The way of saying something is part of what is said
Kenan Malik makes a crucial point about this vexed issue of style and tone and manner.
Anticipating the arguments of Rushdie’s critics that there is a difference between legitimate criticism and unacceptable abuse, the Law Commission pointed out that ‘one person’s incisive comment (and indeed seemingly innocuous comment) may be another’s “blasphemy” and to forbid the use of the strongest language in relation, for example, to practices which some may rightly regard as not in the best interests of society as a whole would, it seems to us, be altogether unacceptable’. In other words, the way of saying something is part of what is said. To say that you must write differently is in practice to say that you must write about different things.
Exactly. The way of saying something is part of what is said, so all this heavy pressure on atheists to be bashful and circumspect and euphemistic and evasive about their atheism is simply a way of telling them to say something different. So vocal atheists say ‘What ho, atheists have been shoved into the closet over the past few decades and theists have been taking over the stage, let’s barge out of the closet now and grab our share of the limelight’; so theists and their protectors give a great cry and say ‘Nononono, you vocal atheists are too vocal, we will not take your atheism away from you, but you must get out of the limelight and off the stage and oh look, there’s a nice big closet right here, with plenty of room to sit down and even turn around, in you go.’ You do see that that rather defeats the whole purpose. Telling us to write differently is in practice to say that we must write about different things, but we want to write about these things, not different ones, so kindly let us get on with it.