered the roof of the Spiegeltent while the audience were treated to a so-called defence of "freedom".
National Foundation for the Arts (2006, 2005, 2001)
National Foundation for the Arts (3-Year Stipend, 2002)
Literary Council (2006,2005,2003, 2002, 2001, 1999)
Author's Account (2006, 2001)
Harald Kidde's Foundation (1999)
Beckett Foundation (1999)
Ms Teller thought that the Danish cartoons of a year ago were terribly provocative although she meekly accepted that the reaction did indeed raise considerations of free speech. But the impression given to the audience was that the publication of the cartoons was the work of completely unrepresentative right-wingers. We weren't told that Jyllands-Posten is Denmark's largest-selling newspaper.
As far as Internet freedom was concerned, the market was the problem. Who would control the Internet, a plaintive Ms Teller whined. Well, without the market, there wouldn't have been an Internet I suppose. Problem solved.
Mr Kunzru did at least understand the desirability of freedom on the Net. But, like some of the audience, he thought that meant some kind of democratic control. He rightly condemned the collaboration of certain western Internet companies with the Chinese government but quite failed to realise that criticism and boycotts of such companies are part of the marketplace of ideas. Would "democracy" necessarily produce more freedom? The question wasn't considered of course.
Kunzru attacked the ownership of Google as being "closed". But if he'd returned to Charlotte Square at nine on Monday morning he could have walked in a few minutes to a dozen offices in which he could have bought shares in Google.
Google's source codes should be "open", opined Kunzru. I should have asked if he would be happy were I to pass off one of his books as being my own.
The rain continued. I couldn't be bothered to ask any questions. Afterwards I noticed that there was no sign of anyone from the audience lining up to buy books from the two speakers. All wasn't lost however. On the way home, Mrs F&W found a five-pound note in Shandwick Place. From the invisible hand I suppose.