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More Anglospherian Defense Of Free Speech

First it was Ezra Levant in the Great White North (not a permalink--for readers from the future, go search the archives of early January, 2008), and now it's Janet Albrechtsen, Down Under:

This is not simply a defence of Levant because he is a conservative columnist. Far from it. If a bleeding heart on the Left was dragged before a human rights commission for thinking and saying unpalatable things, even stupid things, the defence would remain the same. Defending the right to say the right things is easy. Defending the right to say the wrong things, even offensive things, is what counts if we are serious about free speech.

That's why, some years ago, I wrote in defence of my colleague Phillip Adams when he was accused of racial vilification by an American who was offended by Adams's assertion that the US was one of the most violent nations on earth and was largely to blame for the events of September 11. The comments were daft but Adams has a right to be wrong and so it was important to stand up for his right to say it.

Allowing a state body to investigate it as a speech crime sends a chill down the spine of Western progress. As Levant argued, "Freedom of expression is only meaningful when it trumps other values, such as political sensibilities, or religious dogma, or personal sensitivities. Indeed, Western civilisation's progress in all realms, ranging from science to art, to religion, to feminism, to civil rights for racial minorities and gays, has come about from the free expression of ideas that necessarily offended some earlier order." In short, self-criticism is at the core of the West's progress. The battle of ideas may be no place for the faint-hearted, but it produces exceptional results by thrusting forward the better ideas.


We can tolerate intolerance (as long as the intolerance is peaceful), but the Islamist enemy seemingly cannot. That is one of the (many) irreconcilable differences that make this such a difficult war. And it's a war that's made all the more difficult because they use our own tolerance and freedom against us.

Posted by Rand Simberg at January 15, 2008 04:50 PM
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