The pianist James Rhodes has won the right to publish his traumatic memoirs after a lengthy legal battle in which an injunction to prevent its release was raised by his ex-wife in the court of appeal. He was at Classical:NEXT in Rotterdam the other day and gave this interview to The Guardian while there.
There's another significance for this besides freedom of speech. In a music world that has been riven by revelations of historic sexual abuse of schoolchildren and college pupils, for which several people have gone to jail in recent years, this memoir has not come a moment too soon.
All too often victims of abuse in childhood are not believed when they speak up as adults, or are put through torments in court of the type that allegedly led to the death by overdose of the violinist Frances Andrade in 2013. Rhodes is a powerful communicator and eloquent with both words and music. He is the person who has now been brave enough to tell us all the truth, to show us what the realities of this living hell are - for nobody can imagine it for themselves if they have not experienced such a thing - and thus offers us a chance to understand what happens, what the long-term effects are and therefore why it is so important that we don't keep on turning a blind eye or blaming the victims for somehow, supposedly, bringing these horrors on themselves.
We owe it to him and to other people who have been through such experiences to treat them at the very least with compassion. The German word for compassion, 'Mitleid' (see Parsifal), explains this better than anything else: literally meaning "with sorrow" - i.e., sorrowing together. And as Parsifal shows us, the presence of this quality in other human beings is an essential ingredient in the start of a healing process of sorts that cannot take place without it.
As for freedom of speech, this is a major victory - and hopefully will set a precedent for other situations in which people speak up, tell the truth yet are silenced by a society that just doesn't want to know and tries to find official ways to make sure it needn't. As the court ruled: "The right to report the truth is justification in itself."
English PEN, Index on Censorship and Article 19 all intervened at the Supreme Court, pointing out that the implications were the book to be suppressed would have "a chilling effect on the production and publication of serious works of public interest and concern".
English PEN reports:
In a robust defence of freedom of expression, the court ruled: ‘The only proper conclusion is that there is every justification for the publication. A person who has suffered in the way that the appellant has suffered, and has struggled to cope with the consequences of his suffering in the way that he has struggled, has the right to tell the world about it.’
The Supreme Court criticised the Court of Appeal’s ruling in its judgment, stating that the terms of the injunction were flawed and voicing its concern about the curtailment of freedom of speech:
‘Freedom to report the truth is a basic right to which the law gives a very high level of protection. It is difficult to envisage any circumstances in which speech which is not deceptive, threatening or possibly abusive, could give rise to liability in tort for wilful infringement of another’s right to personal safety. The right to report the truth is justification in itself. That is not to say that the right of disclosure is absolute, for a person may owe a duty to treat information as private or confidential. But there is no general law prohibiting the publication of facts which will cause distress to another, even if that is the person’s intention.’